An open letter to XML Mind on their recent license changes

by Andrew Savikas

Dear XML Mind,

I was disheartened to learn that you've chosen to make the free version of your product even less useful to end users. This appears to be an acceleration of a recent (and alarming) trend in your release cycle of removing features for non-paying customrs.

While I can certainly understand the desire to convert more customers to paying ones, I suspect that what instead will happen is that people will abandon the product entirely, rather than risk running afoul of the license.

Here at O'Reilly, your XML Editor has helped to bring an XML workflow to many more mainstream users (in authoring and production of manuscripts) than any other tool available. Among the biggest selling points for authors has been their ability to dowload and use a fully functional version of the product for free (making it a viable alternative to OpenOffice, to our advantage). It's a very low-risk way to test the waters.

As we develop and expand our XML workflow, we've purchased a half dozen licenses for the professional version of XML Editor, and have had several discussions about purchasing an Enterprise-level license within the next 6-18 months (partially pending the addition of a revision-tracking feature). However, this latest announcement means that we'll need to seriously reconsider that -- most of our authors are not on site, and are not employed by us, so would not be covered by an Enterprise license. And it is not economical for us to purchase individual licenses for those authors (200+ per year).

Again, I can certainly appreciate your desire to convert more free users into paid ones, and I of course don't know the specifics of your business model or situation. But I *strongly* encourage you to reconsider your decision on the Personal Edition license. While it may well be the case that some of your users who are using the Standard Edition are getting something "for free" that they would otherwise pay for, I suspect that the vast majority will not convert to paid customers, and the overall user base for XML Editor (and hence potential market) will shrink. As with the case of music and software piracy, you may soon find that such restrictive measure have the opposite effect of what you're intending (see Piracy is Progressive Taxation)


Andrew Savikas
Director, Digital Content and Publishing Services
O'Reilly Media, Inc.


2007-03-27 16:49:20
Have you ever tried eclipse based XML tools? They're FOSS and they're good!
Andrew Savikas
2007-03-27 20:05:16
Indeed, I have looked at some Eclipse-based tools, and was generally impressed. The most promising of these I found was Vex, which last I checked still didn't support tables -- kind of a dealbreaker for our workflow. If tables aren't important and your user base skews to the technical side (as opposed to the word processor crowd), Vex is worth looking at.
Cay Horstmann
2007-03-28 07:58:37
I hope O'Reilly puts its money where its mouth is, support an open-source XML Mind with cold, hard, cash, and works with Hussein's company to make money out of open source. That's how many other open source projects are successful--by getting financial support from companies who benefit from its widespread availability. O'Reilly wants 200+ authors per year to have access to a good XML editor so they save money by not having to deal with Word documents. Well, nothing comes for free.
Cay Horstmann
2007-03-28 08:35:03
The last release of vex was on April 8, 2005. It seems pretty rough--a far cry from XML Mind.
Craig Salter
2007-03-28 13:13:51
I'd recommend that folks give the (free) XML tools in the Eclipse Web Tools Platform project a try. There are editors and validators for XML, XML Schema, DTD and WSDL. Here's link to some tutorials if you're curious...

Peter Ring
2007-03-29 01:10:52
XXE is pretty much without competition as a multi-platform document authoring XML editor, except perhaps for Syntext Serna.

Eclipse-based XML editors are, in general, about as much document authoring editors as XML Spy is (and that includes oXygen). That is, they are really programmers editors.

I know of only 3 XML editors with a feature set similar to XXE:

- Morphon XML Editor
- epcEdit
- Syntext Serna

Morphon XML Editor has gone abandon-ware and freeware:

epcEdit is still payware, but has not been updated since October 2004.

Syntext Serna is alive and kicking. I still like XXE better, but Serna is definitely worth a look. Syntext offers a few more licensing options, but none completely free (gratis).

Norman Dunbar
2007-05-23 03:27:12

I read your open letter and agree that the new Personal edition of XML Mind editor is a step backwards. However, are you aware that you can download the XSL convertor from the same web site, and use that to convert from DocBook to HTML, pdf, etc etc?

The GUI utility is called xslutility, and you simply select the input DocBook file, the output format and either an output folder/directory or filename. Press the button and off you go!

It isn't quite as easy as selecting 'convert document' from the menu, but hey, it works.


(Norman at Dunbar-it dot co dot uk)

2007-06-15 16:09:39
Yeah, what can you expect in now days free software versions that used to have a broad audience are becoming very unfriendly to the end users. It seems that it all comes down to money

2007-07-07 19:00:54
Yeah I agree with you fragoso but to some extension, my opinion is that there will always be people willing to code software for free
2008-07-10 23:29:44
I don't see the issue.

An author would be in violation of the Personal Edition License if they used it to edit a book from which they would earn royalties. XXE makes XML editing so fast and easy that the professional edition pays for it's (extremely low) price very quickly.

The PDF output from the professional edition would not be the same as that generated from O'Reilly's publishing toolchain anyway.

When working on a large project like a book, you need to set up a proper build, using Make for example, to manage dependencies, do profiling and xinclude processing, convert images and apply custom stylesheets. Running transforms from within XXE just doesn't cut it.

The WYSIWYM editing features are all an author will use when working on a book, and so they don't need to try out anything more to see if the tool is useful for them. And they can get a 7-day evaluation license for the Professional Edition, which is easily long enough to evaluate the features that are not available in the Personal Edition.