New series: Common Arbortext Questions

Arbortext is not simply an XML editor, illustration tool, or component content management system. It’s a big-picture solution that includes all the pieces required for creation, management, and publishing of enterprise content. In fact, Arbortext is the only out-of-the-box, end-to-end solution. Since the acquisition by PTC in 2005, Arbortext has been focused on making sure the products are integrated and play nicely with each other. We have all heard horror stories from publication groups who have had to duct tape a solution together in order to get the full solution. Often times, despite years of work, they never really realize the full capabilities of a complete end-to-end solution.

We get questions from customers and prospective customers who are at all points of the spectrum. Some are techpubs groups looking at tools; some are VPs thinking about their larger, enterprise content strategy. Some understand XML and publishing and how it all fits together; some understand parts but aren’t necessarily sure where responsibility (cms, editing tool, publishing too) starts or ends (you can bet that the vendors absolutely do!); some are just beginning to think about the limitations of traditional tools.

Some are coming to it from the tools-first approach; some come from a process management approach; and some come from a change management approach. We’ve seen a lot of success and a lot of failure through our long tenure in this. Like Jennifer Lopez’s character in The Wedding Planner, we can predict success or failure, based on the approach someone takes (rather than the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses). However, what’s more interesting is that we can make this prediction regardless of the tool set eventually chosen. There’s a lot of confusion out there as to what the individual pieces are where responsibility lies in a system like this.

As a result, we’re starting a new series called Common Arbortext Questions. Each week, we’ll share with you a set of questions, all more or less around the same topic, that we’ve had recently and that provide insight into the Arbortext solution. If we haven’t answered fully enough or you’ve got a follow-up question, please share in the comments. We’ll be sure to answer your questions as well.

This week’s topic: How does it work? What is it?

I thought we’d start with a general picture of dynamic publishing systems like these. Regardless of the tools, you typically have three parts in any system like this:

  • Content Creation
  • Content Management
  • Publishing and Delivery

Content creation includes original (new) content, converted content, imported content, shared content, illustrations and video. Content. In Arbortext, several applications fall into this category: Editor, IsoDraw, Architect, Import/Export, Dynamic Link Manager, and several of the S1000D components.

Content management can be simple or complex depending on your requirements. Sometimes companies have 1 system; sometimes more than one. Often you’ll have a CCMS (component content management system) for developing content internally and a CMS (or web cms) for content that’s outward facing: composed, final content from the CCMS goes into the CMS. Other systems, like Arbortext Content Manager, a CCMS, depend highly on permissions, workflow, and entitlement, to guarantee that only released content is externally visible while maintaining all content in a single enterprise-wide repository. (We’ll leave the discussion of pluses and minuses for the sales folks on both sides to debate with each other.)  The Arbortext products that fall into this category include: Arbortext Content Manager, Arbortext PDMLink, Adapters for Documentum, IBM DB2, and Oracle, the CSDB for S1000D, and other S1000D components.

Publishing and Delivery has a bit of a blur to it. This can include the CMS (Delivery), but it’s just as important to think in terms of delivery formats, the multitude of channels required for publishing. The Arbortext products that fall into this category include: Styler, Publishing Engine, Advanced Print Publisher, Digital Media Publisher, the S1000D Publisher, IsoView, Arbortext Content Manager, and Arbortext PDMLink.

I could have included Styler in two categories, because it’s both content creation (creating the stylesheet content) and publishing (used for creating output formats). However, I’ve only listed it in the Publishing and Delivery category because it’s very tied to the Arbortext Publishing tools and isn’t a general styling tool.

Although, I’ve listed a lot of components at each level, not all of the pieces are required. (For example, generally speaking, someone doing DITA would not also have the S1000D components; and, not everyone wants to convert legacy content in-house.) In fact, the picture for Arbortext customers is really a very simple one:

Picture of Arbortext Solution
[Click image for PDF version]

Now that we’ve set the stage, we’ll be sharing questions and answers about how the system works, about it’s parts and pieces, and about the bigger picture as well. If you have a question that it isn’t getting answered anywhere else, send it to or add to the comments. Answering your questions is what this new series is all about.

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Author: Liz Fraley

Liz Fraley