Category Archives: Oxygen

On the Importance of Free T-shirts

My friends at SyncRO Soft, the makers of the oXygen XML Editor, frequently hand out oXygen t-shirts to their users at XML conferences, and the recently concluded XML Prague was no exception. I’m wearing my new one as I write this. It’s a very nice shirt, the quality is good, and while the oXygen brand is clearly visible, it is unobtrusive and has a non-commercial feel to it.

I also plan on decorating my laptop with some of the stickers they gave away, and I’m always backing up my data on their USB sticks.

Free t-shirts are a difficult art to master. There’s the issue of quality, obviously, and we don’t really need to go there, do we? Then there’s the issue of the logo, the basic message, and the key here is unobtrusiveness. Yes, it will have to be visible, but that’s about it. I’m not a commercial message, I’m a pro, and want to be regarded as one. Your logo is fine but keep it simple, please.

But most importantly, I need to like the brand.

Here, the oXygen people have a unique advantage. Their product is used almost universally in my chosen field. It’s used by my peers, pretty much every single one of them, and it’s used by our customers. The fact that it is a terrific product and we all rely on it helps, but that’s not really why. A lot of people use Windows every day but would never dream of wearing their shirts.

I think the real reason to why I like the product is that it always feels as if oXygen is updated based on our feedback and what we need. Part of the reason is that they are as much XML geeks as we are; they are a knowledgeable bunch. It really helps if you know your market, basically.

They also sponsor markup conferences which, to me, makes a lot of business sense. Our field is highly specialised and rather small, so these gatherings are hugely important. I do think that without them, eventually development would stop or be taken over by the really commercial entities.

But even more importantly, they participate. They show up at conferences and they present papers. They share what they know and are glad to listen to us share what we know. They are the most non-commercial commercial entity I know of, because while I certainly know that they are selling a product, I don’t really care. See it’s not really us and them, it’s just us, license fees or no license fees.

When you are in a position like that, a t-shirt is an opportunity not to be missed. For all of us.

There’s another company that I like, MarkLogic, that sells what’s probably the most expensive XML database in the world. Lots of people I like and respect work there, which is why I noticed them in the first place. They also participate, they sponsor, and they frequently help develop the standards we all rely on. I have yet to try their product more extensively, but there are free developer licenses for non-commercial purposes and so I will, at some point.

They also hand out t-shirts, and even though I have yet to test MarkLogic Server more extensively, I wear them. And at one point they handed out this awesome USB stick slash bottle opener, a true collector’s item.

They key here, though, is participation, not the nice give-aways. They show up and they share, and so I’m much more inclined to share back.

oXygen Users Meetup

Immediately following TIC 2013, I’ll be attending oXygen Users Meetup in Munich, Germany. I’m very much looking forward to this one. I’ve been using oXygen for years and it is now my XML tool of choice. Also, oXygen’s is the most responsive team in the world, frequently solving your problems even before you knew you had them.

It’ll be good to meet George & Co again.

TIC 2013

I co-presented a paper about the oXygen/eXist solution I’ve been involved in building for The Federation of Swedish Farmers – LRF – at the TIC 2013 conference in Stockholm, Sweden. My co-presenter was Anders Johannesson from LRF, who is a brilliant, brilliant presenter. He is knowledgeable, funny and supremely engaging, and I had loads of fun.

oXygen Customisation

I finally got around to doing an oXygen-based authoring environment for a client. Well, what I did is a DocBook variant, plus some bits and pieces that differ from the oXygen standard DocBook offering. Be as it may, it was among the easiest, most straight-forward customisations I’ve done, and I’ve done a few. I did receive a few pointers from George Bina from Syncro Soft, the makers of oXygen (thanks, George!), but I really am amazed by the ease with which this is done.

The authoring environment is integrated with eXist, the XML database, and that part was very easy. It’s all there. I didn’t have to do anything beyond creating a few collections, user groups and new users. It simply works, and yet I’m implementing the Release Candidate (of eXist) rather than a stable version.

