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Subject: Re: [dita-adoption] Interesting email chain on the STC single Source SIG

At the moment it is easier for a non technical user to work with  
proprietary tools rather than having to customise the DITA-OT.

As you suggest, the DITA OT is not something that you can easily pick  
up, install and customise to create an output that is branded as you  
need. You need to know a lot of XML-related technologies to make it  
happen or employ consultants.

When you take into consideration the time that learning the DOT and  
then implementing it will take, the $1000 for FrameMaker (or whatever  
tool you might decide to use) is a more cost effective solution, that  
is much easy for an end user to customise with a lot less training.

When I first developed the FrameMaker adapter for the DITA OT part of  
the rationale behind this was to allow existing FrameMaker users to  
keep it as their publishing tool, even if they had switched to a  
different authoring tool. I think this still applies.

Kind regards

Mark Poston
Senior Consultant & Technical Architect
Mekon Ltd.
Tel. +44 (0)20 8722 8461
Skype: mark_mekon.com
Twitter: mekonltd & xpubs

On 24 Mar 2009, at 16:33, Sowmya Kannan wrote:

> Doesn't a license of Framemaker cost nearly $1000?
> Perhaps it is a question of setting the right expectation about the  
> capabilities of the DITA OT. The DITA OT literature gives the  
> impression that multiple output formats can be generated out of the  
> box. There is no mention of the level of effort required to generate  
> custom branded HTML output or print quality PDF output.
> The first look at the generated PDF output can be be really jarring!
> I feel like we should focus on documenting the following:
> For each output format:
> - what does DITA OT produce out of the box
> - what are the customization options
> - what are the technical details to implement a customization
> - what is the level of effort and cost associated with customization
> - are there commercial DITA OT plugins that can be purchased to  
> accomplish customization, instead of hiring a consultant each time
> Perhaps the DITA OT needs a model like Red Hat Linux or MySQL, where  
> the open source / free version is always available, but customers  
> have to pay a nominal price for extras. For small-mid size  
> companies, that may be a more palatable option than paying thousands  
> of dollars for a proprietary  product  or extensive consulting work.
> My 2 cents.
> Thanks
> Sowmya
> Briana Wherry wrote:
>> Saw an interesting email chain this morning on the STC Single  
>> Source SIG. An individual is looking for guidance. It sounds like  
>> she knows that DITA is the right thing to do, but then it seems  
>> doesn’t really understand how to achieve it with tools. I was most  
>> interested in one of the replies which did a succinct job of  
>> pointing out exactly how convoluted it is to achieve the few simple  
>> scenarios she wants (html and pdf) and also potentially quite costly.
>> I  believe this is one of the most common scenarios we will find  
>> for the tech author audience and the answer that Scott gave is  
>> good. It does highlight, however, that this is not a simple thing  
>> to achieve by any stretch.
>>  I believe where we can make the biggest impression is to put a  
>> more positive swing on this kind of answer, and as we discussed  
>> last week, providing some sort of checklist against which to  
>> evaluate tools as well as identifying what tools are out there.  
>> (preaching to the choir, I know)
>> I have added the email text for reference. (I am assuming this is  
>> OK, as long as we don’t distribute further)
>> Cheers, Briana
>> Hi Vickie...
>> If you're to be authoring content in DITA you'll need an editor  
>> that supports DITA. Some popular options are .. Oxygen, FrameMaker  
>> (with DITA-FMx), XMetaL, Arbortext, XXE (and others ..
>> http://www.ditanews.com/tools/desktop_editors/). One of the nice  
>> things about DITA is that you don't really need to decide on a  
>> single authoring tool .. as long as it round-trips valid DITA it  
>> won't matter. You can have people using XMetaL and others using  
>> FrameMaker, and all of the files will integrate nicely with your  
>> publishing process. As far as I know Author-IT will export DITA,  
>> but I wouldn't consider it a DITA authoring tool because it can't  
>> open DITA files (without a complicated import process).
>> You can generate online output through the DITA Open Toolkit, and  
>> after a bit of tweaking and effort, you'll probably have something  
>> that works reasonably well. If you want something a bit more  
>> WYSIWYG for building your HTML-based output, you might consider  
>> RoboHelp (which now imports DITA files, but is not a DITA authoring  
>> tool) or Quadralay's ePublisher.
>> Flare is poised to have DITA support, but as far as I know it's not  
>> there yet.
>> For PDF output, you can use the Open Toolkit, but in order to get  
>> anything reasonably useful will require hiring an FO developer and  
>> probably spending a substantial amount of time and money.  
>> FrameMaker gives you nice looking PDF output right out of the box,  
>> and modifying a FM template is infinitely easier than FO  
>> development. Even if you don't use FM as your DITA authoring tool,  
>> you might consider using it for PDF output.
>> Cheers,
>> ...scott
>> Scott Prentice
>> Leximation, Inc.
>> www.leximation.com
>> Vickie Hearne wrote:
>> > Hello all:
>> >
>> > I'm working with a software company to help them migrate their  
>> unstructured content from their wiki into a more structured (dita)  
>> format.
>> >
>> > We need electronic output (a help system or another nested,  
>> layered structure that can be delivered via the web), and the  
>> occasional .pdf manuals for training, etc. While not graphic  
>> intensive (screen shots mostly), we would like to include a video  
>> with the task component.
>> >
>> > I'm reluctant to take them down the Robo path. Even though I have  
>> a lot of experience with the product, potentially, there could be  
>> multiple contributors, and, Robo is not the most intuitive for the  
>> occasional author.  I also would the the single-source tool to be  
>> leveraged for other non-product content, like RFP response,  
>> contract prep, sows, etc.
>> >
>> > Any insight suggestions (and warnings!) would be greatly  
>> appreciated.
>> >
>> > Thanks,
>> >
>> > -v
>> >
>> > PS:  I've used Author-IT in the past, and am comfortable with the  
>> ease of the UI. Anyone working with the 5.0 version?  Thanks again.

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