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January PTC Users meeting

joann.hackos
1-Newbie

January PTC Users meeting

Hi All!
I thought I¹d start with this group, although you are not all members of the
PTC Users Arbortext TC.

We are beginning to plan for virtual meeting of TC members with the
Arbortext product team in January. I assume that people will not be able to
travel for F2F meetings.

Let me know what subjects you would be interested in discussing. We want to
have brief presentations from users about the things they are doing with the
Arbortext suite of products, especially the new versions.

I¹m interested in Styler, the 5.4 Editor, the Application Server and
Windchill connections, and usability in ISODraw.

What are you interested in hearing?

JoAnn Hackos
Chair
PTC Users Arbortext TC
23 REPLIES 23

RE: What are you interested in hearing?

That's pretty wide open Joann.

<rant>
You should know that "new" is not appreciated by everyone. Many are interested in old stuff, such as continuing support for SGML, FOSI, and client-side production of highly formatted PDF files using Arbortext Editor with the print composer option and Acrobat Distiller. It bothers me that since PTC bought Arbortext there doesn't seem to be more than a three-year commitment to anything. My customer hasn't funded a change to XML yet because ISO 8879:1986 is still too new.
</rant>

I am not a Luddite, but I hate to see things fixed that are not broken. The Arbortext FOSI stuff works pretty good right now, but even thinking of converting from FOSI to ".style" sheets makes my head hurt. I would like to see Arbortext commit to long-time support for their existing client side publishing tools.

Thanks for reading,[cid:771533722@23092009-33AE]

-Andy
\ / Andy Esslinger LM Aero Tech Order Data
_____-/\-_____ (817) 279-0442 1 Lockheed Blvd, Mail Zone 4285
\_\/_/ (817) 777-3047 Fort Worth, TX 76108

Hi JoAnn,

I'm also interested in the subjects you mentioned, I think that is a good start!

///Bjarne

In Reply to JoAnn Hackos:


I¹m interested in Styler, the 5.4 Editor, the Application Server and
Windchill connections, and usability in ISODraw.

<another-rant>
Not only that, but users of military-style technical manuals (usually the military) do not at all appreciate FOSI/formatting engine changes that result in page changes (i.e. "ripple") without any content change.
Every new version of Arbortext Editor and Print Composer raises new issues of page fidelity. I know that Arbortext has always said, and continues to say, that page fidelity is not guaranteed between versions. However, if they would stop changing that stuff, I think the stability would be welcome, at least by that demographic.
</another-rant>

I think it would be a good idea to "Lock" some Arbortext Editor version that supports FOSI and client side publishing with the intention of not improving it - ever! The only changes would be the least needed to support new Windows and Unix versions or (maybe, in certain circumstances) to fix something that is broken. Arbortext would also need to continue to support licensing for the "locked client-side version".

What is the lowest version that supports Windows Vista? That would probably be a good one for a "long term freeze" meaning page fidelity (or at least page integrity) for several years (hopefully more than 10).

I think such a thing would be, at worst, revenue neutral. The people that would use the proposed "locked client-side version" won't be buying the server-side tool in any case.

I hope that someone brings this up for discussion at the TC meeting.

Andy
\ / Andy Esslinger LM Aero Tech Order Data
_____-/\-_____ (817) 279-0442 Box 748, Mail Zone 4285
\_\/_/ (817) 777-3047 Fort Worth, TX 76101-0748

All good 'put, Andy, but why Vista? The rather sizable enterprise where I am employed (tens of thousands of employees) does not currently plan to move to Vista. I'm supposing they will sooner or later be forced to move to some later version, but it apparently won't be Vista.

So, how about XP Professional?

And hear, hear, re' the military customers (in particular) and page fidelity.

Does sound like a reasonable topic for the TC.

Steve Thompson
+1(316)977-0515

Steve,

Lots of versions support Windows XP Pro, but it was officially end-of-life at the end of June. Certified for Vista does not mean it won't run on XP. I just wanted to pull an existing fairly stable version number out of the air, but not the current release 5.4x.. It is getting too far away from its SGML/FOSI roots and has too much styler built in.

