XML Blog

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cool Stuff to Look for in future DITA publishing

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First of all a big thank you to all you Oxygen XML users who have been from the very beginning the driving force behind many of the improvements we have added into the application.

In my opinion of all the people who try an application for the first time only a few of them will ever bother to write to the application's producers and give feedback about things which do not properly work. Most of them probably suffer in silence and maybe end up abandoning the application alltogether. So feedback received from people using a trial license of Oxygen and who still bother to report a problem instead of giving up is quite valuable and we are grateful for it.

We have many Oxygen DITA users and this leads to many requests to improve the DITA Open Toolkit publishing. Our policy so far has been to contribute these improvement suggestions back to the DITA Open Toolkit so that they benefit others as well. Also we should all be grateful to Jarno Elovirta, the main DITA OT contributor, guru and developer who makes all of this possible for all of us.

So here are some of the DITA publishing improvements I'm looking forward to see in the future:
  1. The Oxygen team is actively working on a DITA Open Toolkit plugin which will use CSS to render PDF output from DITA content. The plugin could be used with commercial rendering engines like Prince XML and Antenna House which support obtaining PDF from XML and CSS. Initially the plugin will provide support only for the Prince XML engine This would mean that most PDF customizations which are currently being done using XSLT could instead be done via CSS styling which is far easier for users who are not experienced XSLT developers. I will present the general architecture of the plugin on the DITA OT Day in Munich this year. And if it proves to be succesfull we are willing to make this plugin available as an open source project or part of a future DITA OT distribution. Oxygen 16.1 which will be released in a few weeks will have an experimental version of the plugin included with its bundled DITA Open Toolkit.
  2. DITA Open Toolkit 2.0 will probably generate HTML 5 compatible output by default.
  3. DITA Open Toolkit 2.0 will generate the Index page for PDF output even when using the Apache FOP processor. The changes are already incorporated in the DITA OT distribution which comes with Oxygen, you can also incorportate them quite easily in your DITA OT by modifying an XSLT stylesheet: https://github.com/dita-ot/dita-ot/pull/1587.
  4. Using the DITA Open Toolkit 2.0 you will also be able to pass profiling attributes and values from the DITA content to the generated HTML content: https://github.com/dita-ot/dita-ot/issues/1739. This means that instead of profiling the content before it is published, you will be able to profile it at publishing time by using Javascript to show/hide parts of the content depending on the user role for example.
  5. Besides lots of bug fixes Jarno Elovirta made lots of memory and processor optimizations which also will be included in the next DITA Open Toolkit 2.0 release.

I'm also looking forward for the support for the DITA 1.3 specification which will slowly begin to be implemented in future DITA Open Toolkit releases.

So what are your ideas for future DITA OT publishing enhancements?

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Oxygen SDK (Part 2: Frameworks)

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This is the second part of a blog post I started some time ago:

There are two ways of customizing the application, by implementing a plugin or by implementing a framework:

A framework configuration provides validation, content completion and editing support for a certain XML vocabulary. 

If you are already using Oxygen for editing DITA, Docbook, XHTML or TEI documents you may notice that Oxygen knows how to validate these vocabularies and that it can propose content completion entries while you are editing. Also when you are editing in the Author visual editing mode you have lots of custom vocabulary-specific toolbar buttons which can be used to insert links, images, to manipulate tables and so on. This happens because each Oxygen installation comes with pre-bundled framework configurations for certain XML vocabularies that we consider to be more important for our users.

