Program Report

XML for Technical Communicators

By Anne Louiselle

  Neil Perlin
  Neil Perlin explains XML concepts.
  Photo by Anne Louiselle
Is HTML dead? That depends, says Neil Perlin. Perlin presented the "XML for Technical Communicators Workshop" on Saturday, March 30, 2002, at the Sheraton Lexington Inn. "Officially, yes. HTML is now XHTML, an XML application," he said. "Realistically, no. Few current sites need or will need XML's power and features. HTML will be around and used for years to come."

Perlin explained that browsers will display XHTML with no apparent differences on the surface, but that XML appears to be the wave of the future. Why?

XML is important because it avoids the weaknesses of HTML. XML separates form from content, allowing custom tags, enforcement of syntax, and code that can be reused, much as a cascading style sheet is now used with HTML. This is crucial for single-sourcing.

What is single-sourcing? Perlin defines single-sourcing as creating content once and using it for help, hard copy, and a Web site. "If you are using RoboHelp or ForeHelp to create online and hard-copy communications or FrameMaker and WebWorks to create hard-copy and online communications, you are already single-sourcing now, just not according to the hot definition that involves XML. Reuse is the common thread."

  Helen Shaw and Heather Lane
  Attendees Helen Shaw and Heather Lane
  Photo by Anne Louiselle

To determine whether you need to adopt single-sourcing, Perlin suggests that you consider the following:

  David Kaye, Alex Cherniak, and Kathy Pappas
  Attendees David Kaye, Alex Cherniak, and Kathy Pappas
  Photo by Anne Louiselle

"The more your answers tend toward high-volume, high-complexity, the more appropriate XML begins to look. Avoid designing solely for today," Perlin said.

For more information on XML, Perlin recommended the following resources:

  Jeffrey Dyke and Allison Snow
  Attendees Jeffrey Dyke and Allison Snow
  Photo by Anne Louiselle

About the Speaker

Neil Perlin provides training, consulting, and development for various forms of online material, XML, and the mobile wireless Web through Hyper/Word Services of Tewksbury, MA. He has 23 years of experience in technical communication. For more information on upcoming workshops, visit

Editor's Note: For more information about Neil's work, see "Online Help Today" in the May/June 2002 issue of the Boston Broadside ( and "True Web Help" in the current issue (

Anne Louiselle has been a member of STC since 1997. She can be reached at .