Re: NEWBIE asks: How to move to SGML?

Subject: Re: NEWBIE asks: How to move to SGML?
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- SIMPLYWRITTEN -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 11 Nov 1998 07:59:45 -0500

>Our programmers want to edit their WORD
>files and desire a
>solution for their environment. (HTML,
>CD-ROM, WinHelp, JavaHelp, selected Text
>for PowerPoint presentations)
My stars and little hop-toads, Valerie, you're trying to jump from riding a
rickety old bicycle to running a starship. And you're trying to launch the
starship USING the bicycle.

SGML is probably a much, much, much too large solution for you. It's
starship stuff. It can take months to implement even basic SGML, and it
can't be done effectively with Word. You're entering Star Fleet here,
Valerie. We're talking warp drive versus pedal power.

A better solution is to move to another tool that's more powerful than Word,
but permits multiple outputs. I just gave a presentation at the Region 4 STC
conference on this very subject.

Here at SW we use FrameMaker for our parent documents. Yes, Frame takes a
bit to learn, but trust me that it's an order of magnitude easier than SGML.
We usually try to do our task-based stuff in the Clustar Method, which then
makes it easy to output (via filters) to HTML, WinHelp, XML, PDF, or just
about anything else. As I said during the presentation, you can create a
paper document in Frame and, properly set up (which is a BIG caveat!)
produce a good, useable help file with thousands of topics in anywhere from
seconds to a few hours. And you get all the power of Frame, as opposed to
the relatively slight power of D2H. Try doing a PDF out of D2H. And try
upgrading your Word version and STILL have a reliable D2H operation. No

If you move to this single-source solution, you can later develop DTDs on
your own and get FrameMaker +SGML and actually dip a toe into the SGML
ocean. If you set up your documents well, you should have no problem moving
from a FrameMaker-based single-sourcing to an SGML single-sourcing.

My advice to you is to get help...get a consultant to help you set up a
good, durable, single-source solution. It can be done at home, but believe
me in this...if you do it wrong, you could be buying yourself double the
headaches you now have. Single-sourcing relies heavily on consistency and
discipline. If you lack either of those, you might as well keep wrestling
with little alligators in D2H instead of diving in with the sharks.

Tim Altom
Adobe Certified Expert, Acrobat
Simply Written, Inc.
The FrameMaker support people
Creators of the Clustar Method for task-based documentation

>As far as I can judge, we need to move
>towards a SGML-based solution. Today, we
>have no budget for a powerful authoring
>or publishing environment. We have WORD,
>Doc-to-HELP, which are too difficult for
>the programmers.
>Can you help with your advice?
>How can we move to SGML step-by-step,
>but yet work with the tools today.

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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