Knowing how to create and modify a framework/document type association configuration will benefit you in two ways:
  1. Create your own framework which adds editing support to Oxygen for certain specific XML vocabularies and then distribute it to your team.
  2. Customize an existing framework bundled with the installation (DITA, Docbook, etc) and change certain behaviors in it.
Our user manual contains a special step by step tutorial which explains how a new framework configuration (document type association) can be created and configured:
The Oxygen Preferences->Document Type Association page lists all detected frameworks (document type associations). Usually looking inside one of the pre-configured document type associations (eg: DITA) is a good place to start exploring what such a customization contains:
  1. Association rules - when one of these rules matches the opened XML document, Oxygen will associate it with the current document type association. The rules are pretty simple to compose, they refer to a certain root name, namespace, certain attributes set on the root and so on.
  2. Schema - specifies a grammar to be used to providing validation and content completion if the opened XML document does not refer directly to any particular gramar.
  3. Classpath - a list of JAR libraries which contain Java extensions for this specific framework.
  4. Author - contains all necessary support for editing the XML in the Author visual editing mode:
    • CSS - one or more CSS files to be used when rendering the XML. If you define alternate CSSs, you will be able to switch between them when editing. The user manual contains a list of supported CSS features and additional available extensions.
    • Actions - a list of actions specific for modifying the edited content. An action has a name, description, icons and shortcut key. It also has one or more activation contexts which depending on an XPath expression enable a certain operation be be executed. A fair amount of basic operations are already available but you can create your custom operations.
    • Menu, Contextual menu and Toolbar - you can easily mount defined actions to the main document type menu, to the contextual menu or to the special Author toolbar(s).
    • Content Completion - add defined actions to the content completion window (shown when ENTER is pressed in the Author editor mode) or remove existing entries from the content completion window. You can for example replace some of the insert suggestions given by the association grammar with your own custom actions.
  5. Templates - points to folders which contain new file templates for this particular framework. These new file templates will be shown in the New wizard dialog.
  6. Catalogs contains a list of XML catalogs which will be used to indirectly solve various references (like references to schemas or other XML documents).
  7. Transformation may contains a predefined list of transformation scenarios which are available when you want to publish your opened XML document to various output formats.
  8. Validation may contain a predefined list of validation scenarios which are used to add complex multi-stage validation (with multiple engines) for the XML documents matching the document type association.
  9. Extensions - contains implementations of the available Java extensions which are used to provide further functionality for editing in the Author visual editing mode. Here's what some of the extensions do:
    • AuthorExtensionStateListener - provides a way to be notified when the XML was opened in the Author editing mode. You can then add all kinds of listeners and react to edit events done by the user. For example add a modification listener, send the edited content to an external spell checker engine and then add highlights in the content on invalid constructs.
    • AuthorExternalObjectInsertionHandler - reacts to drag and drop and copy/paste events containing with HTML content or resources. In the case of DITA for example this handler is responsible of the automatic conversion of HTML pasted from the browser to DITA content.
    • SchemaManagerFilter - filter and modify the insertion items detected from the associated grammar when editing XML content. For example even if the schema proposes certain elements as valid insertions at the caret offset, you can filter out and restrict the suggestions given by the associated schema (grammar).
    • StylesFilter - take control over the rendering styles for each node by adding this layer of Java customization over the styles provided by the associated CSSs.
    • AuthorSchemaAwareEditingHandler - handle special editing cases and provide fallbacks which keep the document in a valid state. For example if the user starts typing text between two paragraphs, the handler can automatically create a new paragraph.
You can create automated tests for your frameworks:

and even debug their functionality:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Webinar: New in oXygen XML Editor 16 - XSLT Quick Fixes

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This webinar presents the XSLT Quick Fixes functionality in detail and then go through some of the other important new features in the new oXygen release including:

  • new XSLT refactoring actions
  • support for developing XSLT stylesheets for Saxon CE
  • XPath execution over multiple files
  • the new Ant editor
  • and more.





Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How To Disable Caching In WebHelp Pages Created By Oxygen Application

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Sometimes a set of WebHelp pages needs to be updated often on a company website, either an intranet site with important information shared between different departments of the same company, or a publicly exposed website. The need to always deliver the latest version to the intended audience arises in such cases, with the immediate consequence that the latest version of a WebHelp page should always be requested from the server upon re-loading that page in a Web browser on the client side, rather than re-using an outdated version cached in the browser.

