For content jockeys, of course, it is the dream: a single information store and automated delivery to multiple platforms in numerous configurations, all at the push of a button. And it is not a new ambition–it predates the tablet and smartphone outbreak by decades.
About 20 years ago, the challenge was largely being taken up in the area of technical content targeted to portable work devices-giving technicians relevant data on CD-ROM, ruggedized notebooks, and wearable PCs. Today, of course, there are many more targets: numerous browsers, a plethora of smartphones, almost as many tablets, and more devices appearing every month.
The need for smart content management and the ability to automatically generate customized outputs, then, is greater than ever. Luckily, getting there is easy. All you need is intelligent content and cross-platform code development. (Okay, maybe getting there sounds easy.)
Practically, targeting multiple devices also means producing a variety of different outputs. Screen resolution, navigation functionality, and many other distinct features dictate that each device needs to receive its own special flavor of content. But dozens of different outputs doesn’t-and shouldn’t-mean that you have dozens of different versions of what is really the same information.
Eliminating source content redundancy-not having seven versions of essentially the same thing-starts with making sure that the single source of information has some intelligence to it. That is, the content should be semantically rich, structured, and flexible. Content with a high IQ can be reliably processed and turned into any number of highly configured outputs-custom views flowing to Internet Explorer on a Microsoft Surface; similarly tailored information sent to an iPad app.
When you talk about adding richness to content so as to enable multiplatform publishing, there is almost no avoiding bringing XML into the discussion. The Extensible Markup Language allows you to define rules for your content-adding intelligence-that make it easier to decipher programmatically and is a format that is easy to manipulate and convert into multiple outputs. Today, the question is not so much whether XML is in your publishing process, the question is where XML is in your publishing process.
To ensure that the intelligence enabling your customized content distribution is in place, you will need to impose rules on the content creators and handlers. It may be that your source is managed in a database, for example, in which case table and field design and validation are important. (Even here, it is likely you would want to export the database to XML for subsequent tweaking and publishing.) Better yet, if your source is XML-based, you can impose a multitude of rules using any of the various editors or content management systems available-including many open source options.
CROSS-PLATFORM CODE DEVELOPMENT
In practice, though, complex applications may need to be built. That would usually involve using the native development environment of each major platform, so you are left managing an iOS version, an Android version, etc. This is because applications that run on an iPhone, for example, are of a different nature than those that run on an Android device-Apple’s devices run applications developed in Objective-C, while Android applications are developed in Java. And so it may be the case that your specific situation requires that a separate application be developed for each of the major platforms, using each one’s native development environment-but there are other options too.
Development environments that are able to produce cross-platform versions of applications from a single base programming language exist. So, for example, developers can write their application in Java and “export” versions specific to the many mobile operating systems. Taking this cross-platform approach to code development can reap major benefits-automation, ease-of-update, and reduced cost of maintenance, for example. Again, for us content aficionados, the dream.
EditiX XML Editor
<oXygen/> XML Editor
Quark XML Author
SDL LiveContent Create
Serna XML Editor
Stylus Studio XML Editor
XMetaL Author Enterprise
XML Copy Editor
Native Mobile Development Environments
Cross-Platform Mobile Development Environments
Adobe Flash Lite