I played with the ePub script a few months ago when it was announced. Haven't really had time to play with it much since.
Keep in mind that it's just a script at this point. My hope is that the next version of RoboHelp will provide a nice GUI in the form of a Single Source Layout recipe to manage things.
As far as a "look and feel" to it, I'm confused with your mention of:
:...After all, it's XML and it's got this cool black background and everything!...
From what I could see there is nothing like that. It's my understanding that you generate the content and it's very much like WebHelp or FlashHelp content that appears inside the wrapper. You use a reading application such as Adobe Digital Editions or a device such as Kindle or Nook to present the content of the ePubs. And yes, even smart phone devices.
I would strongly encourage you (and anyone else that wants to see this improved) to suggest it to Adobe via the WishForm (link is always in my sig).
Just a word about the Wish Form here. Many folks are probably noticing that we tend to harp on it. And many may take the view that it's a nice thought and a way to appease folks and just "give them the feeliing" that they have spoken their mind. But after that, the information probably falls into some sink hole never to be seen again. I'd like to attest that this is NOT the case. As I understand things, each submission is added to a database. And the product teams review the database and evaluate which features to add or address based on the volume of submissions. So if feature A gets requested once and feature B gets requested 5,000 times, guess which feature will get the attention?
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Rick, I had prepared a strong response to your reply, but I decided against it; I haven't been back long enough yet.
Suffice to say, I don't share your enthusiasm for the efficacy of achieving good results based on the volume of bug/wish reports. My concern is simple: If they can't nail down the basics (the bug-riddled table styles and multi-level lists remain, to this day, completely unusable), why spend all this time on Adobe Air and ePub (script, nice GUI, whatever)?
I would welcome any response you might wish to share. Strong or otherwise.
I'm not making the claim that the ePub format is perfect. Far from it in my estimation. I feel there is much that may be done to improve upon it. There are too many weird reasons it fails to work on existing projects. (new projects seem fine) But I know that Adobe are in this infinite loop of always considering what should be added to the next release. I know they are excited about the new format. But in my mind (and probably yours too) it's a "Geek" excitement. Similar to a motorhead that says "isn't it cool? I can climb into the driver's seat through the door that has been welded shut. Start the engine via some arcane sequence of events and BANG!" Cool, huh?
Cool that it can do that but not so cool with all the humps and bumps along the way.
We may as well face it. The Wish Form is really all we have (aside from "voting with our feet" and refusing to purchase or upgrade until the features we want emerge or are easier to implement.) So I was hoping to gain some momentum for this. Adobe has created it. They are excited about it. They want folks to use it and embrace it. But if they feel it's okay and ready and we don't tell them we feel otherwise, we create an impasse.
I'm not sure that I fully understand the issues you are citing with regards to the Tables and Multi-level lists. Although they do seem a bit arcane at times, I am unaware of actual *bugs* involved with them. But I don't claim to know it all about anything.
I also know that it's quite common to introduce new features. I'm sure Adobe (and any company really, when you think about it) feels a need to demonstrate that a product isn't stagnant and is constantly evolving. So new features are added. And, sometimes the feature may not be suitable for actual use. But it provides a preview of coming attractions so to speak. For example, the Resource Manager pod in version 8. It provided something to think about. Who knows, maybe the next version will improve on it? Or with Captivate, they include an ability to send E-Mail results. It sucks cheese and doesn't work a lot of the time, but it got a conversation started that emerged as a new feature in Captivate 5. (Jury is still out on how the new feature will be embraced or whatever. )
I know Adobe holds high hopes for AIR generically. They are trying to embrace and extend technology to mobile platforms with the ePubs output. So this is why we see these at the forefront. I think there is a general perception out there that has been intentionally set by other parties (Madcap and Apple to name two) that RoboHelp is dated and that HTML 5 (still evolving) is *THE* way forward. So if Adobe doesn't show that they are interested in the new technologies, these companies will paint them as being disinterested and stuck in the past.
Anyhoo, I have to run for now. Just some random thoughts from the edge.
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Rick, don't get the impression that I'm a Luddite: on the contrary, I'm a huge fan of variables, snippets, Resource Manager, some of the other scripts, and RSC 3.1 bundled with RH8 (all of which perform as they should, with no frustration).
However, the afore-mentioned table styles and multi-level lists were much ballyhooed but were ill-conceived and poorly implemented, and should not have shipped with the product. Once shipped (March 2009), however, these "features" should have been cleaned up long before now, requiring no bug report or wish request on our part.
Which is why I'm so upset with this ePub situation, as just more of the same old, same old. Get the basics right, willya, RH?