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I don't know what the answer is. However, some thoughts.
1) For small to medium-sized companies, XML-based authoring tools are too
expensive and are still out of reach at the enterprise level.
2) We don't know where XML will end up. I am suspicious that software
manufacturers, like Microsoft, will hold back new features from W3C and XML
will degenerate into the proprietary browser-type wars we saw with HTML.
3) Despite what others have written, I disagree that a formatting-based
solution, like HTML, would have ever been a good solution for
professionally-written docs because HTML had to contain only a small set of
formatting options: it only meets a limited need.
4) XML's content-based structure strikes me as truly excellent. But, do I
need it? I don't think so. I would like XML's content-based structure,
however, proprietary file formats are not an issue for me, I can output to
print via PS printfiles, can make PDFs, and online help (with WWP). Besides,
HTML-based online help is not mature yet, either, so methinks all that is in
5) I was underwhelmed by FrameMaker 6. I think the upgrade from 5.5.6 is
very worth the cost but I perceive that FrameMaker 6 has not evolved
sufficiently in the two years since the release of 5.5.
6) Anyway, is this question really about FrameMaker or is it about the trend
in our industry. I can substitute "Microsoft Word" or "Corel Ventura"
instead of "FrameMaker" and still have the same discussion. These tools,
Interleaf, too, are all clearly and obviously last-generation tools. We are
all waiting for the leap to next-generation tools. We can smell them, taste
them in the air, but they are not here, aside from some neat database XML
solutions at the very expensive end of our software spectrum.
7) My answer is this. Unstructured FrameMaker will continue to be a good,
solid solution for my company for the next 3-5 years. I would like
FrameMaker to change, those thoughts can wait for another thread, but if I
want absolute structure, I'll move to FrameMaker + SGML . . . which might be
a necessary move to get ready for an as yet unavailable XML publishing
solution. In the mean time, I'll continue to keep my ear to the ground and
feel secure that, when the time comes, the way my docs are written will
translate well to the next, coming thing in publishing software.
Software comes and goes like the ebb and flow of the tide. It's 2000 and
seems, to me and apparently others, that the tide has been out for a long
time as far as our tech pubs industry is concerned. Something will come
along that is superior to FrameMaker/Word/Ventura/Interleaf/last generation
tools and I plan to be there, evaluating it, as it does. In the meantime,
regardless of tools, I have books to write <vbg>. FrameMaker is my weapon of
choice in meeting that need and getting that job done!