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XML and Lout already work well

From: franck
Subject: XML and Lout already work well
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001 17:52:04 +0100

Greg A. Woods:

>This insane desire of many people to have everything look the same is
>very dangerous and insidious.

Everything looking the same is what communication is about. Why do 
you use the roman alphabet when you could create your own letter 

Giovanni Zezza:

>>I agree that for just the coding of human writen documents for 
>>printing, Lout's {} is just as good as <>.

A disadvantage of Lout is that it allows macros which allow 
sloppy markup. Eg it's common in Lout to do:

@PP A quick brown fox      (1)
jumps over the lazy

Where the role of @PP is confusing.

Of course, Lout could also allow:

@P {A quick brown fox      (2)
jumps over the lazy 

XML requires you to do it the nice way, so if you like formal 
things XML is very slightly better. BTW, I've always been puzzled 
by Jeff's assertions in the doc that form (1) is better than (2).
To me (2) is much clearer and pleasant than irrational (1) which 
breaks the nice functional nature of the markup, but then 
I'm the kind of person to always end my HTML paragraphs with </p>
even when they're not required. Is it just me who thinks (2) is 
better than (1)?

>Maybe, but why? Just because XML is the new magic word (for a while, as
>every new magic word), and it's easy to get easy friendship by speaking it;
>not because it really shortens learning the language.

Uniform syntax allows you to use tools that understand that uniform 
syntax. Many tools whose semantics is language independent can be 
factorised thanks to a uniform syntax. It's not particularly world 
shattering but it's a real benefit. All the silly hype does not 
mean that the moderate benefits are not there.

Of course, there are some cases where that particular uniform syntax 
is not well suited. For Lout, it would probably be adequate for large 
parts of it. On the other hand, it's current syntax is perfectly 
appropriate for converting from XML. I markup my documents in XML 
and use XSLT to convert to Lout and this raises no significant 

If you'd design a new typesetting system today, you'd probably 
use XML at least for some markup, but retrofitting it into Lout 
does not seem worth the effort, and having two syntaxes 
contributes to code bloat and makes it harder to understand 
each other. I think that having two syntaxes built-in is worse 
than one non-standard syntax. Of course preprocessors are fine,
if of little use.

Franck Arnaud ~ email: address@hidden

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