DocFrame case study

Sarah O'Keefe / ConferencesLeave a Comment

At the STC conference in Seattle, there was a case study session on our DocFrame solution delivered by Vici Koster-Lenhardt of Coca-Cola and Michael Plattner of ITL.

A PowerPoint file with their slides is available here.

If you’re considering structure implementation, and want to do it fast, this is worth a look.

Nobody likes product activation…

Sarah O'Keefe / OpinionLeave a Comment

But then you read stuff like this recent gem on the wwp-users list:

Date: Mon, 09 May 2005 17:06:02 -0000
Subject: Help!!!
Hello everybody,
I signed in this gropu 1 month ago because I needed to do my report
intership about framemaker and webworks.
Obviously I cant buy the software because it is very expensive for me
and I only need the software for three months.
Anybody of you know if I could get an special license or a demo
version for three months??
I tried to download from the internet but the crack didnt work, so I
would appreciate if somebody could help me.

That makes it hard to argue with activation, which would probably deter the casual piracy described here. Ed Foster has more on Adobe’s decision to add activation in his GripeLog.

Free the Chapter!

Sarah O'Keefe / OpinionLeave a Comment

Sean McGrath argues that the separation of content into files and directories is an artificial one that should go away.

ITworld.com – Books/chapters and directories/files – dichotomies considered harmful

Imagine a world in which the file system explorer is the top level application. It manages a single, humungous file on the disk into which you embed documents, spreadsheets, databases etc. Each thin[g] you embed into the explorer can itself embed other things to any depth required.

In such a world, directories/files have merged into one abstraction. The book author does not have to introduce artificial segmentation of the book into separate entities. In such a world, filenames become something of an oddity. What do you need filenames for? You would only really need a filename at the point where you decided to exchange information between systems A and B.

It’s possible to split a book into meaningless chunks; for example, by requiring each file to contain ten pages. The result would be book chunks that have no semantic meaning. But a chapter is more than just a handy place to split your book into files. Chapters are semantic units. They also, by convention, start at the top of a page and often have stand-alone numbering schemes (5-1, 5-2, 5-3, …) to provide visual separation that supports the semantic meaning. That makes the chapter more than just an artificial segmentation.

Atlas Shrugged

Sarah O'Keefe / NewsLeave a Comment

With apologies to all, I simply can’t stop myself from using that title.

Quadralay has released their latest incarnation of WebWorks Publisher, now called ePublisher Pro. While under development, the product was code-named Atlas.

Press release

In the FrameMaker details section, you find this:

IntelliStyles […] automatically imports your FrameMaker styles into your WebWorks ePublisher Pro project, establishing a more advanced starting point for your project and saving you time and effort. Based on your project’s native styles, you can use ePublisher Pro’s new Style Designer to develop all of your manual style-based customizations, such as designating paragraph styles as TOC entries, generating page splits, and including special features – drop-down text, breadcrumbs, Related Topics, and more.

This may be good news for fans of the short-lived RoboHelp for FrameMaker from eHelpMacromediaAdobe. It looks as though Quadralay has added many of the features that RHFM users liked best.

Although The Product Formerly Code-Named Atlas has its roots as a FrameMaker converter, Quadralay’s web site indicates that the Word version will be released first.

Word details

The macro language that we all know and, er, love has been replaced with XSL-based processing.

I wish I had written this

Sarah O'Keefe / OpinionLeave a Comment

Laura Lemay writes in her blog:

You know, I was just the other day thinking that as a knowledge worker, PostScript wasn’t fulfilling all my document workflow needs. And that what I really needed was a Microsoft version of PostScript. Based on XML. Yeah. That’s what I need. That’ll really solve all the lingering icky problems that I’ve always had with PostScript, such as….um….

STC next week

Sarah O'Keefe / ConferencesLeave a Comment

I will be at the STC conference in Seattle next week. Each year, the call for proposals comes out with a due date in August (!!) for the next year’s conference. Each year, I debate whether or not to attend. This year, the prospect of a few days in Seattle did the trick. But next year, the location will be a minus (Las Vegas, ugh).

Here’s why I don’t particularly like attending the STC conference:

  • As a speaker, I get $100 off the cost of registration. Given the amount of time required to prepare a presentation, it’s hard not to be insulted. I’m delivering two presentations this year, and I’ll be lucky to net out $1 per hour for my preparation time. That doesn’t factor in the cost of travel and accommodations.
  • If I submit information for the conference proceedings, STC requires that I give up the copyright to those materials. STC then kindly agrees to license the materials back to me (!) if I need to reuse them. As a result, I have declined to provide materials for the proceedings.
  • The cost of providing printed handouts, on which I can keep my copyright, generally exceeds the speaker’s “stipend.”
  • Because proposals are due nine months before the conference, it’s difficult for speakers to provide fresh information. Neil Perlin helps to address this with the Bleeding Edge stem, which is intended specifically for last-minute proposals on new and unusual technologies.

Here’s what I do like about the conference:

  • Great networking. I get to catch up acquaintances from around the world. It’s especially fun to chat with other consultants about business in their neck of the woods. Life as a consultant appears to be the same no matter where you live.
  • Trade show. An excellent place for market research. Every year, I wander through the booths to see which vendors are being ignored and which have people waiting in line to chat. It’s also a good place to spot new entrants into the marketplace. This year, all eyes will be on Macro-dobe. Will there be one booth? Two? Will there be discussion of RoboHelp?
  • Location (usually). During the past few years, the conference has been in good locations with lots of excellent restaurants nearby. Seattle is one of my favorite cities, and the downtown area has some fabulous shopping and eating options. And, if you’re going, don’t miss the Seattle Aquarium.

If you’re attending the conference, please stop by and say hi either before or after one of my sessions. You can find me here:

Clip, clop…RoboHelp rides off into the sunset

ScriptoriumTech / Opinion1 Comment

At the WritersUA conference last March, Macromedia cancelled participation in the trade show at the last minute. Immediately, rumors began flying (although in fairness we have to say that the Adobe/Macromedia merger was not one of the myriad conspiracy theories that emerged). Before the conference ended, a content-free Macromedia statement appeared in a RoboHelp forum at Macromedia’s site.

The apparent demise of RoboHelp matches the general industry trend over the last two years. Technical publishing groups are beginning to demand that tools support open standards (XML and XSL) that offer greater flexibility.

We are being asked to produce more and varied forms of output (beyond the basic print and online help), to share content, and to extend publishing workflows to include other departments and organizations. Software customization based upon user profiles and authorization is creating the need for user assistance that accommodates a complex matrix of variations in both feature sets and user interfaces.

These demands make a transition from proprietary solutions to open standards-based tools quite appealing. Structured authoring based on XML can address all of these requirements, and XSLT is quickly becoming a popular tool for transforming data from a broad variety of applications. This is where many of our clients are moving and we are adding classes (XSLT) and offering products (DocFrame) to meet the demand.