RE: Flare or Frame as an intermediary for migrating to DITA?

Subject: RE: Flare or Frame as an intermediary for migrating to DITA?
From: "Janoff, Steven" <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com>
To: Mark Giffin <mgiffin -at- earthlink -dot- net>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 15 Oct 2014 03:08:18 +0000

Thanks, Mark. This is exactly the kind of discussion I was looking for. I really appreciate all the details. Lots of good information here.

Thanks for reminding me about the "bridge" -- a few years ago, at a different job, we used Astoria, and I remember it had a bridge that allowed us to use XMetaL, and it was pretty integrated. I think Astoria might also have had a bridge for Oxygen, although I did use Oxygen with the DITA-OT outside of Astoria, to troubleshoot XSLT/XSL-FO stylesheets.

I can see I'll have to experiment with some of these things. (Mif2Go is in fact now free -- open source -- since the developer's passing.)

Yes, I had some pretty good training in XSLT but unfortunately wasn't able to make the most use of it at the time (same with XSL-FO), to my chagrin. But it can be recovered. And I do have a basic understanding of regex and have wanted to get deeper into that. I have Oxygen at home so can use that for the basic development.

The bottom line of all this is that in these migrations to structured content and DITA, one of the big issues is in fact data conversion. And if this develops (don't know at this point), the legacy content will be in forms ranging from free-form to topic-like but without tagging.

I don't have anything to work with right now beyond Frame and Flare (and I do tend to like Flare better), but what I'm wondering is the shortest distance between point A and B, where A is the current state of legacy content (could be very disordered), and B is the conversion to structured DITA content. I would think some people have worked this out and yes, it sounds like much of it is likely manual, but there has to be a chance at automating some of it, right? Stilo and DCL sound like good options so it might be worth investigating. Still, I can't help wondering how other companies have dealt with this aspect of the journey.

Thanks again, Mark, for a great reply and some action-packed (!) information. :)

Steve

On Monday, October 13, 2014 9:01 PM, Mark Giffin [mailto:mgiffin -at- earthlink -dot- net] wrote:

On 10/13/14 5:33 PM, Janoff, Steven wrote:
> I would want to know, have you used a CCMS with a built-in XML editor or a third-party XML editor such as oXygen, XMetaL, or the like?
I've used Oxygen, XMetal, Arbortext, others, as well as several CCMS built-in editors. The built-in editors are usually browser-based and simplified, with the intention being that non-trained users would use them to give feedback or write simple content. SDL Trisoft\LiveContent has one of these (it used to be called Xopus but now I think it's called LiveContent Create). easyDITA has one that is pretty good for simple work. I doubt these editors would be very useful for converting non-DITA content.

Every CCMS I know of works with one or more of the big-name XML editors like XMetal and Oxygen. Some are more integrated than others. For example, SDL has what they call authoring bridges for XMetal, Oxygen, Structured FrameMaker etc. They integrate SDL capabilities into the menus of the editor (check in/check out, search, etc.). You can use easyDITA with Oxygen but it is not as integrated, Oxygen uses a WebDav interface to the repository and it does not have menus specific to easyDITA. With the DocZone CCMS, you can use Xopus or something like XMetal. And so on.

> And if yes to that, then do you think you would get better ROI by using FrameMaker as an intermediary to prepare your raw source files in DITA format for use in the CCMS, or would you have been better off abandoning FrameMaker for that purpose and going right to the native tool in the DITA environment (the CCMS's XML editor, whether built-in or third-party)?
I don't think I can answer if FrameMaker of Flare would be more useful to you as an intermediary. I'd have to see what you are converting. You earlier listed as legacy content plain text, Word, unstructured Frame, InDesign, Flare. Each one might need a different method.

If you found that Flare imported Word reasonably well, and you could get it to output DITA files that were close to what you wanted, then maybe it would be good for that. I suspect that Flare is better at Word import than FrameMaker but you should try both (since it sounds like you have the licenses). I have used Flare to import DITA files and it worked pretty well, but I have not used it to output DITA. Flare isn't a DITA editor even though you can use it to monkey around with DITA files.

If the files are unstructured FrameMaker, you can use Frame's export conversion table capability to add structure. That gives you a lot of control over the structure. Or you could use Mif2Go with Frame, it's pretty good at that kind of conversion, and not expensive (it might even be free since its creator recently passed away).

InDesign has an XML output format but it tends to be hard to deal with in a conversion.

With plain text, I'd probably write a script that made it into DITA. Or you can cut and paste.

If you are motivated, it would be valuable to learn some XSLT or another scripting language. Then you could get content into some text format, like with Flare, and then take it further with a script. Or you could use a programmer's text editor like Notepad++ and use it to do find and replace. These text editors support "regular expressions" and if you learned how to use them (it's not real hard) one of these text editors can be a powerful tool in your conversion project. You can do a certain amount of restructuring with a good regex.

And the quantity of content you want to convert is going to make a big difference in your project. If you have maybe 500 or 1000 topics, then maybe you won't mind messing around with various things and doing some cut and paste. But if you have 10,000 or 20,000 it gets silly to do them manually. But you always end up needing to do something manually in a conversion, there are just too many variables.

You should look into conversion companies like Stilo and DCL. Stilo has an online website-style converter where you set up the conversion yourself and run it. It could be reasonably priced.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin Consulting, Inc.
http://markgiffin.com/


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References:
Flare or Frame as an intermediary for migrating to DITA?: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: Flare or Frame as an intermediary for migrating to DITA?: From: Robert Lauriston
RE: Flare or Frame as an intermediary for migrating to DITA?: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: Flare or Frame as an intermediary for migrating to DITA?: From: Scott Turner
RE: Flare or Frame as an intermediary for migrating to DITA?: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: Flare or Frame as an intermediary for migrating to DITA?: From: Mark Giffin

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