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Content strategy White papers XML

Structured authoring and XML

Coauthored by Sarah O’Keefe and Alan Pringle

First published in 2001.

Structured authoring and XML represent a significant paradigm shift in content creation. Implementing structured authoring with XML allows organizations to enforce content organization requirements. The addition of hierarchy and metadata to content improves reuse and content management. These benefits, however, must be weighed against the effort required to implement a structured authoring approach. The business case is compelling for larger writing organizations; they will be the first to adopt structured authoring. Over time, improvements in available tools will reduce the cost of implementing structured authoring and make it affordable for smaller organizations.

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XML

Before XML, improve DTP

Thinking about migrating unstructured content to XML? Take a hard look at your existing desktop publishing workflow. The maturity of your DTP process will have a big impact on a move to XML.

Following a template-based DTP workflow is not just about implementing best-practice processes. Templates make a potential move to XML less expensive and painful.

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XML

Managing technical communicators in an XML environment

To understand how XML changes technical communication, we need to step back and look at how the rise of information technology has changed the content development process. Through the 1970s, most technical communication work had separate writing, layout, and production phases. Authors wrote content, typically in longhand or on typewriters. Typesetters would then rekey the information to transfer it into the publishing system. The dedicated typesetting system would produce camera-ready copy, which was then mechanically reproduced on a printing press.
In a desktop publishing environment, authors could type information directly into a page layout program and set up the document design. This eliminated the inefficient process of re-entering information, and it often shifted the responsibility for document design to technical communicators.

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Content strategy XML

XML: The death of creativity in technical writing?

Originally published in STC Intercom, February 2010

I spend a lot of time giving presentations on XML, structured authoring, and related technologies. The most common negative reaction, varied only in the level of hostility, is “Why are you stifling my creativity?”

Does XML really mean the Death of Creativity for technical communicators? And does creativity even belong in technical content?

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XML

Handling XSL:FO’s memory issue with large page counts

Formatting Object (FO) processors (FOP, in particular) often fail with memory errors when processing very large documents for PDF output. Typically in XSL:FO, the body of a document is contained in a single fo:page-sequence element. When FO documents are converted to PDF output, the FO processor holds an entire fo:page-sequence in memory to perform pagination adjustments over the span of the sequence. Very large page counts can result in memory overflows or Java heap space errors.

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XML

Managing implementation of structured authoring


An updated version of this white paper is in Content Strategy 101. Read the entire book free online, or download the free EPUB edition.

Moving a desktop publishing–based workgroup into structured authoring requires authors to master new concepts, such as hierarchical content organization, information chunking with elements, and metadata labeling with attributes. In addition to these technical challenges, the implementation itself presents significant difficulties. This paper describes Scriptorium Publishing’s methodology for implementing structured authoring environments. This document is intended primarily as a roadmap for our clients, but it could be used as a starting point for any implementation.

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XML

The ABCs of XML

STC Intercom, September/October 2009

XML is rapidly becoming part of the required knowledge for technical communicators. This article discusses the three most important reasons that you should consider XML: automation, baseline architecture, and consistency.

Download the PDF PDF file (144K)

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Content strategy Localization XML

Building efficient multilingual workflows

STC Intercom, April 2009

A common argument for XML-based workflows is that they automate production and localization tasks. With XML, localization can be reduced to a fraction of its original cost, but how exactly does that happen?

Sarah explores automization in localization and two technology standards used in multilingual workflows: The Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) and XML Localization Interchange File Format (XLIFF).

Download the PDF PDF file (125 K)

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Content strategy XML

Web 2.0: The tipping point for XML

STC Intercom, January 2009

As the many-to-many communication between blogs, forums, and the like grow in volume, official product information will become just one of the many sources available to readers. Product owners who isolate their official information from the conversation run the risk of not being heard at all.

XML authoring can help to close the documentation gap between official and user-generated content, integrating the two and ensuring their voice is in the mix.

Download the PDF PDF file (125 K)

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XML

When is XML the wrong answer?

Originally published in STC Intercom, November 2007

XML can benefit a publishing workflow in many ways: improving content reuse, consistency, and potentially automating much of the process. That all sounds wonderful, but XML is not the logical answer for everyone.

Implementing a structured authoring solution requires a significant change from the familiar desktop publishing routine to new tools, technologies, and processes. Switching to XML is going to cost time and money. Depending on your needs, it may not be the most efficient solution.

Download the PDF PDF file (350 K)

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