“How do I get my Word content into XML?”

February 16, 2009 Sarah Danzl

I frequently speak at training conferences. My latest talk is “Designing Content for Reusability Across Multiple Audiences and Contexts.” During the session I discuss the benefits of using XML and XML publishing techniques to separate your training content from its presentation format, allowing you to reuse content from course to course. More importantly you can also reuse content across different types of outputs (e-learning, classroom, performance support and even mobile).

Each time I’ve given this talk I get this question, “I can totally see the benefits of this approach, but I have lots of legacy content in Word. How do I get that into XML?”
A question that I have also come across in some blogs and forums (Berman, Bytes).

There are a few approaches:

  1. Custom Transformations: If you have been very disciplined with the way you’ve used the outlining and style features of Word, the mapping from Word to XML elements can be tailored to automatically convert your word documents into XML maintaining most, if not all, your structure and style information.
  2. Standard Transformation: If you’ve at least used the outlining feature in Word (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.) it is possible to detect and re-create the structure and content elements (list, tables, text, images) and automatically convert the documents to XML.
  3. Raw Transformation: If you have not used the outline or style features of Word it is still possible to detect and re-create the content elements (list, tables, text, images) automatically. You just need to organize the content into modules, lessons, topics or chapter and topics as you see fit.

In addition you can consider rather than swallowing the whole elephant in one bite, just begin using an XML authoring and publishing approach for all new development or as you revise courses, convert them at that point.

About the Author

Sarah Danzl

Sarah manages the public face of Xyleme, overseeing all PR and Customer Communication. She is a specialist in written communications, media relations and reputation management. One of her favorite aspects of her job at Xyleme is working with the customers on on joint initiatives, including award applications.

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