X Marks the Spot: Let’s Take Today’s XML Content-Creation Tools for a Spin

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Jun 13, 2006

June 2006 Issue

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Tim Berners-Lee's dictum, "If it's not on the Web, it doesn't exist," may now be supplemented with, "And if your business is not creating XML content, it may soon cease to exist."

XML is changing the way content is created—for print publishing, for the Web, and for other new distribution channels like ubiquitous PDAs and WAP-based 3G cell phones—all of which are connected by ever-faster Internet connections. In recent years, XML has also become a leading method for moving content, with RSS feeds providing stories from blogger sites, transmitting audio and video from new podcasting sites, and managing Web Services, which communicate via XML-RPC, SOAP, and other behind-the-scenes protocols that have largely replaced CORBA, D-COM, and even EDI as data-exchange standards.

Now XML is returning to its roots as a markup language for creating and structuring content. From high-end publishing tools like Adobe FrameMaker, InDesign, and Quark Xpress to Web-content tools like Adobe GoLive and Macromedia Dreamweaver, and on to Microsoft Office 12 and OpenOffice (not to mention Google's stunning entry into document creation with its acquisition of Writely), XML export and import and even XML creation and storage are now becoming commonplace. Yet XML content creation and delivery is at least three times more difficult than HTML, which in turn is many times harder than writing a Word document. So the success of the new content tools depends on making structured authoring, or guided writing, appear to be much easier than HTML: "As easy as Word" is a popular marketing slogan.

In the high-end print publishing industry, XML content is advancing on several fronts. Microsoft Windows Vista will offer its XML Paper Specification (XPS) to the print industry as a rival to Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF). Best-of-class desktop publisher Quark Xpress has lost significant market share to Adobe InDesign and hopes to recover by supporting XML Job Definition Format (JDF). IBM has abandoned decades of DocBook and SGML in favor of DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture). IBM donated DITA XML technology to OASIS, which has made it a standard. And Adobe announced that it is moving its technical documentation to DITA, starting with its Creative Suite docs. Finally, as markets become global, companies localizing their content will be doing it with XML standards like Translation Memory eXchange (TMX) and XML Localization Interchange File Format (XLIFF).

To get a handle on the tools that make this all happen, we reviewed 12 tools commonly known as XML Editors. We found some terminology confusion in the market because some of these "Editors" are clearly aimed at the authors, writers, and editors who create the core content, while others are for the application developers who build the structure and styles within which the former can do their guided writing. We will distinguish the two as XML Author Editors and XML Developer Editors (an IDE, or Integrated Development Environment). And as you'll see, we found that one product suite does both.

Our XML Editors were selected from nearly 80 listed on the CMS Review site, and we are confident they are the best XML content-creation tools on the market. We looked far and wide to find American, Austrian, Canadian, Dutch, Irish, Japanese, Romanian, and Russian software development teams. Collectively, these tools are in use by millions of content creators around the world working in XML.

NOTE ABOUT ARTWORK: Though the screen shots are visible here in the HTML version, click here to view a PDF of them with captions, in a more readable format.

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