Arbortext 5: Putting Business Users in Control
Easing the Pain of Implementation
The Arbortext 5 release, scheduled for availability at the end of 2003, makes implementing and deploying single-source multichannel publishing systems easier for your organization. This article is a condensed version of an Arbortext white paper that is available at <www.arbortext.com>.
Implementing multichannel publishing systems involves considerable effort because the systems are still relatively new. The issues fall into three broad areas:
- Application development-Because multichannel publishing systems rely heavily on automating manual processes to deliver their benefits, implementation requires more up-front work, including both planning and development. In particular, you must set up data models for your information (using either DTDs or Schemas) and you must write the programs to drive automated processes.
- Technical skills-Application development requires highly specialized skills, including knowledge of XML, data models (DTDs and Schemas), stylesheets, other XML-related technologies, such as linking and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), as well as traditional programming. In addition to the expense of acquiring the skills to develop the initial implementation, the organization pays every time they need to make a change. This extra expense inhibits frequent adjustments and therefore makes the system relatively rigid, reducing the ability of the organization to adapt quickly to business changes.
- Access to technology-To obtain the full benefit of XML and multichannel publishing, everyone in the organization should be able not only to contribute content in a reusable form but also to find and reuse existing content.
In particular, many individuals within an organization are Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who tend to have jobs other than creating content all day long. SMEs need to be able to capture information and make it available to others to read and reuse. The path of least resistance would be to set up a process to convert word processing and desktop publishing formats to XML, but this process involves considerable setup and ongoing manual cleanup. On the other hand, replacing these tools with new ones not only raises the cost but also meets stiff resistance from users who don’t want to change and from information technology organizations that want to avoid the high cost of installing and maintaining desktop systems.
Arbortext 5 puts control in the hands of business users
Arbortext 5 addresses the difficulty, cost, and time of implementing a multichannel dynamic publishing system by allowing business users to configure much of what must currently be customized using highly skilled technical resources.
While Arbortext 5 offers many new features, the following are the key innovations in this release:
- Easy stylesheet development-For the first time ever, there will be a tool that allows designers to create stylesheets for automated publishing to multiple types of media without the need for programming or acquiring the specialized skills currently required for different media output. Arbortext’s “Styler” product provides an easy-to-use interface that will be familiar to designers, plus it offers additional functionality to support multichannel publishing.
- Easy dynamic content-Arbortext is introducing the Dynamic Content Assembly Manager (DCA Manager) to let authors make their content dynamic while ensuring the validity of the resulting documents. DCA Manager lets authors insert dynamic elements such as links, graphics, text, and database information that vary based on conditions that the author configures.Authors can also create a “master document” that generates subsets of the document, and authors can set up “dynamic assembly” that assembles content modules into documents. DCA Manager ensures that the resulting combination of content works properly; for example, DCA Manager validates cross-reference links to make sure all are present and working.
- Enterprise content creation-Arbortext 5 allows content contributors and SMEs across the organization to create content directly in XML using either MS Word 2003 or Arbortext’s new Web-based editor, Contributor:MS Word 2003 support-With the availability of XML editing capabilities in some versions of Microsoft Office Word 2003, Arbortext 5 customers will be able to incorporate MS Word directly into an Arbortext solution. Previously, the only path Arbortext offered was through a Word-to-XML capability built into Arbortext’s Enterprise E-Content Engine (E3), which requires both more work to set up and ongoing manual effort to fix up content that fails to convert cleanly.Contributor-Contributor is Arbortext’s new low-cost, easy-to-use XML editor that runs under a browser so that anyone anywhere can have access to XML content contribution. For organizations considering MS Word 2003 but unable to deploy it immediately, Contributor can serve as a low-cost stopgap; for organizations that must provide XML editing both within and outside the organization, Contributor offers easy self-installation over the Web so that everyone can have access. (See Table 1.)
Table 1. The Applications for Which Each XML Editor is Best Suited
In addition, Arbortext’s customization and integration capabilities have been greatly improved for developers with out-of-the-box support for accessing and saving to WebDAV-enabled repositories, support for SOAP to simplify E3 integration with Web Services, much easier customization of Epic Editor toolbars and dialogs, and support for inline ActiveX controls which will make it easier to develop specialized authoring controls that improve author productivity. (See Figure 1.)
Figure 1. The entire Arbortext product line as of the upcoming Arbortext 5 product release. Styler, Contributor, and DCA Manager are all new products; Epic Editor and E3 also have significant new features for users and developers that this article does not describe.
Arbortext Styler: Easy Stylesheet Development
Setting style in traditional word processing and desktop publishing tools is easy to learn and do, but until now, creating stylesheets to drive multichannel publishing has been a task for programmers with specialized skills.
Arbortext’s Styler, a new stylesheet development tool available in the Arbortext 5 release, changes all that. Styler puts stylesheet creation in the hands of designers and reduces or eliminates the need for programming. With its simple user interface, which offers a comfortable and familiar set of formatting controls, a designer can define style settings for both electronic and print output without learning any stylesheet programming languages.
