Monday, October 24, 2005

Norm blogs on DITA and DocBook

Norm Walsh has blogged a very extensive analysis of how to implement some of the features of DITA in DocBook.

I've not blogged on this topic as much as I would like, simply due to workload and time constraints. I have been looking at DITA quite a bit. At Flatirons Solutions, we have implemented very DITA-like solutions for customers using a combination of DocBook and a content management system (Documentum and IBM Document Manager). Simplified DocBook, IMO, is more compatible with the basic elements of DITA. In fact, I wish they had re-used more of the element names from DocBook, instead of introducing slightly different tag names with the same basic semantics...

DocBook sections are very much akin to DITA topics. That is the typical chunk level we have recommended in our implementations. Then, you have a "master document" that is an assembly of chunks and very much akin to DITA maps. Different master documents can use the same chunks in a variety of orders, in the same way that you can have different DITA maps. The master documents can be at the book, chapter or article level, depending on your business needs.

The biggest advantage of this approach, is that you can leverage existing DocBook tagged content (just chunked at the section level) and take advantage of the wide variety of tools for converting, editing and publishing DocBook. DITA is still relatively new, and has limited support compared to the tried and true DocBook model. You can even assign DITA topic types (reference, concept, task) in the role attribute, or add a DITA topic type attribute through a DocBook customization layer!

FYI, for those attending XML 2005, there will be several presentations and tutorials on DocBook, and Flatirons' CTO, Eric Severson, will be presenting on a DITA implementation we have done with BYU.

Follow-up: See also Eve Maler's interesting post on this subject at:

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A New Pair of Ears

Connor and I both got a new pair of ears recently. While his are from the special 50th Anniversary of Disneyland and help him make a great Steamboat Willie impersonation, mine are helping me at work.

My new ears are the Bose QuietComfort 2 headphones. They are noise cancelling, and I've tested them in my noisy work environment and on a noisy airplane. They are MARVELOUS! Since I bought them before October 16, I also got a free Samsung YP-T6 mp3 player! It's got an FM tuner and will convert from FM or line in to MP3.

If you work in any kind of noisy environment, but need to be able to concentrate above the din and roar of your co-workers, I highly recommend these headphones. Also, if you like Disney at all, I highly recommend getting to Disneyland, and check out the incredible 50th Anniversary fireworks show! Posted by Picasa

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Transforming DocBook with dblatex

Benoit Guillon has released the 0.1.7 version of dblatex, a DocBook to PDF transform tool. This does require an existing Tex/LaTeX setup on your system. Why use this tool?

  • The project is end-user oriented, that is it tries to hide as much as possible the latex compiling stuff by providing a single clean script to produce directly DVI, PostScript and PDF output.
  • The actual output rendering is done not only by the XSL stylesheets transformation, but also by a dedicated LaTeX package. The purpose is to allow a deep LaTeX customisation without changing the XSL stylesheets.
  • Post-processing is done by Perl, to make publication faster, and to parse things not so easily done by the XSL stylesheets like tables.

Here are the details on this release:

The dblatex 0.1.7 release is now available from It 
can be directly downloaded from this URL:

This release mainly includes the callout support for both verbatim and 
graphic elements, some other improvements, and bug fixes. The release is 
synchronized with the SF CVS repository, with the tag v0_1_7.

More precisely the changes included in this release are:

* Callout support:
 -  and  supported, even for external
 -  supported.

* Better  or  support:
 - External files (eg, in ) are handled.
 - literal.lines.showall parameter added, to remove the empty last
   lines, when set to 0. Set by default to 1.

* Legalnotices are printed in the native docbook style.

* An abstract in an article is printed.

* Better  support:
 -  to a list with a title is possible.
 -  to a refentry is possible.

* Other improvements:
 - term.breakline parameter added to have the  on a new
   line below the .
 - Hyphenation forced for text using a typewriter font. Moreover
   the font is smaller.
 - parameter added, to print the dblatex logo on
   the cover page.
 - parameter added, to have DBLaTeX filled in
   the Creator field of the PDF information section.
 - Running dblatex on a root element different from article or book
   does not fail anymore, except for .

* Bug fixes:
 - dbk_table.sty: make \@xmultirow long.
 - empty textdata element handled.

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