I just wrote a response to a question on LinkedIn concerning XML and XHTML in InDesign. The main point of the question was, “Are you inclined to rant against or cheerfully accept HTML with styles in place of XML?”
Adobe has really been adding to InDesign’s XTML features and hasn’t done much to improve XML support in recent versions. However, I don’t think XHTML is intended to replace XML. My response to the question follows.
I don’t think it’s a question of XML OR XHTML. Both have their place in InDesign. For example, I’ve helped develop XML to InDesign workflows, and I regularly create EPUB versions of books that contain XHTML/CSS content. Both XML and XHTML have their place, and I don’t believe Adobe has any plans to remove either. However, it is very clear that Adobe’s emphasis recently has been on XHTML. Given the rise in popularity of EPUBs and the demand to publish to ebook readers from InDesign, it makes sense that Adobe would focus on XHTML right now. CS5’s EPUB export was very difficult to work with and created some rather messy code; It really needed improvement.
CS 5.5 is directly targeting customers who make EPUBs, which are composed of XHTML and CSS files. While there are improvements that will benefit most users, such as the simplified interface for anchoring objects, the users who will benefit most will be those making EPBUS or otherwise working with XHTML.
CS 5.5 introduces a new Article panel that EPUB and XHTML creators can use to structure content. This is a new third option; in CS5 our only two options were to structure the EPUB based on the document layout or on the XML structure. In a special presentation of the new 5.5 features, the Adobe presenter was very careful to say that this new Article panel is not intended to replace XML, but to give users not familiar with XML an easy-to-use content ordering tool. Users who would rather use the XML structure can still do so.
I know some of us definitely still need XML. I have several clients that export XML from their databases and then import that XML into InDesign. The XML tags are mapped to styles, so the content comes in fully formatted. You can’t do THAT with XHTML.
Unfortunately I do not know whether the XML export options have changed in CS 5.5. I’m guessing that they have not, but I have not seen that part of CS5.5 for myself so I cannot be sure. But I am sure that XML is widely used and Adobe has no intention of removing support for it. Once the XHTML issues are worked out we might see some more XML improvements. But then, we might also finally see footnotes, too!!!!!