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Free software is becoming increasingly popular with non-technical users and, as a result, good documentation is becoming more important. The greatest barrier to achieving good, free documentation has not been a lack of interested contributors, but the difficulty of the tools required to create and manage regularly updated and complex documents.
Thankfully things have just got a lot easier: Publican has arrived. Red Hat‘s documentation team has been using this tool, which automates the process of creating all the files needed to begin a new document, as well as exports the finished content into many of the most common formats including HTML and PDF. Now they’ve opened it up to the world and it is being hosted by the Fedora Project, whose own documentation team is set to adopt it.
Jared Smith, a member of the Fedora Documentation Project, spent some time talking about his first experiences with Publican:
I probably spent at least a good twenty or thirty hours (or more) setting up the infrastructure for the last DocBook project I started …mostly setting up files (and the various links between them), tweaking the Makefiles, etc. It was not exactly my definition of the word ‘fun’.
So on a whim last night, I figured I’d start checking out Publican and see how long it would take. In less than 15 minutes, I had Publican installed and an existing DocBook document ported over to it (the new revision of the Software Management Guide, as part of the Fedora Documentation Project). You can see the HTML output of my endeavor here, complete with Fedora branding and everything.