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FrameMaker output to Flex for creation of Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals (IETMs)

Apr 10, 2008 10:48 AM

Hello,

Does anyone know if it's possible to output a Structured FrameMaker 8 book to Flex 3.

I would like to convert standard technical manuals that are produced using Structured FrameMaker to Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals (IETMs) based on 40051-1 (Army) and 38784 (Air Force) military standards.

Are there any plans to hook Flex 3 into the Technical Communication Suite (like Captivate and RoboHelp) or not? If not, then this may be something to add to the wish list.

Overall I think this would make a lot of sense as one could convert or re-spin legacy manuals and output to a Rich Internet Application (RIA) via Flex 3.

Your comments are very much appreciated.

Regards,

Jim
 
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    Apr 10, 2008 12:12 PM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    Hi Jim...

    Flex is an IDE for developing applications which are built using ActionScript and MXML coding. I don't know that an export of content from FrameMaker to Flex would provide anything useful (unless you were exporting ActionScript/XMML from Frame). However, there's no reason that you couldn't create an application using Flex that would read XML files and display that content in the application. This could be very cool .. but you'd have to build the application and design the XML data model. Frame can export XML, so the Frame part would be no problem. You just have to create the Flex-based application to do cool stuff with the XML.

    I've developed an online Help format called AIR Help which uses Adobe's AIR technology for delivering online Help. AIR essentially provides a way to wrap up a Flex app as a desktop application. I've set up a DITA Open Toolkit plugin that converts DITA to AIR Help (it's still in development but I plan to make it available soon). I author the DITA files in Frame and pass it directly to the OT plugin and get the AIR Help file. I'm pretty sure that there are people working on an IETM specialization for DITA .. you might look into using that for authoring your content, then develop a Flex app that does the right thing with that content.

    For info on my AIR Help project, see .. http://leximation.com/airhelp/

    Cheers,

    ...scott

    Scott Prentice
    Leximation, Inc.
    www.leximation.com
     
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    Apr 10, 2008 12:16 PM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    Jim,

    With the TechComm Suite, you can do a two-step through RoboHelp to get
    things AIR packaged (RoboHelp Packager for AIR at
    http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/robohelp/ is available now), which
    might give you (some of) the functionality that you want, though
    Acrobat3D might be more appropriate for some types of interactive
    graphics, especially for parts and maintenance manuals.
     
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    Apr 30, 2008 7:13 AM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    For those of us who have Frame and not RoboHelp, I'd love to see AIR integrated with Frame -- and some sort of Frame/Buzzword tie-in!
     
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    Apr 30, 2008 8:39 AM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    I'm sure more will come over time .. I hope to have my DITA to AIR Help plugin available soon .. but that will require that your content is in DITA XML and you've installed the DITA Open Toolkit. The RoboHelp Packager for AIR is pretty slick and is certainly the easiest way to get to AIR Help from Frame.

    Buzzword *is* quite cool, and it certainly seems like they should provide an import from at least some Adobe-supported format (yikes). If they had an XML (other than MS XML) import, you'd be able to import files from Frame .. hopefully they will at least provide that.

    Note that Buzzword is not (at least not currently) an AIR app, and when it is, it isn't any closer to AIR Help than your regular FM files. AIR is just the common underlying technology.

    Cheers!

    ...scott
     
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    Jan 6, 2009 8:45 AM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    Hello,

    Like Jim above, I need to "convert standard technical manuals that are produced using Structured FrameMaker to Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals (IETMs) based on 40051-1." What is the best way to create an IETM using FrameMaker output? Is there a way to create IETMs that will open in a standard Web browser?

    Thanks for your help,
    Amy
     
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    Jan 6, 2009 9:21 AM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    As far as I'm aware, an IETM is just a fancy term for an interactive Help system. It may follow some standard (such as 40051-1), but is most likely a proprietary application created by a vendor .. there is no generic "ITEM." I'm sure there are vendors who create IETMs that are browser-based. I believe that XyEnterprise has a process to create an IETM from S1000D content (and possible from DITA).

    I think that you need to work backwards from the IETM application that you want to use, then determine what format (most likely some XML model) is needed to create that IETM application. Once you determine the XML model that is needed, you can set up FrameMaker with a structure application which allows you to author in that model. You can convert your existing FM files (structured or unstructured) into that XML model.

    Cheers,

    ...scott
     
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    Jan 6, 2009 9:45 AM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    I think Scott's quite correct.

    According to http://www.dau.mil/pubs/misc/ietm.asp, "You can see the new MIL-STD-3001 for IETMs on the NATEC web site www.natec.navy.mil . It includes publishing/ authoring/ editing from paper, pdf, and SGML (HTML, XML)."

    Art
     
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    Jan 8, 2009 6:51 AM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    Hi Jim,

    Thank you for your response and for the suggestions. I may e-mail you for a bit more info, especially about how you are implementing 40051 in FrameMaker. I assume it is manual and not through a DTD, as FM does not seem to support a 40051 DTD.

