Writing a book with DocBook and a Confluence wiki
We’re in the final stages before sending my book off to the printers. Exciting! While we wait, let me tell you a bit about how the publishing team and I have produced the book. We’re using a Confluence wiki and DocBook XML.
- Plan, write and review the book on a Confluence site.
- Use the Scroll Wiki DocBook Exporter to convert the content to DocBook XML.
- Use DocBook XSL-FO style sheets to create a PDF file for sending to the printers.
- Use XSL to generate ebook formats too.
This post is about writing and reviewing the book on the wiki, and converting the Confluence content to DocBook XML – the first two points in the list above. Richard Hamilton, at XML Press, is the expert on the further DocBook processing.
A bit about the book
The book is called Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate: A wiki as platform extraordinaire for technical communication. Details are at XML Press. It is all about developing technical documentation on a wiki, with a focus on Confluence wiki. And just to be ultra meta, I’ve written the book on a Confluence site. Dogfooding FTW!
Writing, planning and technical review on the wiki
Richard Hamilton and I have spent the last nine months on a Confluence wiki site. We kicked off our planning there in May 2011. Since then, I’ve spent around 400 hours writing the content on the wiki. Ryan Maddox, our illustrator, has uploaded his images onto the wiki. For two weeks in early December, the technical reviewers joined us there too – six knowledgeable and enthusiastic people:
- Alan J. Porter – Writer, speaker, consultant
- Anne Gentle – Technical writer for OpenStack
- Ellen Feaheny – CEO of AppFusions
- Mark Fidelman – Social business GM at harmon.ie
- Robert Rhyne Armstrong – Director of documentation for RouteMatch Inc
- Sherif Mansour – Technical product manager at Atlassian
The wiki was abuzz with review comments, opinions and counter-opinions, laughter and chat.
Now it’s gone a bit quiet while Richard and I work on the last stages of book production. When we launch the book, we’ll open up the wiki site too. You’ll be able to join us there and make it buzz again. 🙂
DocBook for the publication processes
DocBook is an XML standard for documents, developed by O’Reilly as a means of making their publishing process more efficient. It is now an open standard maintained by OASIS. Richard Hamilton, at XML Press, uses DocBook XML to publish a range of books on the subject of technical communication. Using a customised set of the open source XSL style sheets for DocBook, Richard can create HTML, PDF (through XSL-FO), EPUB and other epublishing formats from the DocBook source.
Converting content from Confluence wiki to DocBook XML
So, I’ve finished writing the book and the reviewers have worked their magic too. It’s all on a Confluence wiki. The content is stored in the Confluence database in wiki format. How do we get it to DocBook so that Richard can create the print and ebook formats?
Enter the Scroll Wiki DocBook Exporter.
Scroll Wiki DocBook Exporter is a plugin for Confluence, developed by K15t Software. (A plugin is a small piece of software that extends the functionality of the wiki. It is similar to an add-on for a web browser.) Once you have installed the Scroll Wiki DocBook Exporter on your Confluence site, you can export a page, a set of pages or an entire space, to DocBook XML.
How to use the Scroll Wiki DocBook Exporter
The first thing is to add the plugin to your Confluence site. You need to be a Confluence system administrator, then you can install the plugin in the usual way:
- Log in as a Confluence system administrator.
- Choose “Browse” > “Confluence Admin” > “Plugins” > “Install”.
- Type “scroll wiki docbook exporter” into the search box and click “Search”.
- Click the name of the plugin in the list of search results, to open the panel showing the plugin details.
- Click “Install Now”.
See the Confluence documentation on installing plugins.
You will need a license key from K15t Software. They provide a free evaluation license that gives you full functionality for 30 days.
Once the plugin is installed, a new option appears in the Confluence “Tools” menu, allowing you to export the content to DocBook format.
- Go to the page that you want to export. If you want to export a set of pages, go to the parent page of the set.
- Click “Tools” > “Export to DocBook”.
- Adjust the options in the dialog that pops up:
When you are ready, click “Start Export”. The plugin will create a zipped file containing the DocBook XML and attachments, and will offer the file to you for downloading.
A sample of the output
Here is one of the book’s pages on the wiki:
And here is an extract of the DocBook XML:
<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<book xmlns=”http://docbook.org/ns/docbook” xmlns:xlink=”http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink” xmlns:xsi=”http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance” xsi:schemaLocation=”http://docbook.org/ns/docbook http://docbook.org/xml/5.0/xsd/docbook.xsd” version=”5.0″ xml:id=”scroll-bookmark-1″>
<title>Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate</title>
<title>Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate</title>
<title>A wiki as platform extraordinaire for technical communication</title>
<para>By Sarah Maddox</para>
Index, footnotes and figure captions
The Scroll Wiki DocBook Exporter supports these too. The plugin adds a number of macros to Confluence, which you can use to mark up the index entries, footnotes and figure captions. I’ll write another post with the details. I’m sure many people are agog to know how this works. 😉
Working with K15t Software and XML Press
Richard and I have worked on this project with Tobias Anstett and the rest of the team K15t Software. They are great people to work with: knowledgeable, enthusiastic and energetic. As far as I know, this is the first time anyone has written a book on Confluence for publication via DocBook XML. We have added new functionality to the plugin, especially for the index and footnotes, adapting and tuning as we go.
Thank you all. It’s exciting to help perfect a plugin that many other authors and technical writers will be able to use.
And I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the book!
Posted on 29 January 2012, in book, Confluence, confluence tech comm chocolate, indexing, open standards, technical writing, wiki, xml and tagged Confluence, confluence tech comm chocolate, DocBook, K15t Software, plugins, scroll wiki docbook exporter, technical communication, technical documentation, technical writing, wiki. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.