With this post I’m trying to raise the question of using XML (DITA) within Adobe Technical Communication Suite 2015.
I have experience with developing “unstructured” documents in FrameMaker, but I have never tried XML based (DITA) functional capabilities. Therefore, I’m a novice in this.
- Adobe Technical Communication Suite 2015
- Bunch of FrameMaker 12 unstructured sources (books, chapters, and illustrations)
Tasks and Workflow:
I need to provide Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) with an easy access to documents I create, edit, and manage in FM. SMEs, I assume, should be able to check documents’ (files’) content, and suggest the content’s changes. Next, I should be able to review the changes, apply/or reject them (in FrameMaker), and finally generate a PDF file and/or HTML5 Help output (using RoboHelp).
I consider using XML format, because, in this case, SMEs do not need to have FrameMaker installed on their computers, thus they may use any XML (WYSIWYG) editor. (Am I right?)
In other words, there is the following workflow:
In FrameMaker, I should be able to manage files, files’ content, illustrations, cross-references, markers, create, edit, and apply the necessary “paragraph” and “character” styles, dynamically update TOC, LOF, and IX files, manage “conditional” tags. I would like to use FM normally in this case.
Next, I need to organize a kind of XML-based project in FrameMaker and generate XML files. I need to make sure that all styles, cross-references, illustrations, and so on are kept in such project. Then I will be able to share the XML files with SMEs.
SMEs should be able to access XML files, review them and make the changes if required.
I should be able to open the updated XML files in FrameMaker, review the changes, and correct them. Next, I should be able to update the whole book (TOC, LOF, IX, cross-references, page numbers, conditional tag settings, and so on).
Then, I will need to generate a PDF file. I will also need to synchronize the changes made with the corresponding RoboHelp project (from the XML-based book).
In RoboHelp, I should be able to import or update such project (FrameMaker XML-based book) and generate the necessary outputs.
- Am I right with the workflow I’ve described?
- Is it possible to organize?
- How is it possible to convert “unstructured” and/or “structured” FM book to XML-based book in FM, preserving all styles, conditions, references, and so on.
- In FM XML Author, I failed to see any options for managing styles, illustrations, markers, cross-references and so on (WYSIWYG). Is that possible?
- Will it be possible to generate a PDF file from such book as I normally do in FM?
- In RoboHelp, will it be possible to import such book, and then generate different outputs?
- Are there any resources describing similar tasks/workflows in details?
- How should I organize synchronization of XML files changed out of FM with the files added to the FrameMaker XML-based book (if it is possible)?
*** warning: purely anecdotal reply! other people will know better, but I'll share what I've discovered so far ***
editing structured XML needs a bit more than an XML editor, unless that was shorthand for 'validating XML editor' … though FM seems relatively forgiving when it comes to opening non-valid .dita files
a structured .book file will convert to a .pdf, but in terms of default layout you may find the results disappointing
managing edits across an assortment of files inside/outside FM will probably be easier with a CMS
converting unstructured to structured is not a trivial task, though deciding on DITA instead of trying to create your own structure should make it somewhat easier
I haven't tried FM XML Author yet, but the (non-FM) DITA tool I usually work with so far makes it easy to find where illustrations and cross-references have been used; as for styles, see my second bullet point – it's the single area where I'm most looking forward to improvements, and if they're already there in FM12 my apologies for not having caught up
All this said, the idea of working with smaller topics (that is, structured FM) and letting SMEs update their own content is alluring … I wish you luck with implementation, and I'm confident you'll get a lot of competent, informed advice from people in this forum.