Re: Help with Docbook

Subject: Re: Help with Docbook
From: Jan Henning <henning -at- r-l -dot- de>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2003 19:18:49 +0200

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)

In fact, DocBook was constructed with modifiability in mind. The modification options are described in the DocBook book from O'Reilly.

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

This is not true in general. If the Word or (unstructured) FrameMaker documents are based on templates that have been contructed with converion to XML in mind AND these templates have faithfully been adhered to, then it is indeed easy. But we all know that this is rarely the case, especially with word.

The reason for the conversion difficulties is elementary: XML is intended and used to add semantic structure to documents (DocBook provides a semantic framework for technical documentation). Word and (unstructured) FrameMaker simply provide no good way to add this semantic information, although paragraph and character tags can be used as a band-aid. And, the state of artificial intelligence being what it is, there is no good way to add semantic structure automatically (i.e., without human intervention).

And this is precisely why XML (and DocBook) is so valuable: While is is usually difficult to get TO XML, you can go FROM XML to almost any other format with ease - in fact, conversion is automatic once you have a converiosn module set up. And since XML does not allow sloppiness in applying tags, you can be reasonable sure that any document converts without surprises.

No other common format (except databases) offers these advantages.

Jan Henning

Jan Henning
Am Schlossberg 14, D-82547 Eurasburg, Germany

Phone: +49 700 0200 0700, Fax: +49 8179 9307-12
E-Mail: henning -at- r-l -dot- de, Web:


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RE: Help with Docbook: From: Mike O.

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