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Life in the desert

Monday, March 23, 2009 — posted by Sarah O'Keefe

Last week, I attended the annual DocTrain West event, which was held this year in Palm Springs, California.

Weather in Palm Springs was spectacular as always with highs in the 80s during the day. Some of my more northerly friends seemed a bit shell-shocked by the sudden change from snow and slush to sun and sand. (North Carolina was 40 degrees when I left, so that was a nice change for me as well.)

Scott Abel did his usual fine job of organizing and somehow being omnipresent.

I promised to post my session slides. The closing keynote was mostly images and is probably not that useful without audio, so I'm going to point you to an article that covers similar ground (What do Movable Type and XML Have in Common, PDF link).

I have embedded the slides from my DITA to PDF session below.

I have also posted the InDesign template file and the XSL we built to preprocess the DITA XML into something that InDesign likes on our wiki. Note that running the XSL requires a working configuration of the DITA Open Toolkit. For more information, refer to the DITA to InDesign page on our wiki.

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2:51 PM Permalink | |

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InDesign CS4 = Hannibal?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 — posted by Sarah O'Keefe

Last year, small fish started disappearing from my aquarium. Suspicion fell on a rowdy zebra danio, who we promptly christened Hannibal the Cannibal. We put Hannibal in an isolation tank ("fish jail"), but even with Hannibal confined, the little guys kept disappearing. So, we released Hannibal with apologies, but the name stuck.

I'm just reading through the discussions of InDesign CS4's new features, and it looks to me as though InDesign is about to make mincemeat of FrameMaker. It seems impolite to eat one's own family members, but there you have it.

Past discussions of InDesign CS3 versus FrameMaker can be condensed to the following:
  • FrameMaker has cross-references, InDesign doesn't, although there is a third-party tool.
  • FrameMaker has conditional text, InDesign doesn't.
  • FrameMaker supports XML-based authoring (structured authoring), InDesign doesn't.
  • InDesign has some very lovely other features, but they can't outweigh the preceding three show-stoppers.

    (Detailed thread on the frameusers list)

    Today, Adobe has released information about CS4. Take a look at the official feature list. Highlights include:

  • Conditional text
  • Enhanced nested styles and style group management
  • GREP support for character styles
  • Live preflighting ("continuous preflighting alerts you to potential production problems in real time")
  • InDesign Markup Language, an XML-based file format
  • Synchronized master pages across multiple documents or a book
  • Cross-references
  • Support for interactive PDF files (SWF import, buttons, page transitions, hyperlinks)

    No support for structured authoring with validation, but that's about it that's left on the "destroy business case for FrameMaker" to-do list. Not only that, the list of enhancements is tremendous. Long-time FrameMaker users have become accustomed to minimal updates -- InDesign users are getting all sorts of niceties.

    Over at cap-studio.de (German), Michael Mueller-Hillebrandt has a similar reaction. He sees three major developments: conditional text, cross-references, and InDesign Markup Language and notes that InDesign is not suitable for use as an XML editor.

    Frans vd Geest has some screen shots on his blog (Dutch, but the visuals are from the English interface).

    The graphic mac has a first look and an enthusiastic endorsement ("virtually no excuse not to upgrade").

    The Creative Pro likes CS4, too. Interestingly, the graphic design community has very little interest in the items that the FrameMaker people are panting over. Cross-references get a short paragraph with a use case that is not related to long documents (repeated text on invoices); conditional text and IDML are relegated to bullet items. At Quark vs Design, we read that "most workflows will still be better served by saving multiple versions of the document or using layers to differentiate between print and digital content." Not most of my workflows. But anyway...

    The majority of our customers are doing XML-based content development. Many of them are moving to "vanilla" XML editors, such as XMetaL or Oxygen. (Note: Scriptorium is an XMetaL Services Partner. We're also an Adobe Authorized Training Center, FWIW.)

    For customers in unstructured workflows, the business case for FrameMaker now boils down to better integration with single-sourcing workflows (Tech Comm Suite, ePublisher Pro, or MIF2GO). In that arena, there's competition from Author-IT, Flare, and others. Or I could use InDesign as a starting point for a single-sourcing workflow by exporting to XML and then using the XML to produce HTML or help formats.

    InDesign's print output is better than FrameMaker's. The typography is better, and InDesign will actually output proper CMYK (four-color) files.

    Based on what I'm seeing, I expect a strong move to InDesign, both as an unstructured content authoring tool, and as a publishing engine for XML content (which is authored elsewhere).

    Your thoughts?

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    2:19 PM Permalink | |

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    FrameMaker vs. InDesign

    Friday, May 18, 2007 — posted by Sarah

    For InDesign, you can get a plug-in to create Sudoku puzzles.

    FrameMaker has a plug-in to solve Sudoku puzzles. (h/t Content Wrangler and others)

    That sums up the difference between the two tools quite nicely.

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    6:50 PM Permalink | |

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