    Thanks again!
    Amy
     
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    Jan 8, 2009 9:01 AM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    FrameMaker can basically support any DTD .. you just need to create a structure application for that DTD. Is there something about the 40051 DTD that can't be supported by FM?

    ...scott
     
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    Jan 8, 2009 9:46 AM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    Scott,<br /><br />I have used the StructureTools > Open DTD command to open the 40051. (The Import DTD command is grayed out.) I browse to the .dtd file,  select <No Application> in the Use Structured Application box, and then select XML in the Select Type box. The Open DTD Log shows parser errors.<br /><br />I choose <No Application> because none in the list apply, but if I could create a structured app for 40051, then it should work.... How does one go about creating a structured app? <br /><br />I think this is exactly what we need.<br /><br />Thanks for your help!<br />Amy
     
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    Jan 8, 2009 11:02 AM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    Hi Amy...

    Well .. you should become familiar with the Structure Application Developers Guide (PDF installed in your FM/docs folder) .. this has all of the info you'll need.

    You're on the right track .. it sounds like you're doing the right thing. After using Open DTD, you should end up with an EDD (or the start of one). If there are errors in this import process, you'll need to resolve the errors before you can continue. Many times you'll need to make tweaks to the EDD to get certain element types properly set up (tables are often a problem). You'll also need to make adjustments to the EDD so that certain elements are rendered in a useful way (empty elements may need to be a marker). For a complex DTD, there's often a lot of work to make the needed tweaks. This will also involve setting up a read/write rules file, as well as a template. At a minimum the structure application consists of an EDD, rules file, and template.

    It's likely that someone else is also working on developing a structure app for this DTD, you might post a query asking specifically about that.

    This process of making a structure app from a DTD can be bit of work, but keep in mind that once you're finished and are able to open the XML files in Frame, you're basically ready to print (assuming you've set up your template with meaningful styles). If you use other XML editors, you'll be able to open the files right away and start editing, but in order to print, you've got to do a lot of work. It's basically a tradeoff .. and from what I've seen the FM approach is typically less work in the long run.

    BTW .. where does one find this DTD? I made a quick Google search and found the MIL-STD-40051 specification, but no DTD. I'd be interested in checking this out, can you point me at it?

    Cheers,

    ...scott
     
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    Jan 8, 2009 11:22 AM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    Hi Scott,

    This is encouraging news! I am looking for the Structured App Dev Guide in my C:\Program Files\Adobe\FrameMaker8\Documents folder. There are 13 PDFs, but I don't see that title. I'll poke through them for structured app info.

    I downloaded the DTD from the Army SGML/XML Registry & Library (ASRL) here: http://www.asrl.com/. The DTDs are available from the "Constructs" link. You will need to apply for a "library card," but it's a simple process and should be approved within a day or two.

    Thanks,
    Amy
     
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    Jan 8, 2009 11:50 AM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    Nice .. it doesn't look like this was shipped with FM8. In FM7.2 it's called .. Structure_Dev_Guide.pdf .. it looks like you can download it from here ..

    http://www.adobe.com/support/documentation/en/framemaker/

    Thanks for the pointer to the DTD.

    Cheers,

    ...scott
     
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    Jan 8, 2009 1:05 PM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    Thanks, Scott. I got the manuals.

    If you had to guess, about how long would you say that it might take for a beginner to create a structured app and do the work that you described?

    Amy
     
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    Jan 8, 2009 1:26 PM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    Well .. that's hard to say .. it really depends on the complexity of the DTD. You *should* be able to get something that "works" in a few hours .. but to get all of the formatting set up nicely could take weeks. It really depends on what you want and how well you're able to follow the docs. The concepts in the structure dev guide can be pretty complicated.

    Take it one step at a time and post to the list of you've got questions.

    ...scott
     
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    Jan 8, 2009 1:55 PM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    Many thanks--you've been tremendous help!

    In the meantime, I also took your advice and posted a specific question on the structured FM forum asking if anyone has developed such an app.

    Amy
     
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    Jan 8, 2009 1:59 PM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    Hi Amy...

    I got the DTD from the "library" .. and was able to successfully Open it in FM (no errors). Do you have any sample XML files that are built from this data model? After you Open the DTD and save the resulting file as an EDD (just a FM file), you'll need to change the element definitions of the "inline" elements so they render inline. By default, all elements are block level elements. Also, I'd assume that there are multiple top-level elements .. all I'm seeing so far is "a.statement".

    If you've got any sample files, I'll mess with this a bit and see what I can do. Feel free to upload to ..

    http://leximation.com/inbox

    Cheers,

    ...scott
     
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    Jan 8, 2009 2:38 PM   in reply to (James_McKay)
    Hi Scott,

    I'm very glad you told me. I have been using version 2.20, which was resulting in parsing errors, but I just downloaded the latest version 3.22, and it opened without errors.

    I think this will solve a lot of problems! I will start with your suggestions above and go from here.

    Thank you for your offer for helping with sample files. I will very likely take you up on it after I've done some experimenting.

    Thanks,
    Amy
     
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