Authoring Tools Survey Report


February 2001

Authoring Tools Survey Report

CIDMIconNewsletter Julie Price, Comtech Services


In November, the Center for Information-Development Management launched a survey regarding authoring tools. Although this survey is by no means comprehensive, we hope that the information we gathered will give our membership and participants a snapshot of the industry as it stands now and a taste of where the industry is moving.

Methodology of the Survey

The Center for Information-Development Management (CIDM) made a brief seventeen-question survey available to both members and non-members from November 3 to December 1. The survey was organized to obtain a sampling of the industry. We restricted participation to one participant from each department so that results would not be skewed by the participation of many members from the same department. Nineteen of the 123 responses we received were discarded for this reason.

From that data and from our own experience working with information-development departments from around the world, we are able to analyze the results and draw conclusions.


The actions of the information-development departments closely parallels the technology customers described in Geoffrey Moore’s Technology Adoption Life Cycle in his book, Crossing the Chasm, and can be better understood in light of Moore’s model. (See the sidebar for reference information and see the figure on the right side of this page.) Innovators and Early Adopters are beginning to use XML, the Early Majority is evaluating and testing XML, the Late Majority continues to use tried and true tool sets, while watching to see how successful the Early Adopters and Early Majority using XML are, and a few Laggards continue to use older or unsupported tool sets. Many of those in the Laggard category are considering a move to the tools sets used by the Early and Late Majority, primarily Word and FrameMaker. Presently, a small number of respondents, the Laggards, are using older or unsupported tools such as Interleaf, PageMaker, and WordPerfect. The vast majority of respondents, the Early and Late Majority, are using Adobe FrameMaker (63%) and Microsoft Word (55%). Some respondents (20%) are using SGML (some of them in conjunction with Frame) and slightly fewer, the Innovators and Early Adopters, are using XML-based tools (18%).


Technology Adoption Life Cycle

Standardized templates are more the rule than the exception for the departments surveyed. If your department is not using a standard template for authoring, you are in the 8% minority. Ninety-two percent of respondents are using a standard template and have someone chiefly responsible for maintaining it. Not all who have standardized templates actually monitor compliance with it (83%).

Over the past year, 80% of respondents have remained with their primary authoring tool. Twenty percent have changed tools. Some of those who have changed tools have moved from outdated tools to majority tools. As one respondent said, “Adobe FrameMaker is the industry standard,” a statement validated by our survey results. Others who have changed tools in the past year have forged ahead into the world of the Innovators and Early Adopters by testing and using XML.

Respondents use Adobe FrameMaker and Microsoft Word for the same reasons. For both tools, stable functionality, company requirements, and ease of use were ranked at the top. However, Word and Frame users both want new functions in their tools as well as increased ease of use. As for the older tools such as Interleaf, respondents say their company requires their use, but they find the tools hard to use, they want new functions, and for Quark particularly, they want bug removal. Current use of Arbortext Editor appears to be mostly in the piloting or testing stage. Users of Arbortext ranked stable functionality first but say it needs some improvement in ease of use, functionality, and bug removal. These issues are exactly why the Late Majority adopts a “wait and see” attitude, only moving to new technology when the wrinkles are all ironed out. These test pilots are performing a service to all by refining the tools so that the Early and Late Majorities can accept and adopt them.

Reasons given for use of XML-based tools were interesting. Comments were mostly along the lines of “We plan to in the next year,” “We’re investigating the possibilities now, but have not decided yet what to use,” and “No, but we are looking at XML-based authoring tools.” These comments are obviously from the fence-sitters in the majority. Some reasons people are using XML include client requirements, flexibility, future growth, output to multiple platforms and media, re-use of content, and producing custom documentation for clients.

SGML use is primarily driven by customer requirements. We typically note its use in federally regulated industries such as airline and automotive. Some departments use Frame+SGML as an intermediate step on the way to or instead of adopting XML.

In the next year, most respondents (67%) indicate they plan to continue using their primary authoring tool. Almost exactly half of that (33%) plan to change tools. Those continuing to use their primary authoring tool into the next year include about half of Microsoft Word and Adobe FrameMaker users. This more conservative group represents the Late Majority. The other half of Word and Frame users plan to change tools in the coming year. This group, less reluctant to change, represents the Early Majority. One Early Majority comment of note: “

[We’re] waiting until Web content standards are more firm, and XML authoring tools are tuned better to these standards.” The Early Majority is evaluating and testing XML with plans to move to it for single sourcing. On the conservative side of the bell curve, one of seven Interleaf users, one of five PageMaker users, one of eight Quark users, and both departments using WordPerfect will change tools. On the less conservative side of the bell curve, the Innovators and Early Adopters will remain with their XML tools, Arbortext Editor and XMetal. This point seemed at first to be an anomaly as the figures told us that several Arbortext users were planning to change tools in the upcoming year. Upon further investigation, however, we found that those respondents had listed Arbortext Editor as one of two or more primary authoring tools. Their comments told us that they were in the process of changing to the XML tool and remaining with it next year. CIDMIconNewsletter