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

Thanks for those ideas, Sowmya. When I was the lead for DITA OT, we
actually did consider a subscription model for extra support. However, the
necessary administrative overhead made this hard to justify for a project
that still has a basically minimal support team and volunteers, and no real
foundation otherwise. Red Hat and Eclipse are organization-level entities
that have the means to handle new business cases like that more easily.

Note that the latest release, 1.4.3, now natively supports the so-called
Idiom transforms using the much improved Apache 0.96 FOP output engine.
These transforms have a formal customization layer that makes fine tuning
for different look and feel quite a bit better architected.  The potential
is there for very high quality output with even the lowest cost PDF option
(FOP). What is missing are clear How-To guides. I think you have suggested
a very good set of  investigations that can help new users quickly adapt
the look and feel for all outputs to their needs.

Ironically, some of that same info is in the Help Guidelines document that
has been the subject of some controversy, so this TC will need to scope its
goals carefully. If you address only the DITA Open Toolkit and its default
outputs, I think you will be find. And the user community will love you for
helping them.

It is important to characterize the default output of the Toolkit
correctly. It is intentionally unbranded because each user will have their
own preferred needs. It would be very handy to provide an easy-to-install
sample customization for a "toy" brand or look-and-feel so that users can
modify those pieces in place to get their own preferred outputs, in
addition to the "how to do it from scratch" which IS necessary for those
who want to understand the process in terms of their own support. And also
important for consultants for whom the Toolkit is a vital foot in the door
for new clients, and the customization skills are what folks are willing to
pay for to get much more than toy-level changes.

Don Day
Chair, OASIS DITA Technical Committee
Architect, Lightweight DITA Publishing Solutions
Email: dond@us.ibm.com
11501 Burnet Rd. MS9033E015, Austin TX 78758
Phone: +1 512-244-2868 (home office)

"Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
 Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"
   --T.S. Eliot

  From:       Sowmya Kannan <Sowmya.Kannan@Sun.COM>                                                       
  To:         Briana Wherry <briana.wherry@alfresco.com>                                                  
  Cc:         dita-adoption@lists.oasis-open.org                                                          
  Date:       03/24/2009 11:35 AM                                                                         
  Subject:    Re: [dita-adoption] Interesting email chain on the STC single Source SIG                    

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.


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.



      Scott Prentice
      Leximation, Inc.

      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)
      > 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
      > 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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