RE: Comparison of XML tools for writing documents

Subject: RE: Comparison of XML tools for writing documents
From: eric -dot- dunn -at- ca -dot- transport -dot- bombardier -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2005 12:18:27 -0500

bounce-techwr-l-106467 -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com wrote on 01/21/2005 02:32:59 AM:

> eric -dot- dunn -at- ca -dot- transport -dot- bombardier -dot- com wrote:

> Software that works with, and fully supports, native XML files - as
> opposed to software like Framemaker - does not "process"
> the data into and out of the editing enviroment. They merely apply a
> screen stylesheet on the XML data to make the editing more
user-friendly. This does
> nothing to the XML files themselves.

Hmm. It may be semantics, but to me it seems that they're just doing what
FM does with Read/write rules "on-the-fly" and there's no
"work-in-progress" intermediate file format to save.

That has the disadvantage that any functionality you could gain from an
application that isn't supported in XML can't be leveraged.

> The advantages are clear - no read/write rules, no re-
> mapping of Unicode to some propriety internal character encoding, no
> propriety internal element definitions (like Framemaker's EDD) etc.

Uhmm, there's no "propriety internal element definitions". An EDD is just
a merged DTD and stylesheet.

> It's a tad unfair -
> both to fully XML / Unicode compliant software and to "me-XML-too"
> software like FrameMaker - to compare the both.

I think Unicode support is probably the big Achilles heel of FrameMaker.
The Frame character set and the limitations placed on some non-structured
functionality (for example running headings are limited but their
structured equivalent, elements that pull their information from other
elements, are unlimited) are unfortunate holdovers of an old code base.

But, are the Unicode workarounds really that onerous? Or are the
shortcomings based on the view that the information must ALWAYS be stored
in xml and always be capable of "round-tripping" through multiple

> Framemaker may work very well for projects where issues like
> translation, automation, and integration to other systems
> and workflows are not very important. But it is not the way to go if
> these issues are important and one is very serious about setting up an
> workflow. If this is the case, the way to go is solutions that fully
> supports XMl/Unicode - e.g. Epic Editor, XMetal, XML Client etc.

Analyse the need for "translation, automation, and integration to other
systems and workflows" and how your setup needs to work before believing
the XML gurus. We were told at one time that the ONLY way was to build an
SGML repository into which all work would be fed and then paper, pdf, and
IEM output would be generated. The end result was it was much more
efficient to have our internal information pass from FrameMaker to print,
pdf, and the repository. The repository was then only for producing the

Even when multiple vendors are required, the repository approach was not
necessary. Unless the workflow requires the integration of multiple
authors on single sources, the round-trip equation often doesn't add up.

Eric L. Dunn
Senior Technical Writer


Accelerate the document lifecycle with full online discussions and unique feedback-management capabilities. Unlimited, efficient reviews for Word
and FrameMaker authors. Live, online demo:

Technical Communication Certificate online - Malaspina-University College, Canada. Online training in technical writing, software (FrameMaker, RoboHelp, Dreamweaver, Acrobat), document & web design, writing manuals, job search. for details.

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RE: Comparison of XML tools for writing documents: From: Broberg, Mats

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