RE: Is Word Formatting in End-User docs important? (A mini-rant?)
In my own experience, WYSIWYG composition, with solid document templates, isBut you don't have to give any of that up when you go to structured authoring.
the way to go if efficiency is your criterion. I have seen writers spending
a lot of time getting their markup languages to do what a WYSIWYG tool could
do very quickly. Yes, I do code (or at least tweak) my own HTML, mainly
because the tools I've used don't do it well I don't want to get into a
tools war here.
FrameMaker+SGML, for example, is a WYSIWYG authoring tool for SGML
and XML. The format rules in the Element Definition Document (EDD),
in conjunction with the catalogs in the associated template, determine
the formatting in each context.
Also, a well-designed DTD/EDD provides many types of attributes that allow
authors to fine-tune the formatting. This combination of an EDD, a template,
and formatting attributes provides automatic enforcement of style guides,
and requires authors to spend much less time dealing with formatting
matters. And, if authors do attempt to cheat by overriding the EDD-prescribed
formatting, every single one of those overrides, including ad-hoc formatting of
text strings within paragraphs, can be removed.
My experience has been that structured authoring with FrameMaker+SGML
guarantees consistent formatting, without requiring the author to waste time
trying to figure out which tag to pick from a (typically) huge paragraph
catalog. Also, with a well--designed EDD, it is quite easy to radically change
the formatting of a document to fit different delivery requirements. I have elaborated
on this in some detail in my paper "FrameMaker+SGML Information Design," which
can be found at:
Click on the Resources Link, and scroll down to "Dan Emory's Articles."
Right now, when you export a structured document from FrameMaker+SGML
to XML, a cascading style sheet is also produced which replicates (as much
as possible) the EDD-specified formatting. Presumably, the next major
release of FrameMaker+SGML (or WWP) will be able to output fully conformant
XSL style information.
The important thing about structured authoring is that the formatting information
can be separated from the content, and only the content (including any formatting
attributes) needs to be saved in the database. Middleware then formats the content
to meet the diverse needs of users, both human and non-human. One of the formatting
options provided by the middleware would be to use the style sheet produced by
FrameMaker+SGML when the content was exported to XML. In that case, the
recipient would see a close facsimile of what the author saw in the WYSIWYG
view in FrameMaker+SGML.
| Nullius in Verba |
Dan Emory, Dan Emory & Associates
FrameMaker/FrameMaker+SGML Document Design & Database Publishing
Voice/Fax: 949-722-8971 E-Mail: danemory -at- primenet -dot- com
10044 Adams Ave. #208, Huntington Beach, CA 92646
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