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Adobe FrameMaker: Smart Running Heads

by Barb Binder

One of the FrameMaker features I rely on heavily for my technical documents is the use of “live” headers and footers. Once I get them set up, they will automatically pull text off of my page into the running heads so that the reader can quickly see what chapter they are in, or what section, or both. I accomplish this through the use of System Variables. There are lots of variables in FrameMaker, but the ones I’m talking about here are the Running H/F variables. To use them you need to begin by identifying the text in the document that you would like to appear in your running heads. The usual suspects would be the chapter title and the section titles. Once you identify the text, you need to jot down the exact spelling of the paragraph formats that are assigned to them. If you are using the default paragraph format names, these might be “Title” and “Heading1”. The names themselves don’t matter, but matching the spelling and capitalization does, so you need to know exactly what the format names are, before proceeding. Ready? Here we go:

  1. Choose View > Master Pages.
  2. Click in one of the header or footer background frames.
    Adobe FrameMaker: Background footer frame
  3. Choose Format > Headers & Footers > Insert Other.
  4. Scroll down through the list of variables until you find Running H/F 1. Click on it once to select it:
    Adobe FrameMaker: Locate Header/Footer 1
  5. Evaluate the Definition to see if it will work for you as is. The default definition reads: <$paratext[Title]>.
    In English, this says “go get the paragraph text of the paragraph format called Title and put it at the cursor position.” As long as you are using the default chapter title name Title, that will work. But what if you opted to call all of your titles ChapterTitle? Then you better update the definition to read <$paratext[ChapterTitle]>. Remember, if the format names don’t match exactly, they won’t work.
  6. If you need to update the definition, click the little gear button on the Variables Pod toolbar (button number 3). Otherwise, skip to step 8.
    Adobe FrameMaker: Edit Variable Definition
  7. Edit the Definition to match your spelling of the title format, and then click Edit:
    (Sometimes I notice on my student’s screens that the Edit button isn’t visible. If that happens to you, just drag the bottom right corner of the panel towards the right, to make the panel wider.)
    Adobe FrameMaker: Edit Variable Definition dialog box
  8. To insert the variable into the background frame at your cursor position, click the Insert button on the Variables Pod toolbar (button number 1).
    Adobe FrameMaker: Insert the new variable
  9. Repeat for the facing page, if you’d like, and then return to the Body pages.

Here’s the best part. Once the Running H/F variables have been set up, changing the paragraph text on the page automatically updates the running heads. It’s magical!

NOTE: If this isn’t quite what you need, there are a few more articles that you might want to read on setting up running heads that reference titles/subtitles in FrameMaker: Adobe FrameMaker: Even Smarter Running Heads, Adobe FrameMaker: Dictionary-Style Running Heads & Adobe FrameMaker: When Chapter Titles are Too Long for a Running Head.

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