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Author: Sarah O'Keefe


XML 2006: XML, InCopy, and InDesign

Summary: There is no magic bullet.

The presenter spoke about an inherent conflict between structured content and desktop publishing. That’s an interesting way of phrasing it that I hadn’t seen before.

There are several ways to work with XML and InDesign:

  • InDesign Exchange format (INX): The INX exchange format produces 18,000 lines of XML for a four-page InDesign document. Hehe.
  • Adobe Tagged Text: It’s not XML, but it’s tagged, and might get you started.
  • Manual or semi-automated tagging: reasonable features, but well…manual

This is followed by a lengthy demo of the InDesign XML features. If you need details, try the InDesign and XML Technical Reference white paper (which I wrote a while ago).

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XML for Magazines

Peter Meirs from Time, Inc. They produce their published layouts, then convert the content to PRISM XML, a “standard XML metadata vocabulary for the publishing industry.”

The first presentation today in which XML is clearly an intermediate format, rather than the storage format.

I missed the introduction, so I don’t know whether they explained this. Presumably, they are not ready to make their authors and publishers work in XML editors. Obviously, XML editors won’t support highly designed magazines, but I wonder whether it isn’t possible to create articles and other content in XML and then flow them into Quark or InDesign to produce the magazines.

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Panel, part III

Clyde Hatter of Propylon discusses OpenOffice and XML.

“Most normal people–which includes nobody in this room–would rather eat a plate of broccoli than use an XML editor.”

I like him already.

OpenOffice looks sort of like a modern version of Ventura Publisher, he says.

OpenOffice is in fact an XML editor with a fixed DTD.

“Structured documents can be produced via disciplined use of styles.” Well, yes. But isn’t that the case for any application?

Ah. Constrain OpenOffice further and end up with something that does let you produce useful XML. His case study is the Parliamentary Workbench used by the Irish Parliament. Highlights:

  • Style options are constrained and arranged in palettes.
  • OpenOffice documents are transformed into LegislationML.
  • Legislation is complex because the data model is 700 years old. Hehe.

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Panel, continued

Mark Jacobson of Really Strategies launches into the Word part of the session.

He describes WordML as “a better source to convert Word to XML.” In other words, the WordML is now a reasonable starting point to produce actually useful XML.

“Word-based” XML environments often involve post-processing steps in a real XML editor downstream to clean up the problems that are too difficult to resolve in Word.

The decision to look at Word and XML depends on:

  • Editorial workflow
  • Degree of influence that you have over authors
  • Complexity of requirements
  • One-off content versus maintained content

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XML 2006 panel: Word and OpenOffice for XML authoring

“People have a need to control formatting” says Jon Parsons, of XyEnterprise.

A high-energy, fast-paced walkthrough of word processors versus XML authoring.

And then, the money slide…why put them together?

  • Business needs meet corporate culture
  • People dislike change
  • Technology takes a while but also makes things possible
  • If you win the users, you will win with XML content

So far, he has by far the best presentation skills. And some good content, too.

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ODF plug-in, continued…

The idea is to get to round-tripping between Word and OpenOffice/ODF. Currently, round-tripping is “poor.”

Youch. The questions are brutal. The presenter made the mistake of focusing more on Microsoft-bashing and politics and is now being reeled in with questions that start like this, “Aside from the political rants, please tell me…”

The ODF format is being justified by the “100-year” issue; state governments are concerned about being able to access their content for the next 100 years.

The plug-in is also intended to help with migration from Word to OpenOffice.

Providing the plug-in removes Microsoft’s argument for submitting Word XML as another standard.

What about batch conversions? “They are not a good idea.” Whaaaa? “Because you can’t predict which documents will have problems.”

One interesting tidbit. All Microsoft formats apparently use RTF at some point. That provides a choke point of sorts that you can use as a jumping-off point.

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XML 2006: The ODF Plugin for MS Office

Presentation tip: Don’t read your presentation.

Having said that, the presenter just compared the document debate to Star Wars…with an empire and forces of light. He left it to the attendee to figure out whether Microsoft or the OpenDocument Foundation represents the Empire.

The OpenDocument Foundation has an ODF plugin for Microsoft Office. A 6MB download, it allows you to output ODF format from Microsoft Word. I think.

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XML 2006: Transitioning from SGML to XML at Cessna

A very interesting presentation from Michael Hahn, focused on the transition Cessna is making from SGML-based to XML-based authoring.

He broke down the conversion issues into three types:

  • Tools
  • Process
  • People

It should come as no surprise that the last one presents the biggest problem. Most of the conferences I attend are tech writer-heavy; this conference is clearly XML Geek Central. It’s interesting to see how this universe perceives authors; for example, in the Cessna session, I heard things like:

  • “The changes are basically transparent to the authors, but they’re going to have a fit anyway.”
  • “The authors complain whenever we change anything.”

Most of the people here seemed perplexed by the authors and their weird foibles.

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LiveBlogging: XML 2006: If I had a hammer…

According to the keynote speaker (who works at Oracle), the purpose of XQuery and a bunch of technology I’ve never heard of (FLWOR, XAP) is to convert the web from a collection of documents to a collection of database-driven applications.

You’ll have to pardon me if this doesn’t make my little heart go pitter-patter. Certainly, there is room for applications on the web, but I fail to see why all content needs to become application-ized.

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