RE: Structured stuff for the beginner

Subject: RE: Structured stuff for the beginner
From: <mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com>
To: "'Chris Despopoulos'" <despopoulos_chriss -at- yahoo -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 1 May 2017 07:20:33 -0400

Perhaps that was unfair. But Structured FrameMaker is not an SGML editor or an XML editor. It has its own structures and a language for mapping those structures for import and export from/too SGML and XML. It might be possible to use SFMs internal structures for the subject domain, but I donât think it is well suited for the purpose.

SGML and XML can both express subject domain structures. Making them easy to edit is a different matter. It is much easier in SGML where tag minimization makes it practical to work in markup directly. XML is too verbose for most people to write in directly, so you need an editor over the tags. This means there is an extra step involved in creating a workable authoring interface. You have to code the styling of elements in the interface.

Oxygen does this coding using CSS with some custom extensions, and provides pre-build stylesheets for common languages like DITA and DocBook. But to do this for a subject domain language, which are generally custom, you would have to do it yourself.

A standard WYSIWYG approach does not work well for the subject domain. Something that looks more like a form is a much better choice, and Oxygen gives you the tools to create a forms-like interface. You can even create what is essentially a forms/document hybrid interface, which is often what you want when a subject domain language has discursive sections.

But I havenât looked at SFM for several versions now, and I recall that FM has introduced a true XML editor now, so I may indeed have been unfair to its current capabilities.


From: Chris Despopoulos [mailto:despopoulos_chriss -at- yahoo -dot- com]
Sent: Monday, May 1, 2017 4:39 AM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com; mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com
Subject: RE: Structured stuff for the beginner

Mark, I think you're a little bit unfair regarding Structured FrameMaker.


Structured Frame is a document domain structured writing systems.


As far as I can tell, any markup that supports what you're describing as subject domain structure would look a lot like SGML back in the day. For those young enough to think ML always began with X or HT, SGML stands for Standard Generalized markup language. (Although there were people who claimed it stood for Sounds Great Maybe Later.) The idea was to express a declarative GRAMMAR (not a language), and that grammar could be used to declare AND ENFORCE any language that could describe... Well... The structure of a subject domain.

You might say that SGML is merely a document domain language. In that case, it would help to understand your point if you could distinguish how SGML falls short of what you're describing.

Back to Structured FrameMaker... That was implemented to support SGML, and it still does BTW. You can argue the success of that implementation, but I think it was pretty good -- tables and footnotes being weak spots. So, if SGML can express a subject domain, then certainly the INTENT of Struct Maker was to support subject domains. And the success of that intent would map to its success at supporting SGML. (Note that you can use Struct Maker without ever using ML of any kind. I did a job for a world famous parliament that uses Struct Maker to express the subject domain of bills and amendments to bills, and then automatically merges amendments into the initial draft. They use Structured Maker for the meta data of the structure, but never need XML or SGML.)

BTW, I think you can say the same about other XML and SGML authoring tools. For example, oXygen supports any domain you wish to declare, and you can implement a forms interface to impose that support.

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