Re: Desktop Publishing Options with XML

Subject: Re: Desktop Publishing Options with XML
From: Michael Smith <smith -at- io -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Tue, 4 Jul 2000 11:18:13 -0500

On Monday, July 03, 2000, Shannon Morris wrote:

> My employer has asked me to investigate a desktop publishing
> software that has XML capabilities. I have checked out the
> archives and found some information on FrameMaker/PageMaker. I
> also looked at www.xml.com and they had a list of software that
> they have reviewed that utilizes XML. Unfortunately, I am not
> as up on things as to know/understand what XML is or how it will
> affect the documents I am composing. I do know that my boss
> wants an import/export capability for our internal performance
> support system. As the only Technical Writer, my primary
> responsibilities are to create the internal
> procedural/specification documents.
>
> I would appreciate any recommendations.

Before investigating specific applications, it might be valuable
to take as much time as you can to learn more about XML
fundamentals. A good place to start might be with an online
tutorial; there is a good, short list of quality tutorials at:

http://www2.software.ibm.com/developer/education.nsf/xml-onlinecourse-bytitle

As you find out more, a good way to get some hands-on familiarity
with XML might be to start out with one of the less expensive
tools that are available, such as Corel's WordPerfect 9, which has
some XML/SGML capabilities, or Stilo WebWriter, a true, native XML
authoring/editing tool.

You may come around to deciding that an application with very
limited XML capabilities (for example, only the capability to
export XML) is not going to satisfy the requirements you've been
given. You may end up needing to educate your boss a little to
help him or her realize that applying XML to your internal
performance support system will probably require a bit more time,
money, and personnel resources than anticipated.

Another point to keep in mind is that in the XML world, document
authoring/editing and document formatting/printing/publishing are
two completely separate steps.

An XML document contains no information about things like page
breaks or page size. When you work in an XML editor, you don't see
a page-oriented view the way you normally do in a word processor.
Instead you typically work with a view that shows the contents of
the document within a long, continuous "tree" that defines the
hierarchical structure of the document -- kind of like the
"outline" view in Microsoft Word and other word processors.

When you have an edited XML document ready to distribute, you
typically turn to a completely different application (or
applications) to format and publish it. The XML publishing
application you choose may be one made by the same vendor as your
editing application, or it may be from a completely different
vendor. Because of the open, standards-based nature of XML,
you're not locked into the offerings of any single vendor.

With all that in mind, the list of XML editors you'll want to
consider should probably include Arbortext's Epic Editor,
SoftQuad's XMetaL, and ExcoSoft's Documentor.

Arbortext and some other editing-application vendors also offer
publishing solutions, as do some XML content-management system
vendors, such as Documentum. I've also been told that Corel
Ventura has some XML/SGML import capabilities, and there's news
lately of XML support in Quark.

I think your tool decisions are all going to depend on how far you
and your boss decide you need to venture into XML to be able to
do what you need to do. It's quite possible that you may end up
deciding that the cost in time, money, and resources is currently
more than you're willing to spend.

-- Mike Smith

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