FrameMaker Tips | Editing a Structured Document

Posted on: July 20, 2020 / FrameMaker Tips /

FrameMaker Tips

Editing a Structured Document

Edits such as changing the indent level of a list are much easier if you edit the structure instead of the text.

Category: Using FrameMaker

Relevance: Structure Documents

The elements in a structured document are very useful when adding, deleting, or moving blocks of text—you can even copy elements from one document and paste them into another document with the same structure.

Moving an element

You can move an element to another location in a document by dragging its bubble in the Structure View. When you move an element, its contents, including descendants, all move with it.

As you drag, the pointer changes to a solid up-and-down arrowhead, and an arrow moves to indicate where the bubble will go if you release the mouse button. If an element is valid in the location where an arrow points, a check mark or question mark appears in the bubble. These symbols have the same meanings as they do in the Element Catalog.

If you drag the bubble slightly to one side or up or down, the pointer changes to a single arrow and allows you to move the element one place in the indicated direction.

Copying an element

You can use the Structure View to make a copy of an existing element and paste it in a new location. When you copy an element, the element’s contents are copied along with it.

To copy an element by dragging, hold down alt and drag the bubble to the location you want.

Note: If you copy by dragging, the information does not affect the Clipboard.

You can also copy an element to the Clipboard and paste it, even into another document.

Adding an element

Adding an element when editing a document is the same as when you’re writing the document, just position the insertion arrow at the location you want to add an element, then choose the element from the Element Catalog.

Deleting an element

You can remove any element, with or without its contents.

To delete an element and its contents, simply select the element(s) and press Delete.

A quick way to remove an element but not its contents is to use the Unwrap command in the Elements menu. This will then allow you to copy and paste the contents into a different element.

You can also delete the contents of a container element leaving it empty and ready for new content.

You cannot delete the contents of an object element (square cornered bubble such as Graphic or Xref), because they don’t really have contents; you need to delete the whole element.

Changing an element

For example, change a Para element into a Head element.

  1. Click on the element you want to change.
  2. Choose the new element from the Element Catalog, click on the Change button.

Wrapping an element in a new element

This is useful when breaking a large section into smaller sections. For example, if a Section contained two sub-sections, you could select the second sub-section and wrap it in a Section element to make it new section.

  1. Select the element or elements to be wrapped.
  2. Choose the element to wrap them with from the Element Catalog, click on the Wrap button.

Unwrapping an element

This will remove the top-level element of the selected hierarchy. For example, if a Section contained a Subsection, you could unwrap the Sub-section to make all of its elements directly part of the Section.

  1. Select the element to be removed.
  2. Go to the Element menu, choose Unwrap.

Merging two elements

Merging puts the contents of the second element (including any child elements) at the end of the first element.

  1. Select the two elements to be merged.
    The elements can be of different types, but they must be siblings and next to each other in their parent element.
  2. Go to the Element menu, choose Merge.

Splitting an element

This will create a new element of the same parent type as the original series.

  1. Position the insertion arrow where you want the split to occur, such as in a series of steps.
  2. Go to the Element menu, choose Split.

Searching for Elements

You can search for elements within a structured document. This can be useful when you want to apply the same change to more than one occurrence of an element.

To search for an element tag:

Choose Edit > Find/Change

Choose Element from the Find drop-down menu.

Type the Element name in the Find Element dialog box.

Choose an option from the Change drop-down menu.

Type in the name of the replacement element (or other information) in the box next to the Change drop-down menu.


The list shown above needs to be numbered instead of bulleted. There are actually several ways to do this, below is just one way.

  1. Highlight the List element
  2. Go to the Element menu and choose Unwrap
  1. Go to the Elements catalog, click Options, choose Elements Allowed Anywhere in Parent, click set.
    This will show all the elements, not just the ones that are allowed where your cursor is placed.
  2. With the three Item elements highlighted, choose Para from the Element catalog, then click Change.
  1. Highlight one Para element, choose SubSubStep from the catalog, click Wrap.
  1. Do the same to the other two Para elements.

Of course you could have just changed the paragraph tags, but then the structure would be broken, which could cause problems in the future.

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