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Would you author reusable content in XML?

What authoring tools would you recommend for content published both on-line and on paper? I currently use a word process to get the main content down and colleagues turn it in to HTML, but I have been thinking about using XML to capture the structure, followed by XSLT for web or print formatting.

I read that O'Reilly use XML, and know you have used docbook in the past. Is this a good route to go down?
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    Hi,

    > What authoring tools would you recommend for content published both
    > on-line and on paper?

    Without hesitation, an XML format will provide you with the best chances for re-use. That said, adopting XML workflows can be tricky and choosing the right standard (like DocBook) is important to get right & dependent on what sort of stuff you're writing.

    For a more specific answer to your question, our others write DocBook in vim, emacs, oXygen, and XMLMind's XML Editor, among other pieces of software.

    > I read that O'Reilly use XML, and know you have used docbook in the past.

    We do indeed use DocBook inside O'Reilly as the canonical storage format for the majority of our titles. DocBook provides a rich set of semantic markup that maps well to O'Reilly's content (perhaps because we helped start the discussion that eventually led to the DocBook standard many years ago). Over the last few years, we've started pushing DocBook more heavily as an authoring and manuscript format because, like you, we've become more interested in multi-format publishing.

    DocBook is very good in this regard expressly because of its rich semantics: in the XML world, it's typically easy to go to a simpler format, so the DocBook-XSL projects already have tried-and-true output into PDF (via XSL-FO), HTML Help, (X)HTML, and others. I've recently contributed another output format, the IDPF's .epub standard, which took only a couple of months on the side to get implemented.

    All that said, the big downside with DocBook is the complexity of the standard (hundreds of tags) and the complexity of the toolchains (for HTML, PDF, etc). I'd suggest skimming the definitive DocBook-XSL reference, DocBook XSL: The Complete Guide (http://www.sagehill.net/docbookxsl/in...) to see if you're interested in both the rewards and the drawbacks. If you'd like to chat with others, the http://docbook.org page has instructions for joining the docbook and docbook-apps mailing list, both of which are very helpful to newcomers. Finally, if you're not in a rush, keep an eye on the work being done by the OASIS DocBook SubCommittee for Publishers, which is working on a smaller version of DocBook for non-technical folks (I'm a member of that).

    For more context on choosing an XML workflow, check out:
    * http://toc.oreilly.com (the place for publishers trying to innovate)
    * http://xml.com/ (All things XML, search for 'publishing')
    * http://www.thecontentwrangler.com/art...

    > Is this a good route to go down?

    Yep, but it takes a lot of work to get setup.
    • Keith - thanks for very detailed reply. I had a cruise around the docbook.org site on Oasis and have installed oXygen, and XMLMind's XML Editor although I have yet to try the latter (my emacs is way too rusty to pick-up and the not intense enough). I already had a copy of XMLSpy and after fiddling with the (non-normative) XSD have been authoring some stuff.

      While the schema provides the basic syntax checking (although this doesn't appear to be working quite right) I would agree whole heartedly about the need for the reference guides. While I am happy to hack away in XML the real challenge will be getting some of our authors (who struggle with word processing styles) to get used to the discipline.
    • Guy: With the release of oXygen XML Author 9.2, I think the landscape for DocBook editors specifically is getting easier. oXygen's support and integration of validation, on-the-fly rendering, Subversion, XIncludes, and Schematron are really pushing it to the front of the pack. I do think they'll need feedback from their new customers (many of whom struggle with styles, as you suggest) on the way in which their UI can become more easily managed, but they seem to be a good part of the way there.

      One final word of advice: Whatever you do, never compromise on validity. If you say you're only accepting DocBook 5.0 documents, for example, make sure you _never_ accept an invalid document or allow it to become invalid during your workflow (it's just a slippery slope).
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  • Keith: You're right about validity. Given your comments I may give oXygen another go, including their "light weight" version for authors which I didn't spot earlier.
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