Mark Seymour - Reference and Resources

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Browser-based Structured Authoring Tools

I started searching for a browser-based editor and content management system (CMS) in 2007. This page lists the tools that I have looked at since then. In 2012, these tools are becoming more common, so the list is becoming outdated.

My original requirement for the tool was to produce documents in the DITA or Docbook structures, preferably with form-based templates so that any subject matter expert can provide the initial content (i.e. they don't have to be technical authors). The following editors were assessed with this requirement in mind.

Name Browser-based?
Confluence wiki Yes No By adding the Scroll Wiki Forms plugin you can structure content through form-based entry. It is currently not possible to build the structure on a DTD like Dita, although I understand that Attlassian are working on that.
Dokuwiki Yes No It is possible to create structure using a forms plugin on Dokuwiki. It is not possible to build that around a DTD.
Vosao CMS Yes Yes Currently the most advanced CMS based on Google Apps. Cannot structure according to DTD yet but has some functionality for content structuring and form-based cintent entry. (Info added Sept 2012)
XML Mind No No Freeware, but with more functionality if fully licenced. An excellent editor with plugins for DITA and Docbook DTDs. There is also an XSL formatting objects transformation tool available, allowing you to export to RTF format, for example.
XML Spy No No (*) A freeware version (Standard Edition) is available but this has limited functionality unless fully licenced. A highly professional editor that can be enhanced with the numerous tools also made by Altova. * For example, database integration can be built up to make a content management system. This is a specialised solution however and needs research and company-level investment.
FrameMaker No No One of the best structured authoring tools. Requires company-level investment and integration with a content management system.
Epic No No One of the best structured authoring tools. Requires company-level investment and integration with a content management system.
DITA Storm Yes Yes Fully browser-based editor and content management system. The editing interface is similar to XML Mind, for example, and requires a knowledge of structured technical authoring, although it is possible to customise the editor to restrict editing of certain XML elements. Requires company-level investment. This tool can also be interated into CMSs such as Joomla.
AuthorIT Live Yes Yes AuthorIT is a well-known structured authoring tool and is typically used as Windows client application. However, according to AuthorIT, the AuthorIT Live product is similar to the Windows client but is browser-based. It requires configuration and template development however and is not yet an off-the-shelf product suitable for small-scale authoring requirements.
Word No No

The last time I checked Microsoft Word could not produce clean XML according to a DTD such as DITA. Neverthless, there are tools available that integrate Word into their content management system, such as Siberlogic. Also, it is possible to develop Word templates that can output clean XML using an XML handler in the VB script. The MetaOne Word templates don't claim to do this but they could probably be enhanced on request.

SharePoint Yes Yes I've included this here because some day soon somebody will surely make a plugin to allow editing of structured content. I haven't seen one yet however.
DocZone No Yes A hosted solution, not available as stand-alone.
X-Hive/Docato ? Yes "A component content management system that manages document components; X-Hive/DB, a XML database for storing, querying, retrieving, transforming, and publishing XML data; and X-Hive/Diff algorithm for visualizing differences between two XML trees." This looked promising for a while (in 2007) but it now seems difficult to find any information about this product.
oXygen XML Editor Yes Yes (*)

The GUI is based on W3C CSS stylesheets with ready-to-use DITA, DocBook, TEI and XHTML support. Again, this looks similar to XML Mind. Available as a standalone desktop or Java Web Start application, or as an Eclipse plugin. Not too expensive compared to the other editors. A 30-day trial download is available in exchange for an email address. Download the Java Web Start version if you want browser-based editing or trial it from their website (you will need Sun's Java Web Start installed on your machine).


* The CMS support only applies to the enterprise version and if you have Documentum CMS installed.

Docbench Yes Yes Docbench is an integrated package of oXygen XML editor and RenderX XEP Desktop. More expensive than oXygen standalone.
Google Sites / Google Docs Yes Yes 

With your own development, you could probably achieve a useful XML-based documentation system using a combination of Google Sites and Google Docs. The challenge is to build a template using the forms or lists function and store that in a Google Docs spreadsheet or otherwise find a way of extracting and reporting data using the query functions for the Google data engine.


See also Vosao, above.