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For example, over the holidays my family had many, many visitors (we are not
actually not that popular--we just had another child so naturally there was
much interest in the baby). We learned several new card and dice games that
we, in turn, passed along to others. After fielding a bunch of questions
about various points about the various games (and having to e-mail people
with similar requests), I decide that this would be a good job for XML.
So, I created a DTD for card and dice game instructions (still in progress,
I have a few final tweaks that I want to implement). Then, I created a
higher-level structure to point to all the fragments. Finally, I created an
XSLT to make a web site out of the instructions (It creates an index page
that sorts the games by type and name and provides a brief description after
the linked title). I am still working on this bit--there is one part that is
causing me some grief (I am not an XSLT expert--just a hobbyist)--but I hope
to have it all up and running by the end of the month.
(Actually, what happened is that I wanted to add more to my markup, so I
mucked about with the DTD and did not update my transforms--scope creep, but
I don't have a deadline so who cares).
Why bother? I don't know. It sounds like a lot of work, but I thought it
was fun. It took an evening to get the initial DTD and transforms working.
Now I spend my time tweaking the markup and transforms. I can easily add
games to my collection and have them sorted and added to my listing.
Eventually, I would like to create a form where people can submit their own
games and have them integrate dynamically into my web site. Also, having
the structure to author in keeps the instructions consistent. Some day I
will learn XSL-FO, transform all the game instructions into pdf, and publish
a family game book to send out as Christmas presents or something.
Of course, the down side is that if I had used FrontPage to begin with, the
instructions would already be on the web. But it would not have been as
fun, or as flexible. Or nerdy, for that matter.
At work, we follow a similar methodology. However, the transforms are
scripted. We use scripts to automatically generate a proprietary form of web
help from our XML during the product builds, which is nice because that
means we can add to the online help right up until the final product build
kicks off. At the end of the project, we then use the same XML fragments to
build our books (which can be exactly the same as the help system, be the
same but organized differently, contain more content, contain less,
Anyway--back to the point. I use FrontPage where appropriate (the FrontPage
HTML no longer sucks), XML where appropriate (and sometimes where I feel
like it), Word where appropriate, FrameMaker where appropriate, and TextPad
PS--If anyone wants to learn to use XML for fun and useless projects, like
the ones I use it for, I recommend the following books (there may be others
out there that are just as good or better, these just happen to be the two
that I used to learn how to write DTD and XSLTs):
Structuring XML Documents by David Megginson.
XSLT: Programmer's Reference by Michael Kay