DocBook; was: Re: Giving up on XML

Subject: DocBook; was: Re: Giving up on XML
From: eric -dot- dunn -at- ca -dot- transport -dot- bombardier -dot- com
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2007 08:03:48 -0500

>>For those still considering adopting DocBook, another reasonable
approach may
>>be to look at Simplified DocBook--then to add a few elements from
>>itself to allow for books, since the simplified form has as its largest
>>element articles.

Excellent advice.

It is imperative that anyone adopting a Structure to understand what the
purpose of the structure is.

DocBook, ATA, the many milspec DTDs, and others are often INTERCHANGE
structures. And as such have many ambiguities that make addressing
specific needs difficult and may make them unsuitable for use as a
production environment.

Just as there is simplified DocBook, there are consultants who will
customise DocBook to your needs while maintaining compatibility. Same for
ATA and others. The ATA and milspec DTDs are often free. But to have a
useable work environment can cost a fortune.

Think of those DTDs as Word or Frame templates. You study a template and
understand it before you adopt it as your working template. I've often
found that even if constrained to deliver in a sanctioned industry or
institutional template, my working needs are best addressed by creating a
custom template that can be converted to the sanctioned one for delivery.

Same for XML/SGML structures. If DocBook, ATA, HTML, CALS, MathML, DITA,
or any of the other available templates don't meet your needs you either
have to identify the deficiencies and create workarounds when possible, or
create your own template to meet your specific needs.

It isn't the structure chosen that will necessarily reap the most
benefits, but the fact you start using a structure.

The learning curve for creating structure is steeper than a Word or Frame
template. But it need not be a ground up development or an expensive
project. But it will require you to learn some of the innards of the
process if an out-of-the-box solution can't be used.

Eric L. Dunn
Senior Technical Writer


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