Re: Rant: Giving up on XML

Subject: Re: Rant: Giving up on XML
From: Diane Brennan <dalaine00 -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2007 17:56:46 -0700 (PDT)

Converting documents directly from Word to XML:

http://www.infinity-loop.de/products/upcast/
http://www.docsoft.com/w2xmlv2.htm

Framemaker XML information:

http://www.adobe.com/products/framemaker/pdfs/xml_fm7.pdf

I also just found a list of XML editors on the DocBook site. This looks like a pretty good list of editors:

http://wiki.docbook.org/topic/DocBookAuthoringTools

These tools already contain DTDs (rules for the tags). I'm not sure if they contain style sheets, but I assume that they do. You can use CSS style sheets with XML if you are more comfortable writing those. If you've created templates for Framemaker docs, then you shouldn't have problems creating a style sheet. Here's some style sheet markup tutorials, just in case (you can write these using the xml editors listed on the DocBook site or text editors such as vi or Notepad):

http://www.w3schools.com/css/css_intro.asp
http://www.w3schools.com/xsl/

If you have Word, don't use the XML from that tool. I've heard that it adds Word-specific markup, but I haven't verified it myself.

I should add that I've worked with XML documents for six years with (mostly) positive experiences.

----- Original Message ----
From: Diane Brennan <dalaine00 -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: Janice Gelb <janice -dot- gelb -at- sun -dot- com>; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Sent: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 3:56:09 PM
Subject: Re: Rant: Giving up on XML

I agree with Janice that this decision depends on the type of writing environment you are in. It may not make sense to convert documentation to a new tool if you are part of a small writing group in a small company. But for large companies with many writing groups that make monthly deliveries of new or updated docs to the Web (as Web pages, not PDFs), XML makes more sense.

But XML is not difficult to learn. Two contracts ago I wrote documents in raw XML in an IDE and it was just as fast as writing in any other authoring environment.

On the question of XML authoring tools, I believe that Framemaker now has an XML authoring environment (I'm not using it now so I can't check that). If not, you can use the the XMetaL Author tool (http://na.justsystems.com/content.php?page=xmetal-author).

As an aside, I would encourage all people who are technical writers to always keep an open mind about learning how to use new or different tools or environments. The more diverse your skill set, the more likely it is that you will always be employed. And you might be surprised to find that once you get past the hurdles of learning something new that you like the new tool or environment better.

----- Original Message ----
From: Janice Gelb <janice -dot- gelb -at- sun -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Sent: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 2:15:57 PM
Subject: Re: Rant: Giving up on XML

Gene Kim-Eng wrote:
> My point is, I'm not going to "learn XML and XML technology,"
> in order to write documents. If I have to "learn" a "technology"
> instead of that technology evolving to support my needs, I'm
> not likely to adopt it. And neither are most other writers whose
> companies grumble about why they need to have a copy of
> FrameMaker or Acrobat Pro instead of being able to work in
> Word and some open source PDF printer driver.
>

This is not a valid comparison. Requiring
writers to write with tools that do not
support the type of documentation they need
to produce is not the same as saying that a
move to a structured tagged environment is
going to require some education in both the
tools and the paradigm shift necessary to
work successfully in that environment.

I certainly agree that companies should
carefully examine whether the benefits of
moving to a structured tagging language
and output tools are worth the upheaval
to their documentation staff. For small
companies with limited documentation sets,
the effort is probably not worth it. But
it sounds like you're saying that the effort
would never be worth it to you no matter
what the potential benefits might be to
your documentation.

-- Janice

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