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Get Acquainted with Reference Frames in FrameMaker

📄 Contents

  1. What Reference Frames Are and How They Work (inactive)
  2. Explore Default Reference Frames
  3. Summary
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What's in a FrameMaker reference frame: graphics, text, or nothing at all? Reference frames come to the rescue to solve a variety of document design issues. This article takes you behind the scenes of this unique FrameMaker element.
Lisa Jahred, author of FrameMaker 6: Beyond the Basics, writes a regular column for InformIT.
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Behind the scenes of FrameMaker's many remarkable features is a unique element known as the reference frame.

Each new FrameMaker document includes default reference frames that you can adjust. You can also add new reference frames as necessary.

In this article, I acquaint you with how reference frames work behind the scenes in FrameMaker, and what they are used for. I also focus on the techniques necessary to accurately adjust existing reference frames and create new ones.

What Reference Frames Are and How They Work

Reference frames are non-anchored frames that are stored on reference pages. They contain text or graphics for display above or below paragraphs on body pages of a document. Sometimes, they don't contain anything at all and are used to create vertical empty space in particular document locations.


Reference pages are non-printing pages. They have a few important jobs in FrameMaker, such as storing frequently used information in reference frames, defining format structure of generated files, and maintaining mappings between paragraph and HTML tags. You can include up to 100 reference pages.

There are many good uses for reference frames. You may have a subheading in documents that must appear with a 2pt. line below, spanning the entire column regardless of whether or not the paragraph reaches across the column. You could use the underline style feature, but you won't get the effect you want because the underline style only underlines to the point where the paragraph ends and you can't control the line width or the spacing between the underline and the bottom of the text.

Reference frames come to the rescue as a solution for this and a variety of other document design issues.

How Reference Frames and Paragraph Formats Work Together

References frames are directly linked to paragraph formats. Paragraph formats are predefined styles, stored in the Paragraph Catalog and applied to paragraph text in documents. Paragraph formats contain six defining properties for paragraph text, including Basic, Default Font, Pagination, Numbering, Advanced, and Table Cell.


To access the Paragraph Designer, click in any paragraph and select Format, Paragraphs, Designer.

After reference frames are included on a reference page, the reference frame name is accessed through the Paragraph Designer. You can display reference-frame contents in paragraphs by selecting the Advanced tab in the Paragraph Designer, and selecting either Frame Above Pgf or Below Pgf.

How Reference Frames and Object Properties Work Together

Reference frames are also linked to object properties. In FrameMaker, object properties allow you to view or change the characteristics of a selected object, whether that object is an anchored frame, reference frame, graphic (circle, square, etc.), text column, or line.


Click one time on any object, and select Graphics, Object Properties.

The information in the Object Properties window changes based on the selected item. For example, when you view object properties for a reference frame, a changeable name field appears. When you view object properties of a line, there is no name field.

Object properties is a good feature to use for accurately adjusting reference frames and their contents.

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