This no-cache policy is implemented in a WebHelp page with the addition of the following two HTML META directives:

  <meta http-equiv="Pragma" content="no-cache" />
  <meta http-equiv="Expires" content="-1" />


These directives must be added in the file:


OXYGEN_INSTALL_DIR\frameworks\dita\DITA-OT\plugins\com.oxygenxml.webhelp\xsl\createMainFiles.xsl


in the template with the attribute name="create-toc-common-file", in the <head> element, for example:


  <html>
    <head>
      <xsl:if test="$withFrames">
          <base target="contentwin"/>
      </xsl:if>
      <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8"/>
      
      <!-- Disable caching of WebHelp pages in web browser. -->
      <meta http-equiv="Pragma" content="no-cache" />
      <meta http-equiv="Expires" content="-1" />
      .  .  .


After this modification in the createMainFiles.xsl file, repeating the WebHelp transformation in Oxygen will add the two META directives to the generated WebHelp pages.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Create a Custom Skin for Oxygen WebHelp Pages with the WebHelp Skin Builder

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One of the new features of Oxygen 16.0 is the option of setting a skin for the WebHelp pages created by the DITA WebHelp transformation or the DocBook WebHelp transformation, in the form of a CSS stylesheet that modifies the default look of all WebHelp pages in a consistent way.

You can choose one of the six predefined skins available on the Skins tab of the DITA WebHelp transformation:

The Skins tab in the Oxygen WebHelp transformation

or you can build your own custom CSS skin visually on the Oxygen website: 

The Skin Builder in action on the Oxygen website


The WebHelp Skin Builder is a small Web app that allows you to configure many CSS properties of a large palette of elements in the header area, the content area or the Table of Contents area of a WebHelp page, like: background color, border, margin, font properties, text properties, adding a logo image in the header area, etc. The properties are grouped by type of component of a WebHelp page like: title, paragraph, list, figure, table, etc.

Once created with the WebHelp Skin Builder and set in the Oxygen WebHelp transformation as a custom CSS skin, it can really give a professional look to a set of WebHelp pages published on your company website, which has the potential to impress your users. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hidden features in Oxygen (that you likely don't know about)

I made a list with a couple of hidden features that I find useful when working with Oxygen. If you have other suggestions, features that you use very often, we will be happy if you share them with us.
  1. Quick find toolbar
    A reduced version of the Find / Replace dialog is available as a toolbar, displayed at the bottom of the Oxygen window. Press Alt + Shift + F to display it, and ESC to close it and give the focus in editor.

  2. Wrap/unwrap selected text in an element
    To wrap some text in an element use Surround with Tags(Ctrl+E) action. To unwrap just delete the start tag or the end tag, or use the Delete Element Tags(Alt+Shift+X) action.

  3. Context Sensitive Help/Dynamic Help View
    Dynamic Help view is a help window that changes its content to display the help section referring to the currently selected view from Oxygen.

    Also the help system is context sensitive: press F1 in any dialog to quickly access the relevant help section of the User Manual.










  4. Ctrl+Click Navigation
    By holding down Ctrl (CMD on Mac) in the Text editing mode some components become links that you can follow to get to the definition of those components. For example, in an XML document, an element name becomes a link to that element definition in the associated schema or DTD. In an XSL stylesheet, a variable reference becomes a link to that variable definition, and so on.

  5. Component dependencies
    The Component Dependencies view presents a tree of component dependencies starting with a specified component. Allows you to spot the dependencies for the selected component of an XSLT stylesheet, an XML Schema, a Relax NG schema, or a NVDL schema.
    For example you can quickly see from where an XSLT variable is called, and if called from other variables, functions or named templates, you can expand further to see where they are called from.




  6. Learn structure
    When working with documents that do not specify a schema, or for which the schema is not known or does not exist, Oxygen is able to learn and translate the document structure to a DTD.

  7. Modify all matches
    Allows you to easily modify the occurrences of the text found through executing a find operation or an XPath expression. When you use this action, a thin rectangle replaces the highlights and lets you start editing.

