DITA allows authors to quickly start creating topic-based documents. It provides a great deal of “out of the box” functionality for managing and re-using content. Authors can become productive without having to worry about the complexities of XML data and single-source publishing.
However, this situation does not extend to publishing content. While the standard toolkit provides publishing in a number of formats, making even minor changes to the output style requires extensive knowledge of technologies such as XPath, CSS and XSL-FO.
TopLeaf is a rendering engine with full DITA support that offers a very different publishing experience. It provides a number of graphical tools which guide you through the process of applying styles to your data. This document contains some examples of using the stylesheet tools to modify the presentation of a DITA document.
While much effort has been spent in enabling XML documents to be rendered in sophisticated styles, there are also times where the rapid provision of a more basic styling is required. For example, we may wish to produce a rough draft of a new document for which we do not yet have a suitable stylesheet. Alternatively, we may wish to produce a basic stylesheet for a new document type to which additional refinements can be added later.
The latest version of Turn-Key's TopLeaf rendering system is equipped with just such an automatic stylesheet generator. This process requires only a representative XML source document; no DTD/Schema or rendering hints (such as a CSS on-screen stylesheet) are required. This document outlines the methods used to derive styling from XML source, and exactly what styling features should (and should not) be supported.
The early days of XML saw a great deal of effort expended in the development of standards. These included not only XML itself, but related standards such as XPath, XSLT, XSL-FO, MathML, Schemas and a host of others. As these standards mature, they become less relevant for the end user. This is not because they cease to be valuable. Many standards become universally accepted and incorporated into software tools. After all, who nowadays hand codes their HTML? Almost no-one needs to, because all web browsers and authoring tools follow the standard as a matter of course.
The XML standard itself has now achieved a similar universal status, but whether to adopt associated standards such as XML Schemas or XSL-FO is a more difficult question. XML is now approaching a level of maturity where the key issues in publishing are no longer which standards to support, but which tools will provide the required functionality most effectively and economically.
The advantages of XML for increasing the value of content and lowering production costs are well understood. However, many projects fail to exploit the full value of XML because content is generated in some form that needs to be converted to XML. This process is always costly.
It is difficult to find technical or economic reasons to explain why XML authoring is not more commonplace. It is much more likely that any resistance can be explained by misconceptions and unreasonable expectations, mainly due to the widespread use of “What You See Is What You Get” tools. This paper attempts to challenge the prevailing culture of document authoring by presenting seven widely-held “myths”.
A great deal of work has gone into creating such standards as CSS, XSLT and XSL-FO, which allow human readable XML documents to be rendered on-screen, as hard copy or PDF. CSS is easy to work with — using GUIs even non-experts can produce quite complex stylesheets — but lacks key facilities for producing publishable quality pagination. XSLT/FO has virtually unlimited potential for the manipulation and display of source material. However the design of the required formatting objects, not to mention the XSLT transforms which create those objects, is well beyond the capabilities of non-specialists.
The latest version of Turn-Key's TopLeaf rendering system is an attempt to provide the facilities of professional quality typesetting, but using a simple intuitive interface. To achieve this a number of innovative techniques have been developed. This presentation will compare TopLeaf's mapping strategy with classical stylesheets, illustrate some of TopLeaf's unique features, and touch upon the role and relevance of standards in the development of the next generation of rendering tools.
XML offers several advantages over word processors for authoring and maintaining documents. There is one advantage, however, that has remained largely unexploited — the management of large documents.
Most applications manage large XML documents by decomposing them into parts small enough to be conveniently edited. It is arguable that this practice is both inefficient and makes it difficult to realise the full value of XML data. This talk discusses some of the issues relating to decomposing XML and whether there is a processing model that would make this unnecessary. A demonstration using one such model will be shown.
Making the decision to adopt XML, or having it thrust upon you, is only the first step in a major transformation in how your organization relates to its data. You should be aware at the start that there will be costs and difficulties associated with the switchover. However, if you are properly prepared, the costs can be minimized and the benefits substantial.
Authoring documents in XML can have significant benefits to an organisation. This talk examines those benefits and what they could mean to an organisation. It also discusses a difficult problem many people face when they decide to switch to XML - what to do with legacy documents. A novel technique for dealing with this problem will be discussed.