We’re putting together a services provided document for the operational and IT staff here at the Berkman Center. I’ve always kind of wanted a reason to use docbook, and this seems like an excellent excuse to do so. I often find with these sorts of projects that the task of just figuring how to format and organize such a document is the hurdle that stops from me ever getting around to putting it together. Docbook provides a simple (as long as you ignore most of the elements!), straightforward way to organize any informational document, removing that barrier. Moreover, the structure is built into the document, so it’s easier for multiple people to work on the same document — everyone has to use the same organizational structure because it is dictated by the language.
The difficult part of figuring out to make this work was finding a good gui editor that hides most of complexity from the other, non-techy folks who will be working on the document. I’ve settled on XMLMind. I played around with a bunch of options, including Word, OpenOffice, and a bunch of xml editors. Docbook support in Word and OpenOffice is not a good enough fit — I could make it work, but it wasn’t really any easier to learn than writing the xml manually, so they wouldn’t help my non-techy compatriots. Most of the XML editors I tried were functional but hopelessly technical. They all seem intended to make it easier for folks who know XML to create documents, but I want something that will allow non-techy people to edit documents with only a very basic understanding of XML. XMLMind is the only (free beer) editor that was easier enough for non-techies to navigate that I feel comfortable using it for the project. It allows WYSI(almost)WYG editing of the docbook document, handles the conversion to html and pdf automagically (though the free version doesn’t support PDF creation), and has few enough UI glitches to be usable.
Of course, I haven’t turned it lose on my non-techy compatriots yet. I’ll followup once I have and have gotten their responses.