I've actually run Adept 9.0 on XP Pro, SP3 for a short time without any problems, but I'm pretty sure that it was only certified for Windows NT4.

I think 5.3m040 is the version I was tinking of.

\ / Andy Esslinger LM Aero Tech Order Data
_____-/\-_____ (817) 279-0442 Box 748, Mail Zone 4285
\_\/_/ (817) 777-3047 Fort Worth, TX 76101-0748


For a while here, we have thought about, with our custom application that uses Arbortext Editor and Print Composer, of doing something that we have called, for lack of a better name, "dial-a-FOSI" which would allow users to select a FOSI from an earlier version of our application in the hopes of getting more page fidelity.
Unfortunately, it is not the FOSI alone that affects this. It is the overall formatting engine that needs to be "selectable" as well. This interacts with other code in Arbortext Editor as well. So, this is not a very feasible idea.
For instance, the way in which the formatting engine honors "keep-with-previous" or "keep-with-next" FOSI code may have been wrong for several years. All of the military tech manual people have grown accustomed to this behavior and their documents are formatted in a way that is familiar to all.
Then somebody somewhere either complains about something related to this, or a developer discovers the inconsistency, and the formatting code is "fixed".
Now, 47 users of military technical manuals have page ripple of unknown cause and the one complainer has his document formatted the way he wants it.
If we could just get a "locked" version of things, as Andy suggested, some of this heartburn and these headaches could be eliminated.

Geez, that was another rant, wasn't it?

JoAnn,

I'll tell you what I am *not* interested in hearing about: DITA.

The last few version of Arbortext Editor have been so heavily focused
around DITA that the rest of us who are using other DTDs have
basically been ignored.

I'd like to see PTC focus on fixing existing bugs and improving
stability. It would be nice to get Arbortext Editor crashes down to
less frequently than once per day.

Steven Cogorno
Sun Microsystems


Just think of it as a daily reboot. 😉

And you're right about DITA, and S1000D, too.

This reminds me of my time working with Advent3B2. We maintained a
special branch of the software for Boeing, for exactly this same
reason. All that went into that branch of software were bug fixes
requested by Boeing. No new features, no random "fixes" to the
formatting.

(For the main software, the development is pulled in many different
ways by all the different customer needs - those without looseleaf for
example don't care about page fidelity. They just need their bugs
fixed.)

Unfortunately (for you) Boeing's special software branch involved them
paying quite a hefty sum in maintenance each year. I guess the
economics don't work out any other way for maintaining a custom branch
of the software?

I agree that locked-down composition software is essential for
effectively managing an automated looseleaf system.

-Gareth

Quoting "Esslinger, Andy W" <->:

> I think it would be a good idea to "Lock" some Arbortext Editor
> version that supports FOSI and client side publishing with the
> intention of not improving it - ever! The only changes would be
> the least needed to support new Windows and Unix versions or (maybe,
> in certain circumstances) to fix something that is broken.
> Arbortext would also need to continue to support licensing for the
> "locked client-side version".
>
> What is the lowest version that supports Windows Vista? That would
> probably be a good one for a "long term freeze" meaning page
> fidelity (or at least page integrity) for several years (hopefully
> more than 10).
>
> I think such a thing would be, at worst, revenue neutral. The
> people that would use the proposed "locked client-side version"
> won't be buying the server-side tool in any case.
>
> I hope that someone brings this up for discussion at the TC meeting.
>
> Andy
> \ / Andy Esslinger LM Aero Tech Order Data
> _____-/\-_____ (817) 279-0442 Box 748, Mail Zone 4285
> \_\/_/ (817) 777-3047 Fort Worth, TX 76101-0748
>
>

Is anyone else concerned for what appears to be an eroding of
Arbortext use in the market since PTC has taken over? There are more
tools available these days which has added options, but from what I
hear, it seems like PTC is going out of the way to push people away.
If you need to work with SGML and FOSIs there is no other solution,
but if you can move to XML and use XSLT/FO then there are many other
solutions to choose from.

