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May 26, 2005

The State of the Tools

The state of the XML tool universe is…strange.

In one corner, we have enterprise tools with enterprise price tags and enterprise implementation costs. This corner consists of the following

  • Big, expensive content management systems (think Vasont and Documentum)
  • Big, expensive served-based content production systems (think Arbortext)
  • Massive, expensive implementation effort

And in the blue corner? Open source tools for those of you who like to tinker (or “basteln” as the Germans say):

  • Open source content management
  • Open source XML editors (list includes commercial, free, and open source tools)
  • Open source XSL processors (Saxon, FOP)
  • Massive tinkering to glue everything together

In the middle? A couple of commercial tools that offer:

  • Lower implementation cost
  • Less automation than the enterprise level
  • More production-ready out of the box than the free stuff

Currently, I think only FrameMaker and maybe XMetal fall into this category.

Finally, we have the category of Tools that Save Content in XML But Aren’t XML Authoring Tools. These include AuthorIT and the not-yet-released MadCap Flare. They are either XML-based (Flare) or can produce XML (AuthorIT). But they do not meet my definition of an XML authoring tool, a tool that allows you to define a structure and then create content that follows your structure.

All in all, the current state of the tools just seems odd. The vast majority of content creators who need XML must fall somewhere between the extremes of enterprise-level implementation and the “build-your-own” approach. And yet, the buzz seems to be at the edges or with the We Produce XML Files category.

What am I missing?