Common Questions: XML and Standards Support

WIth the recent release including new XML technology, we thought we’re talking about standards support and XML technology support in the Arbortext product suite

This week’s topic: XML and Standards support in Arbortext

With the most recent release of Arbortext there’s a lot to talk about with respect to standards and XML technology support in Arbortext. Arbortext has been part of the W3C since the early 1990s and still maintains seats on nearly XML-related committee there today.

One long-time, useful ISO-standard, XML validation tool, Schematron, is now shipping as part of Arbortext. This has been something that the more talented Arbortext developers, who have been using the tools for a long time, have implemented themselves. PTC has heard them talking in the Technical Committees, seen how much more effective their customers are having this technology at their fingertips, and they’ve responded.

As a result, we thought we’d take this opportunity to talk about standards support and XML technology support in the Arbortext product suite. So today, we’re answering some of the more common and general questions about Standards and XML support in Arbortext. As always, if you have a question that we haven’t answered or if you want more details, remember to send us your questions or add them to the comments!

Question: XML technology support

Does Arbortext support the transclusion feature of XML technology, such as xInclude, conRef?


The functions cited are supported via the authoring, styling and publishing components within the Arbortext solution suite.

XML databases can have inverse performance to the number of elements in the database. Every element is broken out and assembling large documents with extremely large numbers of elements can take hours to assemble and publish.

Rather than leave granularity decisions to the CCMS, Arbortext Content Manager allows you to define the rules that control the granularity of the elements that are extracted and separated into individual components of the database, so that this “bursting” best fits your business requirements.

Question: XML validation support

What kind of schema does Arbortext support for Validation? For example, DTD, XML schema, schematron, RelaxNG?


All of these technologies are supported by the Arbortext solution. Validation of source files (using the DTD, or schema) is done by the editor, styling, and publishing tools, which are integrated with the Arbortext Content Manager. Because all the tools utilize the same underlying technology, consistent processing is ensured at all levels (editing, publishing, styling).

Schematron has been included OOTB in the latest release.

Question: More XML technology support

Can the CMS support XQuery that is built on XPath expressions when performing full-text searches that includes metadata?


The functionality exists in a different manner.

Question: Pure XML

When a writer edits an XML file with an XML editor, is the extraction necessary as well?


You are perhaps thinking of a different tool. There is no “extraction” with Arbortext.

Arbortext is a Pure XML Editor and does not require a user to “extract XML”. This eliminates one of the steps in your current process which requires you to re-validate the XML created. With Arbortext the XML is always valid to your DTD/Schema.

Question: DITA support

Do you support specialized DITA functionality?


Yes. In fact..

  • IBM designed and built DITA on Arbortext.
  • Arbortext was the only vendor invited as a charter member of the OASIS DITA committee when it was released from IBM.
  • DITA support in Arbortext became publicly available in version 5.1 released in April 2003.
  • DITA 1.2 support in Arbortext was first available in version 5.4M50 released in June 2010. (The DITA 1.2 specification was released for public comment in September 2010 and has not yet been finalized as of October 2010.)

Question: Standards support

What standards does Arbortext support (Open DITA Toolkit, etc.)?


Arbortext supports XML, SGML, and XML- or SGML-based standards.

The DITA OTK is not a standard. The DITA OTK is a Java-based implementation of the OASIS DITA Technical Committee’s specification for DITA DTDs and schemas.

That said:

  • Arbortext Editor is completely compatible with the DITA Open Tool Kit.
  • Because the OTK provides the ability to replace the Apache FOP engine with other rendering tools, you can plug Arbortext Publishing Engine into the OTK. There’s nothing required on the Arbortext side to get PE to work with the OTK. You only need to change the configuration files in the OTK to point to the Arbortext Publishing Engine.
  • If you have both the Editor and the Publishing Engine, you don’t really need the overhead of the OTK. Editor and Publishing Engine already know how to talk with each other and both can be automated without any additional external tools. 

For programming language support, you should check the related links attached to this post.

Is your business OK with OTK?

Do you want to become a software development company specializing in customized Open Source toolsor do you buy a solution that someone else has to maintain?

