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Re: Preaching DSSSL (Re: using LOUT)

From: Chris Herborth
Subject: Re: Preaching DSSSL (Re: using LOUT)
Date: Tue, 2 Sep 1997 10:58:39 -0400

Previously, Mike Dowling (address@hidden) writes:
> Having bought a couple of books on SGML, my first reaction was disappointment.
> As far as I can see, and please correct me if I am wrong, SGML only caters for
> run-of-the-mill documents.  If you want to write a letter or an essay, it's
> fine.  But if you have very complex formatting requirements, then SGML lacks
> the semantics for their creation.

You're approaching it from the wrong direction.  Lout (and LaTeX/TeX) is
a page layout language.  SGML is a document _structure_ description. 
You would take SGML plus something like DSSSL (the companion standard
for describing formatting) to do page layout.

Trust me, SGML is up to the job.  Here at QNX we've published something
like 20,000 pages (!) of documentation using SGML in the past two and a
half years, and our books like like they were typeset in a DTP

Most of the time.  LaTeX keeps biting us with strange, unreproducable
bugs; this is my motive for looking into Lout.

> Where SGML comes into its own is with the Linux documentation project.  You 
> can
> convert the SGML documentation files automatically into postscript and read it
> as a hard copy.  You can convert it into texinfo files, and view it online.  
> If
> I remember rightly, you can convert it into HTML and man pages, but I won't
> swear to that.

The Linuxdoc DTD is, IMHO, a terrible application of SGML.  It's
basically a thin veneer over LaTeX; it seems more concerned with
_formatting_ than _content_, which is the point of SGML.

But, as you point out, using SGML you can save a lot of time.  Those 20k
pages of documentation have also been published as HTML, from the same
SGML source, with no tweaking.

> In short, the purpose of SGML would appear to be restricted to those documents
> with simple structures which one would like to have in many, different 
> formats.
> Specialised stuff requires specialised type setters.

SGML is for describing a document's _content_.  DSSSL, TeX, LaTeX, and
Lout (and even GUI DTP apps) are for describing a docuemnt's _layout_.

----------================================================----------  _
Chris Herborth, R&D Technical Writer   (address@hidden)              | \  _
QNX Software Systems, Ltd.             Arcane Dragon -==(UDIC)==-    | < /_\
http://www.qnx.com/~chrish/            DNRC Holder of Past Knowledge |_/ \_

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