Multiple choice tools – Make your tools fit your users …

I was reminded again of one of the most important factors to consider in choosing tools: the people who are going to use the tools.

It never fails, whether we are at a conference or at a client site, inevitably, someone asks what the best XML authoring tool is or what the best CCM system is. I will freely admit that I have my favorites. But, I’ve used markup languages off and on since about 1989, and have become very comfortable working in everything from Note Pad to the top-of-the-line, full function XML editors. So, what I am comfortable and productive with won’t necessarily be useful for your users.

So what tools should you choose?

Well here’s a thought – when you are choosing XML editing tools, whether for DITA or some other DTD, consider this possibility: Who says you have to choose just one?

One of the real benefits of XML is that it is intended to be “transportable.” The interpretation of statement is that you shouldn’t need to buy a specific or custom tool to be able to use it. That means you should be able to open XML files up in pretty much any editor and be able to modify that content in any editor. And that means that you could choose different XML editors for different user groups, if you have different kinds of users to support.

This makes a lot of sense from several different perspectives. First, you probably need someone to do things like maintain stylesheets and they could probably use an XML IDE (Integrated Development Environment) Editor. Full time technical writers could benefit from a full function XML editor or hybrid editor, which allows them to show or hide as much of the XML as they want and which include tools like spell checkers and other writing aids. Reviewers could probably use the minimum set of functionality so a web-based (browser-based) tool might be best. Business analysts, marketing writers or sales personal are most comfortable with an interface like Word so a Word hybrid or forms may be most appropriate.

So when you are considering selecting authoring tools, consider selecting different tools to fit your different users, XML works in all of them, so why choose!

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