TECHWR-L: XML as Help Format

Subject: TECHWR-L: XML as Help Format
From: "Chris Knight" <cknight -at- attcanada -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2001 12:57:47 -0700

In addition to what has already been mentioned, XML is under the hood of
JavaHelp, which more and more developers are incorporating into software
developed with Java. Several document tools can generate JavaHelp.

But more importantly, we need to learn more about XML, because XML will
revolutionize (nay, is already revolutionizing) tech comms.

XML will allow us to store information in an appropriately structured way,
then search, retrieve, and present, to both humans and computer programs,
that information. This is the only sure road to single-sourcing and

This in turn will not happen unless writers (users in general) have WYSIWYG
tools. As far as I know, one cannot NOW use such as Word or Frame to create,
edit, print, documents which in fact use XML (and associated DTDs and XSL
stylesheets) as their file format. Conversion to/from XML, yes, but not work
with XML files. Am I right?

Has anyone found a word-processing feature that *cannot* be rendered in XML?

Or perhaps the delay stems from marketing problems for the toolmakers. There
are genuine concerns here: millions of Word users expect all information a
document needs to be edited, displayed, and printed to be in one file.
Microsoft marketing will be objecting that dependencies on external files
(DTDs, stylesheets) are too complex for users, and prone to problems when
one component or another gets deleted or scrambled. So they will have to
care of these users and their more casual approach to documents.

A more cynical view would be that using proprietary file formats allows the
vendors to shield their brilliant implementations (and their mistakes).

But eventually, much of tech comms will be using XML.
Count on it.

Christopher Knight, Technical Communicator
E-mail: cknight -at- attcanada -dot- ca
Phone: (604) 877-0074

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