RE: Arbortext Alternatives - MIL-STD 40051 XML Tech Manuals

Subject: RE: Arbortext Alternatives - MIL-STD 40051 XML Tech Manuals
From: "Robert Williams" <robert -dot- williams -at- techresearchgroup -dot- com>
To: "'Mark Giffin'" <mgiffin -at- earthlink -dot- net>
Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2011 15:23:18 -0400

First, thanks for replies.

Thanks for the tip on Oxygen Author view (it's only intimidating to new
users / MS Word writers, and only for a little while.) I don't see a huge
benefit there.

We get PDFs from AntennaHouse using their XSL-FO processor, pointing at the
gov't stylesheet .XSL files to generate PDFs (not perfect, but not a bad
quick check of the output for simply checking formatting). We are
continuing to try to refine the AntennaHouse XSL-FO setup to make it better.
Though I am still perplexed that using the same stylesheet that the output
PDF still has some differences from the Arbortext PDF output. Still working
on that one.

We don't use Arbortext Publishing Engine - simply standalone sets of Editor
6.0 with Print Composer.

Our gov't customers have recently shifted from standalone to the Arbortext
publishing engine and the associated print server.

Previously with our gov't counterparts using Arbortext standalone, there
were differences in the output PDF (again gov't DoD US Army LOGSA DTD
/stylesheets), depending on whether you >File>'Print... Adobe PDF as
printer', or 'Print Preview...' or 'Publish PDF.'

So, they're relaxing their emphasis on the PDF as a deliverable, for two
reasons - consistency and variability. Our deliverable XML will now always
PDF the same for them on their system (using their print server). The PDFs
submitted by contractors can have some variability if they're doing it
standalone (like us) and how they PDFed it.

We are attempting to work the problem as a reasonable cost alternative to
the Arbortext 'monkey on the back.' So far it is working, I was just curious
how others were doing it.

I 'get' the argument that the costs of structured Frame (templates) and
Arbortext are the costs of doing business. I just bridle at the recurring
monthly 'gouge' of 'software maintenance' on top of the 'not so trivial'
cost per workstation of Arbortext Editor and Print Composer (which is no
longer supported going forward.)

My 1 1/2 cents.

Thanks

Bob W.
Bristol RI

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Giffin [mailto:mgiffin -at- earthlink -dot- net]
Sent: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 2:15 PM
To: Robert Williams
Cc: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: Arbortext Alternatives - MIL-STD 40051 XML Tech Manuals

A few quick comments.

- You could adjust the Author view of Oxygen to display your XML in a more
friendly way so you could avoid some raw tags editing. It uses CSS and is
not terribly difficult to do.
- How did you accomplish the PDF through Antenna House? Did you write your
own XSL-FO? If so, maybe you can adjust it to match your client's output
better.
- If you are already using Arbortext Publishing Engine (or did I
misunderstand), why doesn't your PDF match what your client is generating?
- It sounds like you are already making the best of the situation. What
would an ideal setup look like for you?

Mark Giffin



On 10/25/2011 8:40 AM, Robert Williams wrote:
> 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'
> them.
>
>
>
> 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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References:
Arbortext Alternatives - MIL-STD 40051 XML Tech Manuals: From: Robert Williams
Re: Arbortext Alternatives - MIL-STD 40051 XML Tech Manuals: From: Mark Giffin

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