It used to be that Arbortext was the premier tool and the one that
all consultants and third parties wanted to integrate with. Now that
PTC has taken over and has competing products it has become extremely
difficult for people to create products around this editor, there
appears to be a lack of cooperation/information such that vendors are
going to other products with less capability but easier to deal with.

Not only has it been difficult for folks trying to integrate the
tool, it has also become difficult for new customers to purchase the
tool. If your not a huge manufacturing and design organization PTC
doesn't want to work with you (you have no use for all the other
products they offer) and you are given to VARs to purchase to tool as
well as educate you on the product. I know in my last company we
almost didn't go with Arbortext because of the VAR we dealt with
didn't understand the product line.

It used to be that the Arbortext editor was the premier tool for
working with markup no matter what the "publishing" arena you were
in. That seems to be slipping away and I've read a "Gartner like"
report that raises the same concern. I at least see the DITA support
as an effort to continue this general industry support, but there
seem to be so many other roadblocks that it makes acceptance
difficult in organizations (end user and third parties) that people
are looking elsewhere.

Note that I'm not trying to push people away from PTC. I love the
product and think it is the most powerful out there. But in
situations where my employer has an option and no current commitment
to Arbortext, it is getting harder to make the case that it is the
best tool to select when you have a range of tools to select from.

..dan

...dan

I agree with Dan. We have used Arbortext products since the mid-nineties
but we have had many problems since the PTC purchase. It took a long
time to get our licenses squared away. The only help we received was
from "old" Arbortext folks. If you're not interested in PTC's other
products they aren't interested in you.

We are not happy with PTC's support of Arbortext.


Ray Anderson
Document Management System (DMS) Administrator
Satellite Control Network Contract (SCNC)

Two things strike me about Arbortext in the past few years, beginning
even before the PTC era.

One is that an originally stated goal of SGML/XML was to separate
content from presentation, enabling authors to remain focused on the
content and providing consistent presentation of output in multi-author,
multimedia environments. Presentation (styling) was in the hands of FOSI
specialists tasked to maintain standards for presentation of a company's
information across multiple regions, business lines and/or output media.
With the arrival of Styler, Arbortext (nee Epic) tried to become more
like a desktop publishing tool, promoting Styler as a quick way to style
output or modify the style of an existing document. Using Styler many
authors are again focusing on presentation instead of content. The
number of Styler-related questions in Adepters is significant.

It's interesting to note that most large organizations using Arbortext
continue to use FOSIs because they want the consistency in presentation
and they have a huge investment in the development of their publishing
processes. I hope PTC recognizes this, and continues to support and
improve FOSI functionality as a key component of Arbortext.

Second, like so many other pieces of software today, Arbortext seems to
be releasing new versions on a revenue-driven timetable instead of
focusing on consistency, reliability and customer issues. My
organization (and it appears many others) doesn't need or want to
'change horses' year after year. We've used Adept, Epic and Arbortext
since 1994. We now spend almost as much time dealing with composition
problems created by new releases as we do developing new documents and
features. The benefits of using Arbortext are still there but it is
getting harder to justify our maintenance support bill every year when
many of our support questions are the result of changing Arbortext
versions.

I hope the comments made here on Adepters will be heard by the Arbortext
product team at PTC and that we will receive some feedback on their
responses to the issues raised.

David Taylor

David S. Taylor

Project Manager, Structured Information
Institute for Research in Construction
National Research Council Canada
Bldg. M-23A, Room 239
1200 Montreal Road, Ottawa, ON K1A 0R6

I guess I'll toss my 0.02 in here...

I think the frustrations here are echoed amongst pretty much most of the
pre-PTC user base.

