Re: xmetal and dita training classes: necessary?

Subject: Re: xmetal and dita training classes: necessary?
From: Pro TechWriter <pro -dot- techwriter -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "Handy, David" <dhandy -at- informatica -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 10 Feb 2009 12:39:58 -0600

Hi David:

I started at a new job last Spring, and the tools that I use are XMetal (5.0
at the time) with a customized DITA implementation. I consider myself to be
a very quick study, being a career tech writer with two decades of
experience, with more than 15 years in creating online help with SGML,
RoboHelp, MadCap Flare and so on. I rarely have trouble learning to use
software. That said, XMetal with DITA was difficult to learn, due to the
customized DITA implementation which nearly drove me mad!

When I got it into my head that XMetal is not really a writer's tool, it is
an XML developoment tool, learning it became easier. It is very good with
creating well-formed XML, DITA, and for creating help with Eclipse, but it
does not have any file management to speak of, and many of the features that
I came to rely on in other tools are just not there. For example, spell
check only works in the topic that you have open, and the same is true with
search and replace. XMetal does not "remember" preferences with respect to
files, such as locations or the view that you prefer, because it does not
manage files. (We use SVN for file managment and for a document repository,
and use Windows GREP for search and replace.)

Some instruction is preferable to if you will be using DITA, because cursor
position and the view you have open determine whether or not you can even
see the elmenet you need, let alone access it. Also, because XMetal is a
very flexible tool, there are several ways to do any one thing, and one
method may be much faster for you than another.

The XMetal Help is very good, but is only as accurate as your configuration
allows it to be. In other words, the more customization is applied to how
DITA is used and what the final output is, the less accurate the Help may
be. Writers here do not control the output; that is configured for us.
Sometimes that changes how XMetal must be used and then procedures do
diverge from the Help.

So, I guess the short version of this is, if you can find some basic
training for both XMetal and DITA, it would save you time (and stress) to
take it. There are, of course, some pretty good XMetal and DITA forums out
there, but figuring things out on your own can be very time consuming. Most
of the things that stymied me took an experienced XMetal user just a few
minutes to explain, and the training I had was invaluable.

That's my opinion only. There may be lots of people who had no problems with
learning this at all, but unfortunately, I was not one of them! ;-) So
words to the wise.

PT
On Mon, Feb 9, 2009 at 9:00 AM, Handy, David <dhandy -at- informatica -dot- com> wrote:

> Hi all -
> I'm also very keen to hear of anyone's experiences learning xmetal - is
> a formal training course necessary? Is training in DITA necessary, if
> that's the standard you want to follow?
>
> In our group, one of us has Docbook expertise and the other is a
> lifelong Frame user. Our options are to buy formal training or to hit
> the books and figure it out for ourselves. We're in Dublin, Ireland, and
> keen to hear about courses in this neighbourhood (or the UK).
>
> All feedback much appeciated -
> Thanks,
> dh
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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

ComponentOne Doc-To-Help 2009 is your all-in-one authoring and publishing
solution. Author in Doc-To-Help's XML-based editor, Microsoft Word or
HTML and publish to the Web, Help systems or printed manuals.
http://www.doctohelp.com

Help & Manual 5: The complete help authoring tool for individual
authors and teams. Professional power, intuitive interface. Write
once, publish to 8 formats. Multi-user authoring and version control! http://www.helpandmanual.com/

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xmetal and dita training classes: necessary?: From: Handy, David

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