Arbortext Alternatives - MIL-STD 40051 XML Tech Manuals

Subject: Arbortext Alternatives - MIL-STD 40051 XML Tech Manuals
From: "Robert Williams" <robert -dot- williams -at- techresearchgroup -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2011 11:40:45 -0400

Been awhile, hi all. Not inexperienced (SGML & XML military tech manual
background), doing the usual Abortext shuffle for US Army LOGSA MIL-STD
40051-2 Chg 3 XML tech manuals (TMs) that mostly result in hardcopy for the
military end user. They (the gov't) don't provide a screen fosi, and
without one, Arbortext is an ugly enough environment to work in - that there
really isn't that much difference between Arbortext and a commercial XML
editor (save some goodies like toolbar and menu functionality that makes
table creation/edits and figure views a little easier.)

Questions are mostly curiosity to see what other non-Arbortext methods other
tech writers are using to do military TMs (besides Frame - not paying for
templates when GFE/GFI DTDs and stylesheets are mandated). Our deliverables
are all source files (XML and graphics) along with PDFs generated with
GFE/GFI stylesheets. Arbortext at this point (with its attendant
proprietary and no longer software upgrade supported Print Composer), is
almost purely used for PDF generation (and not an inexpensive solution,
pricing it 'per workstation.')

The delivery requirements are somewhat migratory - as the DoD customer now
realizes that there are differences in what you get for PDF even within
Arbortext selections. So the PDF delivery requirement is a little nebulous,
as they now have to PDF the TMs themselves on their workstations (using our
delivered XML and graphics), to see them the way they will ultimately 'see'

We're a small shop, so the massively expensive Arbortext server based
publishing and printing 'engine' is not a realistic option (last time I
checked, you've got to be past the 10 seat range to make it more cost
effective than standalone Arbortext instantiations, no?)

That being said, we've got Oxygen working as a reasonable cost XML editor
(same DTD error checking functionality as Arbortext, it would seem.) Now,
we've also got AntennaHouse working to generate PDFs.

Yes, there are some differences between what we see in the PDFs from
Arbortext vice AntennaHouse. But since we're mainly using it to check
formatting and make sure that nothing in the customer provided DTDs or
stylesheets comes out horribly ugly on PDF output.

Thoughts? Curious to see what is working for others. We're looking hard to
get off the PTC 'software maintenance' extortion 'hamster wheel' of +$40 per
month, per workstation (rather like a utility bill, isn't it?). With 6-8
tech writers, the monthly/annual cost of using PTC's not inexpensive
products is not trivial.

What are you other small shops that are doing military TMs using?

Regards (and thanks for any/all replies),

Bob Williams

(in a tiny little tech writing shop in a tiny little town in the tiniest
state in the US)

Bristol, RI, US


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