I don't envy the task for Arbortext developers to maintain a publishing
engine that has to satisfy so many organizations with disparate
requirements. But page fidelity is important, irregardless of whether
or not people use looseleaf publishing. In our case, we do not, but we
do have to create a PostScript of every page we produce, just in case a
reprint is ever needed, because we can't count on the stylesheets or the
publishing engine producing the same results 3+ years down the road.
The page "rippling" causes problems, even for those of us who publish at
an MRU level, just for the act of trying to generate LEPs and TOCs
alone.

One thing that's been pointed out is the frustration with "bug fixes".
Some bugs live on for several years. Bugs to some of the user base is
generally-accepted behavior to others. I just went through this with
our last upgrade (5.1F, which we'd been using since 2004, to 5.3 M040
just this year).

Tested 5.3 M020, which had a bug with floats that, in certain cases,
could cause images to appear in the output in an order different than
how they appeared in the markup. So the fix was promised for M040.
Tested as much as I could, didn't find anything overwhelming (still had
to make some FOSI adjustments to "restore" certain behaviors). Rollout
comes and goes, and I find out that spellcheck now flags two words in
two cells as one word (I never thought to test the spellchecker. The
more you know...). Start pouring through release notes, to find M040
included a "fix" to flag words in inline markup. I don't know who asked
for this, but I know after all the testing and rollout and the work put
into this upgrade, that the "fix" (which is a set option that allows for
selecting either spellcheck behavior) is in M060. And don't get me
started on what happened to the "userulehook"...

After reading over release notes for 5.4 and M010, there seems to be a
lot of busted stuff that isn't getting fixed until M020, but I'm not
entirely sure what's going to break with that release either.

Perhaps this would be a subject for the TC committee meetings? Can
PTC/ATI communicate upcoming changes (like SPR#s) prior to/during
development of the updates? Is there a feedback loop available for
others to get a general idea of what is being requested and how they are
prioritized? Maybe a heads-up before hand could help organizations plan
up front, or at least see if a fix they have been waiting on is going
into an M0X0 release that will break something else...

The user base seems to be all over the map, as far as production
software versions go, from Adept 9 on up (I think I saw someone talking
about upgrading from Adept 8 this year). All the nice new tools and
features and add-ons are nice, but it sounds like there's a good portion
of the user base that just isn't satisfied with the toolset in its
current state to upend their integrated environments to move to it. If
those folks can't see enough value in the evolution of the product to
make the effort to upgrade (and in most larger shops, it's QUITE an
effort), that's (IMHO) a red flag that PTC still doesn't understand
Arbortext's target market. Or that the target market they envisioned
having when they bought Arbortext didn't have room for those of us
already there.

I thought the whole idea of the Arbortext TCs was to get developers
talking to users and vice versa, and giving the user community that
actually uses the tools some input to guide future development. So far,
other than semi-annual meetings, the ATI TC has remained pretty quiet.

Another TC topic:

"What do you want?" No agenda, just ask us what we want, and write it
down. Most of the TC meetings are directed in a particular direction
(technical illustration), at a particular product, or for a particular
method (DITA/S1000D). Things get asked for offhand, outside the scope
of the meeting topic (I'm guilty of this), and I don't know if these are
getting traction.

-A tool/widget-builder for XUI
-A better method for developing CCF files
-A new DocArch (DCF editor?)

Cheers...

-Jason A. Buss

It's nice to know I'm not alone in my frustrations.
Another point regarding the promotion of Styler and authors going from only concentrating on content and not worrying about format:

Before we started using XML/SGML we used to have another authoring system in which the authors were responsible for both the formatting and the content. They spent at least half of their time formatting.

Now, with XML and FOSI, they do not overly concern themselves with format, and are truly "subject-matter experts".
We now employ about half as many authors as we used to, but we still produce the same number of books.

Regardless of the popularity and/or usefulness of Styler, it is highly unlikely that we will go back to having twice as many authors and having them responsible for both content and format.

Real interesting the way this thread has evolved, and to echo Ed it is
good to know it's not just us and our contacts that have the same
problems with the current Arbortext arrangements. However, I am lead
to believe that there are some internal changes happening at PTC which
may help the Arbortext situation going forwards. Although I will
remain firmly "on the fence" until it has all been bedded down Smiley Wink

I'm not sure how many people are aware, but there is a vibrant
community of Arbortext resellers out there who do actually know what
they are doing and are more than happy to help where PTC falls short.

