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Author: Sarah O'Keefe

Conferences

WritersUA: Rumors

From Char James-Tanny’s helpstuff blog:

Speaking of new features…RoboHelp will support both Windows Vista and Office 2007 in their next release, due out before the end of the year. I also heard today that Frame 8 will go to beta sometime in the next several months, and that a new product (kinda-sorta similar to RoboHelp for Frame) is under development. No news yet on the feature set, but that’s OK…I can wait until it’s released. (Given that I don’t use Frame, I obviously won’t be a beta tester!)

As you probably know, Scriptorium has a long-standing relationship with Adobe. We are an Adobe Authorized Training Center and have also done work for Adobe as a vendor (writing white papers and the like). As a result, we often have pre-release access to software under non-disclosure agreements.

This can make life quite difficult when people ask us about Adobe’s future plans. We aren’t allowed to say anything! You’ll notice, however, that it is possible to get information. My advice? If you want to know about upcoming features, corner the right Adobe person (don’t bug the RoboHelp guy about FrameMaker and vice versa), in private, and ask nicely.

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XML

XML Trials and Tribulations

Last week, the STC San Diego chapter hosted Walter Hanig and myself presenting on XML Trials and Tribulations. This was a case study of the implementation at Walter’s company, which Scriptorium was involved in several years ago.

If you’re looking for a rah-rah XML presentation, this isn’t it. But if you’re interested in seeing what conditions make for a very, um, challenging implementation, take a look at the slides (PDF, 500K).

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Opinion

“Perception is reality”

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a wise manager told me this in response to some whining from me. Things were happening, life was unfair, and I couldn’t understand why my wonderful contributions weren’t being appreciated.

“Perception is reality.”

The perception was wrong, and reality was irrelevant. Never mind whether I was doing a fantastic job — upper management didn’t see it that way, and their evaluations are based on their perception.

It seems that RoboHelp has a similar problem. Ellis Pratt writes on the Cherryleaf Technical Authors’ Blog: “The challenge for Adobe, I believe, is to develop a better product and to try and rebuild relationships that haven’t been nurtured properly for the past four or five years. Maybe it’s time they read ‘The Tipping Point’.”

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Opinion

Driving Miss DITA

Over on the Adobe Technical Communication blog, Aseem Dokania compares DITA to transportation infrastructure:

In the XML authoring paradigm, the document is split into structure, content and style, which are analogues to Driving Rules (structure), car (content) and road network (style).
[…]
DITA is […] based on the premises that the same set of driving rules cannot be applied to all terrains (desert, mountains, city, etc.). Therefore, DITA allows each country to specialize the driving rules for its own unique requirements. In addition, DITA also has recommendations on the content (car) design – i.e. topics.

Great analogy. Perhaps unintentionally, it also provides an excellent entry point to discuss DITA’s limitations. It’s not that hard to customize cars — left-hand or right-hand drive? two doors or four? red or blue? — but what if you really need a bulldozer? Or a tank??

DITA specialization does have its limits. Before you dive into DITA, spend some time assessing whether DITA’s idea of a topic matches your requirements. How much customization/specialization will be required? If DITA is a good fit for your content, you can probably cut the cost of structure implementation. But if you attempt to shoehorn your publication workflow into a structure that Simply Does Not Fit, life could get pretty unpleasant.

For more on this, take a look at our white paper, Assessing DITA as a foundation for XML implementation. It’s free with registration through our online store.

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