Andrea Dickson, a technical and marketing writer based in Seattle, WA, has written a Review of XMetaL Author 5.0 DITA Edition. Dickson says “XMetaL Author 5.0 is chock-full of intuitive (and occasionally automated) features that make starting out in structured authoring much easier. With this release, XMetaL’s developers are striving to make sure that you don’t have to understand DITA, XML, or the underlying document structure.”

While Dickson provides some nice high level information, most of it is marketing fodder provided by JustSystemns sales staff. Our advice. Read the review, but don’t use it to decide which XML authoring tool is right for you. Do your own research. Test drive the product. Really kick the tires! Download the RenderX engine (the magic dust that allows XMetaL to print to PDF). Try printing some documents to your printer. Can you print? Open the files you create with XMetaL in different XML authoring tools. Do they behave the same? Import content from your current authoring tool into XMetaL. Do all of these things and more. And, make sure you get others in your organization—folks who are representative of the actual humans who will have to use to the software—to do the same.

Dickson introduces some confusing information near the end of the review about SGML. She writes: “It’s not uncommon to hire a contractor or specialist to handle the backend work, such as changing elements and element hierarchies. If you feel comfortable tackling these tasks, more power to you, but they usually are performed by someone who has in-depth understanding of SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language).”

While we agree it’s commonplace (and often a very good idea) to bring in a structured content expert—someone with skills and experience folks on your staff don’t likely have—we disagree with the statement about the need for SGML experience. What the consultants need is experience helping organizations create modular XML content for reuse.