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Thursday, April 26, 2007

XMetaL 5

I've spent the last few days tinkering with an XMetaL authoring environment for a client. The XMetaL version is the latest, 5.0, which is actually a lot of fun, but unfortunately it means that I've been forced back to Windows. What's worse, it also means that I'm forced to develop in Microsoft's exceedingly bloated Visual Studio .Net, surely a punishment for a previous life.

It's beyond me to understand why JustSystems, the Japanese company that bought XMetaL from Blast Radius, insists on this dependency.

An XMetaL developer doesn't need all the bells, whistles, and bugs that is Visual Studio, he needs a reasonably flexible scripting environment, easy access to modifying CSS stylesheets, writing (XML-based) toolbars and customizations, as well as the occasional form or dialog.

The thing is, different developers have different preferences. While I do believe that there are people that actually like Visual Studio .Net, not all of us do. Maybe we prefer other languages, or maybe we believe that forcing us to use the same tool for everything just isn't the right way to go. After all, even if you own an 18-wheel truck, you don't use it to drive to the supermarket to buy groceries. You use a car or a bus or a bike. Something that doesn't get in the way.

Because that's what Visual Studio does. It gets in the way, and more so when all you want to do is to tweak a CSS stylesheet. And I haven't even mentioned how hard it has become to change the DTD and then recompile it and import it into your project.

And I won't, because my blood pressure is important to me.

So while XMetaL in its latest reincarnation is very nice, I still consider version 3.1 to be superior for a number of reasons, of which one important one (to me) is that I can run it in and wine and Linux.

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Anonymous Jerry Silver said...

Thanks for your comments.

Note that XMetaL can be customized without Visual Studio - see http://na.justsystems.com/tutorials/customizing_xmetal_manually.html.

I'd like to also point out that XMetaL development is entirely standards-based - CSS, JavaScript, etc. So any tool that supports these languages can be used. That said, XMetaL Developer, our Visual Studio plug-in, does offer some conveniences and advanced features.


Director of Product Management
JustSystems XMetaL
jerry.silver AT xmetal.com

2:24 AM  
Blogger Ari N said...


I know that XMetaL development is entirely standards-based. It's one of the things that attracted me to XMetaL version 1.0, to begin with. However, right from the start there was a CSS editor that didn't require an extra gigabyte of hard disc space. There was a customizations dialogue that didn't require it either. Both were very easy to use and made creating a basic authoring environment a snap.

I can certainly edit a CSS stylesheet in a text editor, just as I can do the customizations in that text editor, but don't you think there should be a middle ground between Emacs and Microsoft Visual Studio? Don't you think XMetaL's user base deserves a choice?

The VS.Net plugin that is XMetaL developer offers extra functionality, yes, but most of that functionality used to be available from within XMetaL, out of the box. Without having to install that extra gigabyte, and certainly without having to buy that VS.Net license that is a lot of things but certainly isn't cheap.

By forcing that, XMetaL alienated a lot of developers.

Want to get them back? Make that plugin available to Eclipse or as a stand-alone product.

Thanks for reading!



2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked in XMetaL support for years and I agree that Developer is overkill for so many apps that making it the only choice is definitely a bit heavy handed.

Just for accuracy this change came in during the Corel days and JustSystems has not really had time to reverse it the big focus being on DITA at the moment.

If you're going to be at X-Pubs 2008 in London JustSystems will be there and running a workshop. I'll also be at the conference and am always up to discuss.

Noz Urbina
Principal Consultant Mekon
noz.urbina AT mekon.com

10:29 AM  

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