Pretty damned cool.

No, I’m not associated with Syncro Soft or the eXist development, and I’m not paid by them in any way, quite the opposite, but I’ve always heard that you should give credit where credit is due.

Until Next Year, XML Prague

This year’s XML Prague is over and I miss it already. For a markup geek, XML Prague is heaven. There is always so much to learn, so many great minds and cool new ideas, not to mention Czech beer and the friendly atmosphere of a smaller conference. This was my third consecutive year attending and I very much look forward to the fourth.

Some notes of interest:

  • XML Prague is a great success. The conference sold out before the sessions were announced so next year, it will move to a larger venue.
  • HTML5, last year’s hot topic, was pronounced dead more than once.
  • Michael Kay announced (and demo’d) Saxon Client Edition that allows you to run XSLT 2 on the browser. Very cool. Saxon CE is in alpha but available for testing at
  • JSON seems to be hot this year. I should probably spend some time learning it, especially since I am planning to use it in the CMS we develop at Condesign.
  • George Bina from SyncRO Soft Ltd, the company that makes Oxygen, presented some ideas regarding advanced XML development. While Oxygen is at the centre of many of these, his point was that there should be a standardised way to do it all. Dave Pawson suggested expanding XML catalog files for the job via Twitter, an idea I find plausible.
  • Murata Makoto, a personal hero of mine thanks to his work with Relax NG, presented EPUB3. What those of us who were there will remember, however, is his introduction, expressing his grief over the on-going catastrophe in Japan.

See for more.

Oxygen 11 and an Old Bug

Oxygen 11 is out and I just installed it on my laptop. It’s still the best XML IDE there is, by far, but I’m getting a bit annoyed by a bug that has persisted for a year now.

Long story short, but basically the tabs bar that keeps track on the open documents and indicates the current document is buggy and will not correctly focus on the current document if that document is too far right to be visible without scrolling, and a previous document, also too far right to be visible without scrolling, has just been closed. The bar and the actual visible document do not synch so while the document itself is open and editable, the tab is missing. Very annoying, to say the least, if you are working with a highly modularised stylesheet and need to have more than a handful documents open at the same time. Apparently the bug is in a third party component and until that component is updated or replaced, the bug will persist.

I can live with that bug, though, and the new version seems to have enough fun stuff to keep me busy for a while. XProc support, for example, is a welcome addition. I’ve been wanting to try it ever since Norman Walsh presented it at XML Prague, and now there should be no further excuses.

Oxygen 9.0 Is Out

Version 9.0 of my favourite XSL IDE, Oxygen, was released yesterday. Of course, I downloaded and installed it as soon as I could, having waited for an upgrade since 8.2 came out, some six months ago. I’ve written about Oxygen before; it’s the first decent XSL IDE available for Linux, and the more I’ve used it, the more I’ve come to depend on it. See, what I especially like is the fact that I no longer need Microsoft Windows to do my XML/XSL work. Oxygen works very well in Debian/GNU Linux.

And now, it looks like I can finally re-evaluate my XML editor needs, too. So far, I’ve run XMetaL in wine, which kind of works except that right-clicking the workspace still crashes the program (but that’s fairly OK since I seldom need to right-click anything while writing). As most things in wine, it’s beta quality, no more.

Now, however, Oxygen 9.0 comes with a semi-WYSIWYG view, with CSS formatting and start- and end tag symbols, making it the first real alternative to running Windows software in wine. It is reasonably fast, too, from what I’ve seen so far, and certainly more stable than anything run in wine. You do need an official Sun Java JRE, though; it will complain if you use some of the Java replacements available for Linux, and it doesn’t work with the GNU libgcj Java Virtual Machine.

I’ll give it a more thorough test run within the next week or so, but I’m hoping that it can deliver what it promises.