Re: Frame to XML, SGML + Learning Curve

Subject: Re: Frame to XML, SGML + Learning Curve
From: Chuck Allen <chucka -at- STRUCTUREDMETHODS -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 4 Jul 1999 22:51:46 -0400

> Virgil Jones <virgil_jones -at- EMAIL -dot- COM> asks:
> Does anyone know of any tools that convert
> FrameMaker documents into SGML and XML? I
> know HTML, but I've never seen or used SGML or
> XML.
Chris Despopoulos writes:
| FrameMaker will do both. Well, Maker will write out XML,
| and Maker+SGML will do both. Maker+SGML will READ IN SGML,
| and neither product will read in XML.

FrameMaker+SGML will read an unstructured FrameMaker
file, but cannot write SGML from that file. You can only "save as"
or export to native SGML if the file was imported into
FrameMaker+SGML as SGML. If you are starting with an
unstructured FrameMaker document, there isn't an automagic,
"out-of-the box" way to convert it to SGML.

The usual way to convert unstructured FrameMaker to SGML
is to go an intermediate format, such as MIF, RTF, HTML, or
XML, and then use a conversion script to go to SGML. Using HTML
as an intermediate format can offer some advantages since HTML
is an SGML application and thus enables you to use an SGML-
aware scripting tool like Omnimark (now available at no cost at to accomplish the conversion efficiently.

I'm guessing that FrameMaker's "save as XML" capabilities
probably won't be as useful as they might seem at first
glance. Tool marketeers are about to beseige us with "save as
XML" claims. "Save as XML" functionality becomes valuable
when the tool allows you to:
a. save XML that conforms to a specific document
type definition or schema; and/or
b. flexibly create style sheets (XSL and CSS) that allow
you to display the XML.
FrameMaker and FrameMaker+SGML can't do these things
out-of-the-box -- yet. Merely being able to output well-formed
XML isn't very difficult and may not be particularly useful.

Virgil -- what DTD will you be using? Docbook is common
for technical documentation. If you will be using Docbook,
you might want to take a look at "Docbook : The Definitive Guide"
by Norman Walsh, Leonard Muellner (O'Reilly & Associates).
The book is due out this month.

What SGML/XML editor will you be using? Frame+SGML is
a great tool for book-model documentation. You also should
take a look at SoftQuad's XMetaL. XMetaL is a full-featured
SGML/XML editor with the look and feel of an HTML editor.
XMetaL is easy to deploy and customize. If you know a little
bit about cascading style sheets, you probably will be able
to create an attractive and productive editing environment
within a day or two. XMetaL also has a nice price -- about
one-third the cost of Frame+SGML or ArborText's AdeptEditor.
I have some additional information available on my website.

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