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

First, I'm sorry I was unable to attend today's meeting - sounds like it was
an exciting one...
I'd like to agree with Scott on several of his points, but also stress
another point.
That is: the DITA-OT is a "toolkit" - it's not just a tool that is an
alternative to proprietary tools, but it is a framework for stringing
together a toolset to produce any kind of output. Yes, it comes "out of the
box" with ways to get quick prototype output, and you can customize those
"out of the box" transforms, but the toolkit architecture is such that you
can plug-in any type of functionality you want, some of which makes use of
3rd party open-source tools (e.g. the xslt processors, FOP, etc.) or
proprietary tools (e.g. RenderX, Antenna House, etc.)
An example of this: we are currently developing a plug-in to the DITA-OT
that allows you to run Webworks as a separate transtype. (We have several
customers who have asked for this.) Why? Since many individuals and s/w
vendors are integrating the DITA-OT as a common framework, we want to make
it easy to run the Webworks tool under the same unified system. 
Another example: we are also developing a plug-in to run XMLmind to produce
RTF output via FO. Why? To provide proprietary but affordable alternative to
get good quality RTF files other than the dita2rtf transform (which is
largely unsupported) but still stay within the same DITA-OT framework that
is being used to produce other outputs.
Hope this helps...

-----Original Message-----
From: Scott Prentice [mailto:sp@leximation.com] 
Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 6:37 PM
To: dita-adoption@lists.oasis-open.org
Subject: Re: [dita-adoption] Interesting email chain on the STC single
Source SIG


I've not been involved with the adoption group (too much going on), but 
have been lurking on the list. I've got one question .. is this group's 
charter to promote adoption of DITA or the DITA-OT? I assume that the 
answer is DITA, but thought I'd make sure.

There is a fine line between the two since it's the existence of the OT 
that makes DITA so compelling. Without the OT, DITA would just be 
another well thought out data model that requires a lot of work to 
implement. The OT lets you get from nowhere to somewhere substantial in 
short order, but that somewhere isn't typically very close to something 
that you'd actually ship to customers. It's like building a house .. you 
can get the framing up fairly quickly and it "looks" like you're close 
to being finished, but of course, it's putting the skin on that takes 
all the time and money. The OT lets you quickly get to a nice prototype 
phase that is great for validation .. but then the "fun" really begins.

Groups that have skilled development staff or lots of money to burn may 
be able to take the OT and pound it into something that will serve their 
publishing needs. You're much more likely to find in-house staff that 
will be able to get nice HTML-based content out of the OT than you'll 
find those with the FO expertise to get acceptable PDFs.

Regardless, the key point (to me) is that in using DITA your content 
lives in a non-proprietary format. You're not locked into using an 
expensive authoring tool just because it's too expensive to switch to 
something better. However, that doesn't mean you're not going to use a 
proprietary authoring (and publishing) tool, you're just free to switch 
if something better comes along. Everyone needs an editor of some kind. 
There are free or very inexpensive options, and there are more costly 
options (FM at $1000 is sill less than XMetaL or Arbortext at around 
$1500) .. you should choose something that suits your needs. For 
publishing, the OT offers one solution, but if you don't want to "get 
your hands dirty" you can use a tool to generate the type of output you 
need. This goes for HTML-based output with tools like RoboHelp, 
WebWorks, and Flare (soon?), as well as PDF output from FrameMaker (and 
Flare?). If your authoring tool can provide one or more types of output, 
that may be a benefit. It all depends on your needs and workflow.

I think it's great to work towards making the OT easier to use and 
easier to customize .. and this will happen over time. As the OT (and 
the OT documentation) matures, that will start to reduce the need for 
proprietary publishing tools. But until that time, one of the important 
pieces to promoting the adoption of DITA is the availability of these 
tools. I think it would be great to see an unbiased comparison of these 
tools/options that really discusses their pros and cons (there is no 
perfect tool). This would go a long way to reducing the confusion about 
how to proceed with implementing DITA.



Scott Prentice
Leximation, Inc.

Mark Poston wrote:
 > 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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