FrameMaker Single Master Template Procedure

If you use FrameMaker, you are probably aware of how much trouble you can get into when you have a set of separate templates for a book. But most people struggle with it anyway, not knowing how to get around it. I hope you will enjoy learning about a procedure I came up with many years ago for creating a single master template for all your different templates for a given project; say, the title page, table of contents, chapters, appendices, and index templates for a book. Using this procedure, you will take a set of separate template files for a book and create a single master template out of them. I am providing the instructions as a high-level list of steps; I assume you know FrameMaker well enough to know how to access the various commands.

The benefit of this procedure is that when you are done, you will have a single master template for your book. When you make a change to this master template, you can freely import that master template into all files in your entire book, so that each file in your book will be up-to-date with the latest version of your template, without worrying about messing up anything.


You already know FrameMaker and you work with FrameMaker templates. You already have a set of FrameMaker templates that are separate files, but that you would love to have in one single master file.

Some Things to Note

The presumption in creating the master template using this procedure is that in most cases using the resulting master template, the desired file to create will be a chapter or appendix, so this procedure creates Right and Left master pages that are formatted for chapters. (That means the default pages will be for chapters and appendices; for other types of pages, you will need to manually assign the correct master page.)

Also, with the chapnum variable, you really shouldn’t need a different template for appendices; you can use the chapter master pages for them as well. And you should already be taking advantage of the ability to “stack” paragraph formats in cross-references, running H/Fs, and so on. (For example, here is a simple cross-ref format that can be used with both a chapter title and an appendix title (my HyperLink character format makes the text stand out onscreen and in PDF files and is useful in other ways as well):

<HyperLink><$paranum[Chapter,Appendix]>:\ <$paratext[Chapter,Appendix]><Default Para Font>

You can also use this kind of thing in page numbering to get the correct chapter number or appendix letter, as well as in many other nifty ways. (Also, instead of <Default Para Font>, I use </>, which means the same thing.)

The Procedure

  1. Back up everything, just in case.
  2. Go into all your existing templates except the Chapter template (i.e., the Title, TOC, LOF, LOT, Preface, Glossary, Appendix, and Index templates, if that is what you have) and create new master pages for each unique page (using the existing corresponding page in the template). For example, access the master Left page in the Preface template, and create a PrefaceLeft page based on it. Then access the Right page, and create a PrefaceRight page. If you don’t already have a unique master page for the Preface, access the first page and create a PrefaceFirst master page. Do the same for the other templates, so you have a set of unique master pages for each template.Important! Do not do this for the Chapter template. But do make sure you have a uniquely named “first” page for your chapter template—ChapFirst, for example, or just First. Instead, your Left and Right pages will be your chapter (and appendix) template pages. (You can’t rename or delete Right and Left master pages.) Also, you probably don’t really need a separate set of Appendix pages if you make judicious use of the chapnum variable and the ability to “stack” formats in definitions as mentioned above.
  3. Now, carefully start an importation process. Take your Chapter template and save it as Master or whatever you want to call it. Open all the other template files (if you don’t already have them open), and import all formats (everything) from each one into the new master template, making sure that you import from the TOC template last. The Right and Left pages of each template will overwrite the master template’s Right and Left pages. Don’t worry about that—we’ll fix that in a minute. What is also happening is that the new uniquely named right, left, and first pages (such as PrefaceRight, PrefaceLeft, and PrefaceFirst) are being imported into your new master template, along with all your paragraph formats. So, for example, if you first started with the Preface template, after you import from that template, you’ll have the following master pages in your Master template: Right, Left, ChapFirst (assuming that’s what you called it), PrefaceRight, PrefaceLeft, and Preface First. The non-deletable Right and Left pages at this point will be as they were in your Preface. Continue this process for each template file, ending by importing the TOC file last so that your TOC reference pages and their definitions remain intact.
  4. Now, open your original Chapter template and import only the Document Properties and Page Layout formats from it into your master file. Do not import reference pages. (If you import the reference pages from the Chapter template, you will overwrite your TOC reference pages. Not a good thing to do.) This process overwrites the Right and Left pages so that they are now formatted as they were in your Chapter template, and also sets the document properties to be those of the chapter by default.

That’s it—Marina’s Master Template Procedure. You now have a master template that can be used to create any possible file for a book.

Using the Template

To use this master template, import it into all files in your book. (Back up all files beforehand, though, just in case.) As a one-time procedure, go through each file and assign the correct pages (Format > Page Layout > Master Page Usage). (If someone creates a new file based on this template, they just assign the correct pages as they go.)

If you make changes to the master template, import the formats from that one template into all files in the book.

You can update the master template (for example, to edit anything, or to add a new master page) just as you would any template file.

Possible Issues

You may find that situations may introduce problems.

  1. If you are using side heads in your chapter files, but you are using, say, a two-column layout for your index with no side heads, or if you are using no side heads in the TOC, your TOC and index files will look odd, even when you apply the correct master pages. This is easy to fix.  For such files, turn off side heads: Format > Page Layout > Column Layout; disable the Room for Sideheads checkbox. You may need to redefine the format properties of your xxxTOC entries so that they run across all columns and side heads (using the Pagination tab in the Paragraph Designer). This is a one-time-only modification that you need to make to the master template.
  2. Numbering properties also need to be set for each file (at the book level), but that needs to be done anyway when creating a new book. For example, to set Roman numerals for your TOC, change the numbering to Roman numerals. (Right-click on the file name in the book; choose Numbering; choose the Page tab; choose the roman (xiv) option.)

When you later make changes to the master template and re-import formats from it, you might need to (A) be careful about which formats you import or (b) make the minor tweaks I just mentioned (to page numbering and side heads). I prefer to re-import everything and just make these minor tweaks–that way I don’t miss updating something.

Copyright Statement

I consider this procedure to be copyrighted in my name, but I freely grant you the use of it as long as you aren’t selling it in any way.

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