In its first release, Styler supports the creation of stylesheets for print, PDF, Web, and HTML Help. In addition to generating stylesheets for publishing, Styler also generates stylesheets for multiple editing environments, including Arbortext’s Epic Editor, Arbortext Contributor, and Microsoft Office Word 2003. You can easily use Styler to set up all three editors so that they all know how to display XML on-screen. That means that Styler can serve as a “single source of style” for everything that requires XML formatting, for both editing and publishing. (See Figure 2.)
Figure 2. In Arbortext 5, Styler will become the only tool available to let designers create multichannel stylesheets easily. Moreover, Styler wil truly serve as a “single source of style” by generating stylesheets to drive various XML editors as well.
In operation, Styler is similar to styling tools found in popular word-processing programs. The interface for designing stylesheets is intuitive and familiar. However, its capabilities reach far past those of word processing styling tools in several key ways:
- When creating stylesheets for XML documents in Styler, designers can specify conditions and context rules for which certain styles apply. For example, elements can have different styles based on the tags that enclose them (called “contextual styling”) so that titles can look different in chapters than they do in sub-sections.
- Designers can configure individual elements to display differently in each editing environment or media type in which they appear. For example, 6-point type may be fine for legal disclaimers in printed documents, but you may prefer 10-point type for editing and Web display.
- From the single stylesheet source that a designer creates, Styler can automatically generate a stylesheet for each different media type in the appropriate stylesheet language: FOSI, XSL-HTML, and XSL-FO.
“Dynamic content” is information that is more relevant and fresher than “static content.” Dynamic content is more relevant because it’s automatically customized according to each individual’s needs, and it’s fresher because it incorporates real-time data.
When dealing with large documents or large amounts of information, there are two primary approaches available to fulfilling the need for customized information:
- Master documents-You can set up a master document from which subsets can be automatically extracted and published.
- Dynamic assembly-You can set up a process to assemble content components into a single document based on queries.
There are two important factors that complicate the implementation of these approaches:
- Links-To simplify navigation, authors frequently insert “links,” also called “cross-references,” that make it easy for the reader to find related information. With static documents, authors can easily verify that the links work correctly.However, with content that can be assembled or subsetted in limitless combinations, there’s no way for authors to validate that links will work in all combinations. To avoid producing documents with broken links, some automated method of verifying links and handling broken links gracefully is needed.
- Reuse/Repurposing-The requirement to create modular content that can be used in multiple situations and for multiple purposes adds complexity to a document design. A component that contains a link target could appear more than once in the same publication. How should links be resolved when the same target exists more than once? A mechanism for resolving such ambiguities and other errors is needed.In some cases, a reusable component is static-it appears exactly the same regardless of where it’s used. In contrast, sometimes a reusable component must vary depending on which document contains it or on which medium it appears. For example, a component may use a low-resolution graphic image for a Web publication and a high-resolution graphic image for that same publication in print. We call this “repurposing.”Reuse is relatively easy to support today, but achieving repurposing involves considerable complex programming. To simplify implementation of repurposing requires that a repurposing mechanism be available within the publishing software.
Dynamic Content Assembly Manager
To address the problems of creating dynamic content out of reusable components, Arbortext introduces a new capability called a Dynamic Content Assembly Manager (DCA Manager). DCA Manager will provide several key capabilities:
- Lets authors easily find links, insert links, and ensure that the links remain valid.
- Lets authors easily create dynamic elements that vary based on the context of the component. For example, an author could create a single battery replacement procedure that handles different batteries by varying part numbers, pictures, and other specifics.This method is superior to the traditional approach of creating and managing a different battery replacement procedure for each different battery because it eliminates the redundant creation and maintenance that would be required.
- Checks links within dynamic content to ensure that they are valid or handles broken links gracefully so they do not appear in the resulting publication.
- Automatically creates lists of available link targets within newly created content so that authors can easily find them and link to them.
Arbortext 5’s support for Microsoft Office 2003
Currently, Arbortext supports Word users through the “Interchange” capabilities of Arbortext’s Enterprise E-Content Engine (E3). Interchange allows content contributors to create their information in MS Word and import that content to XML.
With the release of Office 2003 and Arbortext 5, Arbortext will expand its support for MS Word in several key ways:
- >Applications-Because MS Word 2003 supports only Schemas and not DTDs, Arbortext will ensure that both Epic Editor and Contributor work properly with Schemas written for MS Word. In Arbortext 5, Epic Editor will support Schemas without requiring the presence of a DTD, and Arbortext Contributor will support only Schemas.
- Content-Arbortext will ensure that XML content can be interchanged seamlessly between Arbortext products and MS Word 2003, especially cut-and-paste and drag-and-drop operations.
- Style-Arbortext Styler will generate stylesheets that work with MS Word 2003 so that a user can open an XML document and view on-screen formatting appropriate for that document. This facility will allow MS Word 2003 to open XML files from any source-not just MS Word 2003-and see that file presented with appropriate formatting.
- Links-Arbortext will offer a plug-in to MS Word 2003 so that its users will be able to use DCA Manager’s link insertion and validation capabilities. This plug-in will fill an important void in functionality.
- Publishing-Arbortext will offer a plug-in to MS Word 2003 so that its users will be able to publish XML documents through Arbortext’s Enterprise E-Content Engine (E3).
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