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Subject: Controlling the publishing process - shell scripts, Ant, other tools

Hi. I've been publishing DocBook for a few years and I've always used
shell scripts to control the process. This has worked well for me but
I'm starting a new publishing system from scratch and I'd like to
improve the maintainability and scalability of the process if I can.

Although I could do anything I needed to do with my publishing system
when it was based on shell scripts, it really wasn't something that
could be easily maintained by someone else. I tried to comment and
otherwise document my scripts but realistically, it would have been
frustrating for someone else to pick through the logic.

For my new publishing system, I'm considering using Apache Ant. I see
that other people seem happy publishing XML with Ant and the software
developers I work with use it for their build process. So I've started
experimenting with Ant, starting with the examples at
http://www.dpawson.co.uk/docbook/ant.html. It's not coming easily in
the first few hours I've spent with it.

Here are some of the questions I have. Any input will be very helpful.

* What are some advantages an Ant-based publishing system has over a
shell script system? Clearly Ant is cross-platform, what else?

* Is there a typical Ant architecture for large, single-sourced
documentation sets? I've got over 30 large documents being published
to multiple formats. Would I set up a build.xml file for each document
and format permutation and then have a master build.xml file to run
them all at once?

* The example on Dave Pawson's site (thanks, Dave!) shows web site
publishing. Does anyone know of example Ant setups for publishing
large manual sets to PDF and online help?

* Can Ant handle complicated file manipulation like packaging Eclipse
help plugins into an Infocenter WAR file? Will I end up having to
write shell-script code for an Ant task to execute?

* What other build control systems should I consider in this
situation? I don't think my colleagues would be very excited about GNU
make files. I'm not too excited about the idea of a CMS to handle
publishing. Anything else?

Thanks for your help.

Peter Desjardins

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