Meeting: Introduction to XSL-FO and the DITA-OT

Simon Bate, Senior Technical Consultant at Scriptorium was in town teaching a class on DITA and we were lucky to have him come and share tips and information on XSL-FO and the DITA-OT. The large crowd in house as well as a good number of remote attendees kept him busy with questions. Based on the feedback I’ve received, everyone left with some good information.

Simon started with an overview of XSL-FO, discussing the basic concepts as well as its strengths and weaknesses. He then explained how to develop a “plugin for the plugin” to allow you to easily (well, that may depend) create customizations to the DITA-OT PDF2 plugin.

If you took notes or have some comments, please feel free to add them to this page!

2012-08-FO-for-SVDIG.pdf – Simon’s presentation slides.

Thanks Simon!

Meeting: Plan, Produce, Publish: DITA content from idea to output

Bernard Aschwanden, founder and President of Publishing Smarter provided an informative and entertaining presentation on the lifecycle of a DITA project from planning through production and publishing to various formats. This meeting drew a good number of people “in-house” as well as many remote visitors from around the country, and one person from Malaysia.

Bernard starts off by scoping and planning the project with a spreadsheet (see Estimates.xlsx) which lists the topic type, file name, title, short description and other properties of each file to be created. This not only helps in the planning process but with a little setup (and programming) you can use this information to generate the map and stubs for all topics and a prototype of the documentation deliverable in whatever formats are needed. This initial prototype can be used as the first draft of the document to be signed off by all those involved. You can use the spreadsheet to track progress (or the lack thereof) throughout the project.

Bernard demonstrated that with DITA, “content is king,” and the tools used for authoring and publishing aren’t as important as they were before XML authoring. He worked with the files in his sample project in a number of editors, and outlined the strengths and weaknesses of each tool (oXygen, XMetaL, FrameMaker, and Serna Free). Because your content lives in XML, you’re free to mix and match editors as needed for your workflow. Different authors may have different needs, and DITA can accommodate that quite nicely as long as you’re working with a DITA-compliant editor. He then imported the content into a CMS (easyDITA), to show the potential benefits of a browser-based editor.

Be sure to check out Bernard’s website, in particular the resources area ..

Thanks Bernard!

Meeting: Roundtable discussion – Syntax and mark-up best practices

Our 7-year anniversary and another great round table discussion with a roomful of local and a handful of remote attendees. Lots of opinions and discussions about why or why not to include a <p> tag in a list or table cell, or to include a list in a <p> or other block elements. Discussed the differences between the various monospaced tagging options .. and many other DITA mark-up issues.

We used The DITA Style Guide, by Tony Self, as our guide as well as one source for a possible solution when you run into a DITA tagging problem.

Meeting: Roundtable discussion – Using the DITA-OT

As is frequently the case, our round table discussions are often the best meetings! This one was well attended with local and remote participants.

We had a lively discussion about how the DITA-OT is used in various companies and under different conditions. Lots of questions and clarifications about what the OT is and how it can be used.

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: Using SharePoint to Manage, Review and Publish DITA Content

Brian Meek, of DITA Exchange presented a compelling demo of using SharePoint with DITA Exchange to manage, review, and publish DITA content. Lots of questions and discussion followed the formal demo making this one of the longest meetings we’ve ever had. Thanks Brian!

Info from Brian:

If your company uses Microsoft SharePoint, and you work with DITA content, please make an effort to attend this session and learn about the current capabilities of DITA Exchange software.

The session will address the combination of SharePoint and DITA from two perspectives: For those in need of a complete DITA implementation (Authoring process, CCMS, Review & Approval workflows, Multichannel publishing, etc.); and for those looking to augment an existing DITA implementation by taking advantage of SharePoint for collaboration & workflows, data integration, search, Web publishing and automated document assembly through Microsoft Word Templates or an integrated instance of the DITA Open Toolkit.

We will demonstrate how SharePoint sites can be built using dynamically-rendered DITA content, and we’ll also look at using various XML authoring tools with SharePoint, including a Microsoft Word “Customization” designed to guide business users and SMEs in the creation and editing of valid DITA topics.

We’re looking forward to an interactive, “show & tell” discussion about how the DITA information architecture and XML publishing model adds value to SharePoint, and how SharePoint provides an effective platform upon which we’ve been able to build sophisticated CCMS capabilities publishing processes…

If you would like more info on using SharePoint and DITA Exchange please contact Brian @ DITA Exchange.

Meeting: DITA and Drupal — the “Dynamic Duo”

Anna van Raaphorst and Dick Johnson (the Dynamic Duo!) presented an update to their work on developing “mash-up” websites using DITA and Drupal. We had a good turnout for both in-house and virtual attendees.

» Presentation (PPT)

The presentation was a discussion and demonstration of three of our rich-text, model websites:

What motivated us to create the model websites?

We kept hearing this story over and over again from our clients. Does it sound familiar to you?
As the owner, manager, or creator of technical information, youíre constantly trying to figure out how best to achieve accurate, useful, and accessible information solutions of high business value to your clients and customers. You also worry a lot about how to take advantage of the best standards, tools, and publishing environments available, and how to do it all on a shrinking budget.

In particular, you want the information you produce to be of professional quality, accurate, and essential. You would like to offer it to your users in print, on the web, and on multiple popular devices.

Structured information written to the DITA or DocBook standard often demonstrates these characteristics. However, depending on the experience level of the professional staff, the published result may fall short in solving your users’ day-to-day problems, and it may be expensive to produce.

Yes, you also want your information to be relevant, popular, and accessible. How could you attract some sharp subject matter experts (SMEs) willing to share their “in-the-trenches” knowledge as an altruistic endeavor? And wouldn’t it be nice if they were also capable writers and more than willing to update the information over time?

Unstructured information can be all of these things, but it can also be poorly written, out-of-date, and unruly to manage.

Is it possible to achieve ALL of the objectives with NONE of the common problems?

We created our model websites with this goal in mind. We decided to call our solutions “information mashups,” because they contain both structured and unstructured information that is collocated and is displayed to users as a content “collection.”

After about a year into this project we believe that this kind of DITA/Drupal content solution offers exciting and compelling possibilities, and we are pleased to share our thoughts and also learn from your experiences.

What questions will be answered in the presentation?

  • On which publishing platforms did we prototype our solutions, and how did they compare?
  • How did we develop our Drupal sites into mature models?
  • What are the key DITA and Drupal 7 features that we believe have contributed the most to our information solutions?
  • How could you make use of our models and lessons learned to build your own publishing solutions using DITA and Drupal?