New Forums available to Mastermind Members

When we checked in with our TC Dojo Mastermind members, they asked us for a place where they could collaborate with each other outside the regular meetings. Until this point, we had a wiki where everyone could collaborate, but it just wasn’t meeting their needs.  So, earlier this week we stood up a community forum site to make it easy for Mastermind members to share their knowledge and experience.



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Notes from the DITA Best Practices BOF lunch at CMS DITA NA Conference

Tracy Baker and I had a full table and intense discussion on the topics on the minds of the people in attendance. Real time issues and ideas for possible solutions. Topics ranged from reuse strategies to getting started to review processes to getting it all done while still doing your day job. Before we got started, we asked everyone to give us a little information: who are you, what industry do you come from, and what’s on your mind/what brought you to this BOF table. The participants included:

  • Erin (Telecom) who is in unstructured FrameMaker and wants to know how to planning the move to DITA (“it’s exciting and scary”). She’s also interested in contextualized content
  • Eric (Services) says he’s listening in so he can get a better sense of things
  • Cecile (Healthcare, from France) is moving to DITA from XML and she’s wants to talk about reuse strategies given that she expects that her XML modules will become to multiple DITA topics
  • Abbie (Services) is here to learn
  • Liz M (Services, Abbie’s coworker) is also here to learn
  • Bob (Medical Device) is looking for questions
  • Ed (High Tech) is also moving from XML to DITA but he wants to be sure they’re doing it for the right reasons. He’s also got a legacy data concern and seconds the request to talk about reuse strategies.
  • Renee (High Tech) is tasked with fixing a DITA environment. She wants to talk QA, processes, staffing roles
  • Moderator: Tracy Baker from F5, DITA early adopter
  • Moderator: Me, Liz Fraley from Single-Sourcing Solutions and the moderator of the TC Dojo Mastermind sessions.

Tracy Baker is a regular at the DITA NA conference. She’s from F5 and started her road to DITA in 2009. She’s an Information Architect, a writer, a tools person. She wrote the Information Model that F5 still uses today. In fact, only two elements have been added since she wrote it originally. It’s been a long road and it’s only this year, in 2015, that all the documents published for all the products have been 100% DITA. She’s worn a lot of hats but warns that “you can’t wear all the hats. You can try. You will die.”

Together, Tracy and I moderated the discussion and what follows are notes from the conversation. Tidbits, tips, suggestions, and advice for the folks at the table. One-on-one time for them to get their burning questions answered, their comfort levels…well, leveled. Continue reading “Notes from the DITA Best Practices BOF lunch at CMS DITA NA Conference”

Review: TCS5 and FrameMaker 12 from Adobe

This summer I had a chance to sit down with FrameMaker 12, released at the end of last year. I’d been anxious to get some real time with the product after seeing Maxwell Hoffmann do the first public demo of it at TC Camp in January. (In fact, several happy TC Campers walked away with free licenses donated by Adobe, the Camp Ambassador, to the raffle!)

I admit that I’m not an expert at FrameMaker, but I’ve used it off and on since FrameMaker 8. Last year I spent some time with FrameMaker 11 and when I edit, I do it with Tags On. My experiments with TCS5 and FrameMaker 12 made some key things in the FM12 release really stand out:

  1. Whitespace handling! If you’ve got “pretty printed” DITA XML files, now you won’t get weird results in the output due to the whitespace that the XML Standard says should be ignored. This is a serious plus for anyone doing real XML work.
  2. Size isn’t a factor. DITA maps containing large numbers of files process fairly quickly. The one I tested that had nearly 500 files (with just as many, if not more, graphics files) completed publishing to HTML5 in about 10 minutes.
  3. Publish many outputs without pulling out your hair. Doing DITA? Here’s another toolset that gives you everything without having to resort to the madness that is the DITA OT. Adobe’s support for multiple outputs is smooth, integrated, and comes with support. What more could anyone want?
  4. Clean out-of-the-box look and feel and publishing. With a simple set up, I could publish PDF, HTML5, ePub, WebHelp, Kindle and Microsoft Help. I tried them all with the exception of Kindle. (Kindle publishing requires installing an additional executable that I didn’t have.) The OOTB publish is clean and usable as is. As a stylesheet developer who is tasked with upgrading stylesheets as new software releases happen over time, I have a serious appreciation for OOTB styling. I know we’ve all got corporate look and feel, but going as far as you can with OOTB styles is a blessing. In fact, it was easier to publish HTML5 than PDF!
  5. DITA Support:
    • DITA Keyrefs and conkeyrefs. Support for this DITA 1.2 feature that comes in strong. I’ve got a pretty complicated map that includes another map which has a large number of keys of different types (topics, elements, xrefs). The supermap also overrides several keys contained in the base map. Everything resolved the way it should and processed beautifully
    • In fact, recently on the dita-users list, someone using a different tool (unspecified) found that the DITA 1.2 processing for key overrides was not happening correctly per the spec and she raised the question to the group to find out if the behavior was a bug or  if she was doing something wrong. As it turns out, she was doing everything right and the tool wasn’t. When I saw the exchange, I decided to add this to my evaluation tests of FrameMaker 12. I’m happy to report that Adobe passed that test with flying colors. (Arbortext did too.) I don’t know what tool she was using but isn’t it nice to know that DITA 1.2 support is right there for you in FrameMaker 12? I think so.

I couldn’t test the MathML support – it seems that either my install didn’t go perfectly or I’m missing something. I got a weird error message that I couldn’t track down in the help. I don’t use that much, so it didn’t bother me, but it’s cool to see that it’s (potentially) present. I’d heard that integration with the DesignScience editor was coming. There’s no one better at math publishing. Adding your DS license to your FM12 install certainly seems like a sweet quick and easy way to get going with MathML if you need it.

All my testing was done in FrameMaker 12 “Structured Authoring”. I tried the “XML Author” version, but found it limiting. (They can’t publish to PDF without creating a FrameMaker .book file and the other formats not at all.) But I believe that’s the point. If you want to limit what your authors can do, now you have a way to do it. For me, it’s a little too limiting, but that’s because I’m usually not the one authoring. I’m tool support.