Meeting: Bluestream XDocs DITA CMS with Oxygen and FrameMaker

Nenad Furtula, of Bluestream, and Scott Prentice, of Leximation, presented a multi-tool demonstration of the XDocs authoring and publishing features.

Nenad demoed (remotely from Vancouver, Canada) the latest features of the XDocs CMS. In particular he showed the Author/SME review workflow using Oxygen Author and XDocs Explorer with the XDocs SME Review Module. He also demonstrated various options for publishing through the XDocs Explorer.

As an example of a collaborative workflow, Scott (presenting locally) checked out the same files from the XDocs CMS and made edits using FrameMaker and DITA-FMx. He then demonstrated automated publishing using FMx-Auto and FrameMaker to create a PDF from DITA files pulled from the XDocs CMS.

After the presentation, we had lengthy discussions of options for authoring and publishing DITA content .. a really fun meeting!

Meeting: Generating PDFs from DITA using DITA-FMx and FMx-Auto

Scott Prentice, president of Leximation, Inc., presented a demo of DITA to PDF publishing through FrameMaker and DITA-FMx. The new FMx-Auto addon for DITA-FMx, unlocks the API features in DITA-FMx to allow automated processing and publishing (in particular PDF publishing). With FMx-Auto installed, you can create your own scripts using the FDK (FrameMaker Developers Kit), FrameScript, or ExtendScript. Or, you can use the AutoFM plugin provided with FMx-Auto, which lets you open, process, and publish your DITA map into a PDF.

DITA-FMx supports FrameMaker versions 7.2, 8, 9, and 10, and FMx-Auto is available in server and desktop versions depending on your workflow and needs.

Even if you’re not using FrameMaker for authoring, you can take advantage of its superior and easy to use PDF publishing capabilities.

» Introductory slides (PDF)

» Presentation/demo video (1 hour)

Meeting: Round table discussions — conversions, output, and authoring

We had a very lively and energetic discussion of various topics. I’ve organized them into three main groups below.

TOPIC 1: Converting unstructured content into DITA

Before conversion:

  • Perform document analysis; better to spend more time on this than not enough
  • FM – look into using the Remove All Overrides command to clean up files
  • Prototype project should not be the first book you want to convert. This should contain bits that represent all possible structures and components in your documentation set. Test and perfect the conversion, then test and prototype the various output options you plan to use.

Conversion processes/tips:

  • Use Mif2Go convert to DITA – export to Mif, then set up mif2Go config file to set up elements, wrapping syntax for Mif2Go, etc.
  • Use FM Conversion table to map styles to elements, wrap elements into other elements, etc.
  • Create a base topic for each section (Parse on Heading 2 or Chapter) to get files into DITA
  • Conditional text boundaries need to map to to element boundaries. This is applied as attributes on those elements. It’s often better to rewrite heavily conditionalized content into multiple paragraphs so you can apply conditions at the paragraph level.
  • Frame’s conversion tables don’t map conditions. Any tools that do?
  • Variables can become conrefs or just make them into plain text.
  • Remove inline cross-refs and create relationship tables.
  • The DITA 1.1 bookmap provides nodes for book-like structures like chapters, appendixes, and lists (TOC, index, etc.).
  • If using Frame for PDF output, your TOC and index can be FM generated, otherwise they are generated by the tool (OT, or ?).
  • If in doubt, shred your content to be more granular. It’s easier to merge multiple topics together than break them apart later. Don’t use “sections” if you can help it, they can probably be topics.

Best practices?

  1. Think about why you want to convert – based on current content, maybe only convert tasks, or other topics that are truly concepts or reference.
  2. How much material – manual or automated conversion
  3. How often you will convert – 1 time, or often
  4. Source material is in-house or external, both?
  5. How well or poorly structured
  6. Do a good doc analysis – go through doc set and see how well formed they are try to capture all use cases, what is in the docs? What do the styles mean?
  7. Too few or too many steps in conversion process – a step may have too much transformation , try small steps with iontermediate results to try out
  8. Prepare documents for DITA (to be good DITA) before conversion.

TOPIC 2: Options for generating output from DITA

  • The OT provides scripts for generating, CHM, HTML, Eclipse Help, Java Help, PDF, and more.
  • Basic output is not too hard, but styling/formatting can be very difficult for non-techie people.
  • Suite Solutions offers great training for the OT if you want to learn how to maintain things yourself.
  • CSS can be a simple way to customize OT output.

Options other than the OT:

  • DITA2Go can be a replacement for the OT; from makers of Mif2Go
  • RoboHelp
  • Flare
  • XMetaL comes with OT bundled so it may be easier
  • CHM to Web – generate HTML HELP from the OT and then use a template to convert to WebHelp
  • FrameMaker can be the easiest way to generate PDFs from DITA even if you’re not using FM for authoring.
  • DITA-FMx provides extended PDF/book publishing features.

TOPIC 3: Authoring tips and ideas

  • Author Assistant from SDL – Grammar Checker requires tweaking (free download for FrameMaker 9)
  • Capture “what do I do now” moments – what do you do when something does not fit the model. Good to review later and share with others.
  • See Megan’s SVDIG presentation on creating Supertasks (tasks with links to subtasks)
  • Indexterms in prolog, become meta keywords; this is good for HTML. Indexterms inline are good for PDF/print. Decide which is more important. Once you move indexterms into prolog it’s hard to get them back inline; investigate tweaking XSL to copy inline indexterms to prolog for both purposes.
  • DITA-FMx and Oxygen provide element sensitive online Help for DITA documents. Makes it easy to learn how things fit together.

» Thanks to Lauren Katzive for taking notes!