RE: Help with Docbook

Subject: RE: Help with Docbook
From: "Mike O." <obie1121 -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2003 10:06:43 -0700 (PDT)

Mark Baker wrote:
> Moving to DOCBOOK is not the same thing as
> moving to XML.

Your point is well taken about DocBook being a general
tag set, but it's a darn good general tag set. In
DocBook's defense:

True, people who only know how to produce DocBook docs
can't necessarily claim to be XML developers, but
DocBook is clearly an application of XML, and DocBook
adopters definitely have a foot in the XML world.

> Adopting DOCBOOK is not adopting XML in any
> meaningful sense...When you adopt DOCBOOK you are
> adopting a specific format with specific properties.

> It is similar to adopting FrameMaker format or

DocBook is valid XML, and is somewhat future-proof in
the sense that unlike Word documents, you can script
DocBook into any other format relatively easily
(depending on the skill of the tagger/author, as you
pointed out).

> DOCBOOK is a specific data format for which a
> number of specific tools exist...
> DOCBOOK is huge, which means that processing
> applications have to account for far more possible
> variations of structure than they would when
> processing Word or Frame format -- a comprehensive
> DOCBOOK processing application must be huge to
> accommodate all the possibilities.

DocBook XML is usually processed with standard tools -
xalan, saxon, xsltproc, jade, etc. These tools have no
knowledge of DocBook and don't have to account for
DocBook at all; they only have to account for XML/XSLT
standards. Like all XML/SGML processors, they read in
the DocBook-specific knowledge at runtime. I don't
know of any tools that only work with DocBook XML and
no other XML.

> The data format itself has its specific
> strengths and weaknesses.

The data format is standard XML, so DocBook has the
same strengths and weaknesses of XML. On the other
hand, if you are pointing out that the DocBook DTD has
too many tags, or not the right tags, then you are
right - the DTD is a one-size-fits-all compromise. But
one of the strengths of XML is that you can add or
remove tags (as you also pointed out), and you can
manage your tools so you only work with the subset of
tags you need. Most common technical documents can be
tagged with a dozen or so DocBook tags; that's why the
Simplified DocBook DTD was invented.

> Getting files in Frame format or Word format
> into XML, so as to process them with XML
> processing tools, is easy.

If it were easy, then OpenOffice would be doing it
today. True, I know how to create a structured Word
doc that will convert to XML, and I know of a few
tools that make it simpler. But try converting a large
number of typical corporate Word docs; the lack of
coherent structure will munge the results.

Mike O.

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