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Document publishing vendors tout XML

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Adobe this week is releasing the latest version of its FrameMaker authoring software that includes native support for XML, as well as a server-based feature that will enable corporations to create documents that can be shared across workgroups and viewed in multiple formats.

The release of FrameMaker 7.0 represents a big push for Adobe into the enterprise market as it strives to provide the tools and services corporations need to re-use and repurpose increasing amounts of content. It also reflects the growing trend among businesses to adopt XML as a way to share content among employees, partners and customers.

Software company Corel also recently made a move into the enterprise market with the announcement of its Deepwhite strategy, which employs standards such as XML to create content that can used in a variety of ways. Arbortext is another vendor that has long offered an XML editor and multichannel publishing engine.

Businesses are turning to content management systems to organize unstructured content, but find that without a standard such as XML time is spent repackaging content for different uses - print or the Web, for example.

"One of the main requirements of content management systems and why people are investing in these systems is the ability to reuse content - to separate content from how it's being presented," said Nick Wilkoff, an analyst at Forrester Research. "So author once and publish many different times in many different ways. That's something that XML facilitates."

Unlike HTML, which tells a Web browser how content should be viewed on a page, XML describes the data within a document, leaving it up to the receiving device to display it in the most appropriate manner. What's more, XML documents can be broken down into components, enabling businesses to reuse some components, while updating other portions of files, if necessary.

What companies like Adobe, Corel and Arbortext are doing is providing businesses with a comfortable environment in which to create XML documents.

"One of the strengths of XML authoring tools is giving business users the ability to work with XML without having to know all of the technical details of XML," Wilkoff says.

Arbortext and Adobe, with its FrameMaker 7.0 server deployment, are taking that editing component and expanding it beyond the desktop with transformation engines, which are particularly important to enterprise content management initiatives where sharing information is paramount, says Leonor Ciarlone, a senior consultant with CAP Ventures.

"As everybody starts contributing content you need something on the back end saying, 'This is what's coming in, this is what's going out,'" she says. "Those engines take disparate formats and get them ready for multichannel distribution."

Fujitsu Network Communications uses FrameMaker to streamline the process of creating technical documentation for its optical networking products. Evan Olson, Fujitsu Network Communication's online products developer, says XML support within FrameMaker 7.0 will make things even more efficient.

For one thing, boilerplate text and document templates will be able to be updated once and then used in multiple documents. In addition, different departments within the company will be able to view documents in whatever form they want.

"Maybe the validation group doesn't want to have FrameMaker on their machines. Maybe they just want to be able to view [the documents] in a browser," Olson says. "Right now they've got to have FrameMaker to see it, or our writers have to convert the files to PDF and send it to them to be able to see the latest version. With this version they can just access the database through a browser, see the XML files in progress and make their validation checks."

Sparta, a systems integrator, deployed Arbortext's XML editor, called Epic, and its E3 multichannel publishing engine to streamline the management of content within a federal defense agency. Before turning to XML, the department was "pulling its hair out" trying to manage the flow of information, says Philip Bolger, division manager for the technology and systems division of Sparta.

"We needed an environment that we could let people use a tool like Epic to create information. We felt that it was user friendly, that they wouldn't be intimidated by being in an XML editor," Bolger says. "That has proven to be true. And then it got us to the objectives that we wanted of really being able to get information put together in that format and then disseminate it to many different avenues."

Adobe's FrameMaker 7.0 is scheduled to ship by the end of May and is priced at $799 for the desktop version and $7,999 for the server deployment.

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