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Authoring in Eclipse

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 - 10:07 by Wayne Beaton

Apologies to Chris. I had John Arthorne’s name in my head as I was typing this and erroneously gave John credit where it was due Chris. Somebody please call me an idiot.

Chris Aniszczyk and Lawrence Mandel are taking a stab at revolutionizing the way that Eclipse articles are authored. And they’re taking a novel approach: why not use Eclipse to author articles about Eclipse?

In their article “Authoring in Eclipse“, Chris and Lawrence outline how Eclipse and WTP, combined with accepted document formatting standards (e.g. DocBook, DITA) can make authoring easier. I’m using the word “easier” selfishly: It certainly makes things a lot easier for me. For authors, there is certainly a learning curve as you get used to the format if you choose to work directly with the native format; it’s XML-based, so it’s not that hard, it’s just a little weird if you’re used to authoring documents using word-processing software. As the article suggests, there are editors available that understand the format (even one that’s an Eclipse plug-in) which should greatly decrease (though not totally eliminate) the entry cost of authoring in the format.

For me, the beauty of the process is that authors can build their documents without worrying about the format. The authors have provided transformations that will turn the document into HTML and/or PDF. The real power (for me) lies in the ability to rerender the documents into other formats when required. I can, for example, extract just the summary, date, and author information from the document to display on the articles landing page (and the Eclipse home page). All of the existing articles are in a pretty cruddy (and I feel comfortable using the term ‘cruddy’) format that I’d really like to update to something closer to the Phoenix look. At this point, I’m looking at hiring a student from the college across the road to go through the painful manual process of converting all these articles. If I had them all in DocBook format, I’d just rerender everything based on a new template.

I’m pretty excited about adding this new option for Eclipse authors. I invite authors to consider reading this article and using the template they provide. We’re not imposing this on anybody, but are instead providing this as an option.