  8. Layout specific for each project
    If you work on multiple projects or multiple XML vocabularies, you can choose to keep a separate layout for each project. Thus when you move between projects you get not only the last opened files specific to that project restored but also the exact layout of views, editors and toolbars.. Enable Options->Preferences-> Perspectives Layout, the "Remember layout changes for each project" option and then Oxygen will remember the exact layout for each project.

  9. Memory status
    Enable "Show memory status" option to view the memory Oxygen XML Editor uses. To free memory, click the Run Garbage Collector button located in the bottom right corner of the screen. The memory status bar has a light blue background which turns yellow or red when Oxygen XML Editor uses too much memory.

  10. Show/Hide Element Names in Outline View
    You are able to control the visibility of the element names in the Outline View. Hiding element names allows you to focus more on the document content.

  11. XML Master Files support
    Oxygen helps you edit XML modules referred using XInclude or External Entities. By setting the XML Master File, Oxygen provides a context to solve issues like module validation, editing using the content completion assistant, ID referencing or XML module connection overview (understanding how modules are connected with each other).

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Oxygen Authoring Tips and Tricks

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When I started writing on the Oxygen XML Blog, back in 2013 I wanted to have my first blog post about Oxygen Tips and Tricks but I somehow never got around to it. Now the time has come.
These are a few of the minor (and sometimes hidden) features which might bring significant usability features when editing in the visual Author editing mode:
  1. [General Editing]: Triple click to select. Triple click the text content of a certain XML element to select the entire element. Afterwards you can easily cut/copy or move it.
  2. [General Editing]: Move up and down to re-arrange content. Use the [Alt-UP] and [Alt-Down] keyboard shortcuts to move paragraphs, list items or any other kind of block like elements up or down in the parent container.
  3. [General Editing]: Code Templates. In the Oxygen Preferences->Editor / Templates / Code Templates page you can define code templates for inserting small and often used pieces of XML inside the XML document (either in the Text or in the Author editing modes). A code template can have inside it a wide selection of editor variables among which the special ${caret} and ${selection} editor variables which allow you to define where the caret will be placed after the template is inserted and how the existing selection will be placed in the newly inserted XML fragment.
  4. [General Editing]: Symbols toolbar. Go to the Window menu->Configure Toolbars... and show the Symbols toolbar in order to define and easily insert a set of most used character symbols.
  5. [General Editing]: Middle mouse button click to close editor tab. Click using the middle mouse button on an opened editor's tab to close it.
  6. [General Editing]: Edit Attributes in-place. Use ALT-ENTER to show the in-place attributes editing dialog and avoid using the Attributes view to modify or add/remove a new attribute.
  7. [DITA/Docbook/TEI/XHTML]: Copy/paste resources to create links. Copy a resource (XML file, binary/image file) in the Project view or in the DITA Maps Manager view or in the operating system's file system browser (Windows Explorer on Windows or Finder on Mac OSX) and then paste it in an XML document opened in the Author visual editing mode in Oxygen. A proper link (or image reference if it is the case) to that resource will be inserted. The same functionality applies to drag and drop.
  8. [DITA/Docbook/TEI/XHTML]: Convert content on paste (Smart paste). Paste content from an office application (MS Office, Libre or Open Office), a web browser or from a spreadsheet (Excel, Calc) and then paste it inside an XML document opened in Oxygen in the Author visual editing mode. The content will be converted to the proper target XML vocabulary and inserted inside.
  9. [DITA]: Paste as link/keyref or as content (key) reference. Assign an ID to an XML element from a DITA topic. Select and copy that element. Then open the referencing topic, right click inside and look in the Paste special menu.
  10. [DITA]: Use Subject Scheme Maps to control attribute values. You can control profiling attributes (and any other kind of attribute) values by associating a Subject Scheme Map to the DITA Map you are editing. More details... Video demonstration...
Off the top of my head, these are the tips I can up with so far. Do you have any other features that you've discovered and use daily when editing with Oxygen?