Not just another XML editor!

Let’s face it, there are many good XML editors out there already – so why reinvent the wheel?

We recognized that a different approach was necessary to meet the authoring requirements of occasional contributors who had no knowledge of DITA and for who the rigorous structural constraints of an XML editor would be too restrictive.

The objective was to develop a low-cost, web-based, easy-to-use XML editing tool that could be used by SMEs with no knowledge of DITA and was complementary to the XML editors traditionally used by technical authoring teams. However, it needed to be more than “just another XML editor with an attractive interface”.

Removing the constraints imposed by XML

User-friendly XML authoring tools try to hide the complexity of XML and be WYSIWYG – however, the structure just keeps getting in the way! Depending on the tool, the author is confronted with content structure in different ways, for example:

  • Popups with element name choices whenever user hits ENTER
  • Attribute sidebar with esoteric contents
  • Non-local changes to content when inserting things
  • Poor copy and paste support

It is these rigorous structural constraints that restrict the way in which authors can create content. So we figured, if the XML structure is too rigid for authoring, why not lose it?

Unique architecture, starting with HTML

It is the unique architecture ‘under the hood’ that makes AuthorBridge so different from all other XML editing tools. It provides SMEs with a less rigid XML structure, which is then converted to a more rigorous DITA XML structure behind the scenes. As a result, content creation is easy and efficient. The SME is unencumbered by the authoring tool, and provided with an intuitive and free-flowing authoring experience (much the same as when authoring in Word).

We call this fluid authoring.

This is made possible through the integration of CKEditor, the world-leading, Open Source HTML text editor. With more than 17 million downloads and over 10 years of continuous development, it is trusted by companies including IBM, Microsoft and Oracle.

Collaborative development with IBM

AuthorBridge was developed in close co-operation with the Central ID Tools Team at IBM, the originators of the DITA standard and long-time experienced practitioners of working with leading XML editing tools. It has subsequently been deployed in production by IBM to help collect contributions from hundreds of SMEs, acting as a complementary tool to the existing XML editors used by more technically aware authoring professionals.

Guiding SMEs to make contributions in DITA – and not a template in sight

The AuthorBridge editor includes an unobtrusive guidance panel that can be readily customized to help SMEs understand precisely where they are in the structure, and is much less constraining than a typical templated approach. It is designed to guide the author naturally, with no explicit tagging or structure to directly manage. When changes are made to the content, the AuthorBridge conversion engine automatically computes and applies the appropriate semantic markup, allowing the SME to concentrate exclusively on authoring the content.

Guidance panel

Specially adapted for each document type, helps SMEs understand where they are in the structure.

Inline assistive text

Non-intrusive, in-line textual guidance for the high-level/empty parts of the topic body

Hover help

Available for each part offered in the guidance panel, provides direction as to what content should be provided

Tool tips

Provided for all user interface controls

Advanced copy & paste

Trying to make sense of structure (e.g. numbered or bulleted lists, tables) when copying and pasting from Word directly to an XML editor is typically challenging. Not not so with AuthorBridge, the conversion server makes sense of it all under-the-hood. By leveraging visual cues & context, it is able to determine the appropriate markup to apply and ensure that it is valid at the target location.

Advanced table handling (CALS)

AuthorBridge provides support for the <CALS table> model (also known as the Oasis Table Exchange Model). The CALS table supports the spanning of multiple rows or columns for special layout or organizational needs and provides a wide variety of controls over the display properties of the data and even the table structure itself. These more complex table formats are often used in technical documentation for formatting purposes.

AuthorBridge also supports the <simpletable> format. As the name implies, it is structurally less sophisticated than the CALS table.

Low-cost DITA authoring for large and small teams

Starting from as little as US$100 per named user, per annum, AuthorBridge sets a new paradigm in the pricing of XML editing tools and is affordable for authoring teams both large and small.

Support for a broad range of CKEditor add-ons

AuthorBridge can be configured to incorporate a broad range of add-ons, with ongoing support provided by Stilo for the total enhanced solution. CKEditor community add-ons include Google docs viewer, templates, form elements, equation editor, math editor, YouTube embedding, list, formulae, floating tool bar and many more, totalling 300+ at last count.

Ease of integration

AuthorBridge can be readily integrated with local file systems, shared repositories such as GoogleDrive, Box or GIT, in addition to central CCMS systems.

Why Stilo?

Stilo has been involved in the development of structured content tools and technologies for more than two decades, helping major organizations solve some of the most complex content processing problems. We are the developers of OmniMark, an SGML/XML content processing language and Migrate, a ground-breaking cloud XML content conversion service. We have helped our customers convert over a million pages of content to DITA XML from source formats including Word, FrameMaker, InDesign, RoboHelp and Madcap Flare. It is our deep understanding of DITA and our ability to solve difficult content processing problems that led us to the development of AuthorBridge.

Book a demo

If you are looking for a low-cost, web-based, easy to use, DITA editing tool then please do get in touch – we’d be happy to set up a live demo with your technical authoring team and/or subject matter experts or review your requirement for an evaluation copy. Alternatively, you can view the recorded demo to your right!

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