By Janice Summers

I love DIY projects! I find them truly irresistible. I relish each and every facet of them. From concept to completion, there is nothing I don’t enjoy. For me, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing something I created being brought to fruition. Perhaps it is the influence from my early years and being raised in a family of DIY practitioners.

Recently I undertook a new DIY project. I needed a fairly specific type of bench / book shelf combo unit with customized features. Rather than hire someone to do it or get a readymade out-of-the-box solution, I decided this would be a perfect opportunity for a new DIY project. So I set out with an idea and started drafting the specifics of the design, selected the materials I would create it out of, and dove in. Having been an engineer by trade and training years ago, I always look forward to getting my hands into a physical project.

Now, I am not a wood worker by any stretch of the imagination but I thought, “How hard can it be?!” I have a hammer, a hand saw, a good pencil, and an accurate tape measure. Besides, I figured it would be a whole lot cheaper if I just did it myself.  Or so I thought….

Eventually I did finish the project and I did finish it on time (just in time) but I did blow the budget. The end product, even though I do like it, is flawed and not “production ready” by any means. It’s fine for the limited application I need for it and, since I am the only user, it’s good enough.

The experience got me to thinking about the correlation between building customized furniture and building company specific solutions for content creation and delivery.

Just like me, there are the DIY people out there who relish the opportunity to dig in and create their own solution. After all, there are Open Source tools out there for anyone to take advantage of. Better yet, they really don’t cost anything to use. There open for all and you think, “Hey I can save our company a ton of money?” All you need is a little ingenuity and a well laid out plan to get things rolling. Right?

Well, not so fast. You will need a bit more than just a plan drafted out. You will need some really stellar programming skills for starters. Then you will need the time, lots of time. But don’t forget, business doesn’t stop and wait for you to catch up so you may need a consultant or two or three to help you along the way.

Eventually you will get there…well, at least most of the way. You will need to fine tune your creation along the way and add features and functions because all you really got out of the initial hours and hours and hours of work was the bare bones. Then you will also need to go back and fix those little tweaks you over-looked in the beginning because the point of the tool is to have it ready for production. Of course, once you release it into the wild for others to use, in come the stream of issues and function requests. So you’ll need to start building those fun little “features” and then rolling out the new revisions. Cross your fingers that it won’t break something else along the way because that means hours in chasing the elusive “bug”.

Oops, I forgot to mention that your OTK will need to play nicely with other tools. Well, you need to spend time integrating that too. While you’ve been busy chasing the finish line, time has passed and those other tools you need to integrate with have been juiced up and, well, now you need to upgrade. Crap! Now that you have upgraded, it’s back to development because your Open Tool needs to keep pace.

Fast forward a year down the road and suddenly you realize you are on a treadmill that never stops and you never get finished. Not really. The cost in consulting fees and man hours for your company is too embarrassing to look at. Then you realize, this is not the career you signed up for so you dust off your resume and bail ship.  But hey, you got to sharpen some programming skills and that looks good on your resume. What about the company?

You see, my advice, unless you really want to become a software development company specializing in customized Open Source tools for product information, buy a real solution that someone else has to maintain and keep the DIY projects for your “Honey Do’s” on the weekend.

Podcast posted: Bob Thomas, Tagsmiths

Bob Thomas, Tagsmiths, discusses DITA, SGML, XML and everything that goes into and surrounds successful projects using this technology.

Recently, we interviewed Bob Thomas.

Bob started in SGML/XML in the mid-to-early 90s at Lucent. He transformed from a technical writer to data modeler, DTD writer, legacy data conversion specialist, and stylesheet developer. He discusses with us a bit of his history, gives some advice for people just getting started, and discusses qualities, qualifications, and profile of folks doing these kinds of tasks. He talks many of the tools he’s used over the years and what it takes to use them.

Most recently, Bob developed the DTDs at Lucent that, the IBM team freely acknowledges were part of the inspiration for DITA. He created the DITA specialization for Avaya and continues to support it today. He’s a technical writer turned programmer; even went back to school to get his CS degree, so he could dig into XSL-FO stylesheet development and DTD design.

Listen to the podcast and hear from a long time part of the the XML/technical publications family.