RE: Help with Docbook

Subject: RE: Help with Docbook
From: "Mark Baker" <mbaker -at- ca -dot- stilo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2003 13:53:19 -0400

Jan Henning

> HTML may be strict in theory, in practice it isn't. XML is strict both
> in theory and in practice, as is DocBook.

Only people practice. People can write sloppy HTML or sloppy DocBook. There
is lots of sloppy DocBook out there. And if there isn't more it is only
because so few people use DocBook.

> >> XML was specifically
> >> constructed to avoid that problem, which means that it is much easier
> >> to contruct autmoated tools for processing XML (and, by extension,
> >> DocBook).
> >
> > There is simply no difference between an SGML based language and an XML
> > based language in this regard.
> Again, this may be true in theory, but not in practice.

On the contrary, SGML requires conformance to a DTD. XML does not. Any set
of balanced XML tags is an XML document. It doesn't get a lot less strict
than that. But once again, it is people who practice. And people, sloppily,
treat document structure languages as if they were formatting oriented

> Nowhere did I say you need XML. I only said that there is a conenction
> between the roots of DocBook and its features.

The roots of DocDook, like the roots of HTML, are in SGML. But the idea of
marking up document structures rather than formatting did not originate with
either SGML or XML.

> You're absolutely right. But is equally important not to confuse
> formatting mark-up such as Word (unstructured) FrameMaker or HTML with
> semantic mark-up such as DocBook.

Word isn't unstructured. It is simply a different structure. It does
actually structure basic document properties in a format independent way
through its concepts of paragraphs, tables, and sections. It also has a
great deal well structured formatting properties which are applied in a
consistent and (for the most part) reliable way.

DocBook has a wider selection of named document structures, but this does
not make it more structured than word. It just means it has different
structures. DocBook markup is semantic only in the sense that all markup has
semantics -- that is, all markup is intended to means something. It does
make some halfhearted forays into content semantics, but more as a way of
labeling document structures than of making the semantics of the content
apparent in any useful way.

> It is also important not spread the
> myth that it is easy to go from standard Word documents to usable XML.

It depends entirely on what you want to use the XML for. I know of one
company, for instance, that has a product that converts Word documents to
SVG documents. Is that usable? Maybe it is -- for instance, it might be used
to make Word docs viewable on UNIX without loss of formatting.

The question is, can you get usable XML out of DocBook. Can you in fact use
content in DocBook in any useful way other than by running it though the
standard DocBook stylesheets? If so, please tell us what those ways are.

If you are going to defend DocBook you need to state, in specific
operational terms, what benefits you derive from using it that cannot be
derived from using other approaches. Appealing to the general properties of
XML doesn't cut it. How does using DocBook help you produce better docs in
less time for less money? Please be specific.
Mark Baker
Stilo Corporation
1900 City Park Drive, Suite 504 , Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1J 1A3
Phone: 613-745-4242, Fax: 613-745-5560
Email mbaker -at- ca -dot- stilo -dot- com

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Re: Help with Docbook: From: Jan Henning

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