In the interests of keeping on-topic and non-commercial, I won't
mention any names Smiley Happy

-Gareth

Quoting "Benton, Ed L" <->:

> It's nice to know I'm not alone in my frustrations.
> Another point regarding the promotion of Styler and authors going
> from only concentrating on content and not worrying about format:
>
> Before we started using XML/SGML we used to have another authoring
> system in which the authors were responsible for both the formatting
> and the content. They spent at least half of their time formatting.
>
> Now, with XML and FOSI, they do not overly concern themselves with
> format, and are truly "subject-matter experts".
> We now employ about half as many authors as we used to, but we still
> produce the same number of books.
>
> Regardless of the popularity and/or usefulness of Styler, it is
> highly unlikely that we will go back to having twice as many authors
> and having them responsible for both content and format.
>

At 07:15 PM 9/25/2009, you wrote:

>I'm not sure how many people are aware, but there is a vibrant
>community of Arbortext resellers out there who do actually know what
>they are doing and are more than happy to help where PTC falls short.
>
>In the interests of keeping on-topic and non-commercial, I won't
>mention any names 🙂

As far as re sellers, my experience is almost 2 years old. It doesn't
help when PTC refers you to a VAR and they don't know the product.
Most people are not going to go much further than the first
reference. So maybe this situation has improved.

Besides buying the product there is the issue of playing nice with
the other consulting groups and products that used to integrate
nicely with Arbortext. I've been doing a trade study on CMS solutions
and a number of the vendors have indicated they would like to have an
Arbortext integration and may have tried. They have found the
cooperation and support for doing this has not been worth the effort.
They have gone to what I would consider less capable editors. They
tell me for a few they will increase the integration or they have
plans for doing an integration but the market is not there for them.

Just as another possible indication of the current state, how many
new names have we seen show up on this group? I see very few names I
don't recognize (both users as well as companies).

..dan
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Danny Vint

Panoramic Photography


Gareth,

You are speaking of increased fees for a custom "Boeing only" version. That is not what I suggested.

The version I want would be available to everyone at the standard cost with the standard maintenance fee. The existing maintenance fees will continue and should cover upgrades necessary for bugs and operating system upgrades. No new features means no R&D would be chargable to the "frozen" version and no major changes - ever.

The only bugs to be worked would be cases where the frozen feature set doesn't work under some circumstance. Arbortext would want to select the most stable version that has had a few years of use to mature. Pick alsmost anything from 5.1F to 5.4m040. There are a number of 5.2x versions that shouldn't be considered because some of the features that worked in version 5.1 quit in 5.2x and worked again in 5.3x.

-Andy
\ / Andy Esslinger LM Aero Tech Order Data
_____-/\-_____ (817) 279-0442 1 Lockheed Blvd, Mail Zone 4285
\_\/_/ (817) 777-3047 Fort Worth, TX 76108

They just listed the agenda for the January PTC TC meeting. I don't see
any Arbortext track or subjects listed. Were we doing Arbortext TC
meetings online, or somewhere else I'm not seeing posted?

I heard from Arbortext recently that page fidelity is being addressed. My understanding, as I put it in Essential FOSI, is as follows:

"Arbortext Editor does not promise page fidelity from one version of the software to the next. However, starting with the 5.3 release, the Arbortext Editor FOSI engine has added extensions to provide for page integrity between releases, which was necessary to support change page applications. However, a description of these extensions is beyond the scope of this book."

That's all I know at this point.

Suzanne Napoleon
"WYSIWYG is last-century technology!"
www.FOSIexpert.com



Jason,

More details to follow, but Joann Hackos and I are organizing a virtual event in January. We thought we would have these at the same time as the TCs, but will probably work out better if we pick a different week.

Look for a post from Joann or I by the end of November.

Regards,

Mike Sundquist

Arbortext Product Management

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