Re: (1) SIGDOC Conference; (2) authoring tools

Subject: Re: (1) SIGDOC Conference; (2) authoring tools
From: Laura Lemay <lemay -at- KALEIDA -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 1994 17:22:39 -0800

>Would anyone care to tell me what the term "authoring tool (or
>system)" means to you? It's appeared 3 times in my mail today.
>I used to only see it in sales hype, and I was told it referred
>to something like an SGML interface, as opposed to desktop
>publishing software. But in today's mail it sounds like it's
>also being used as a synonym for word processing / dtp.

I've heard "authoring tool" most often used in reference to tools that
allows you to create applications or presentations by combining pre-existing,
pre-programmed bits. The simplest definition of authoring as I see it
is "creating cool stuff on computers without needing to be a nerd." :)
Hypercard is still the most common example of an authoring tool.

Although I think its a stretch, one could argue that the use of DTP systems
with predefined templates or formats is an authoring system -- since you
are able to apply existing styles to text without also having to program the
bare details of what those styles look like. Same with SGML front-ends;
you as the author are protected by the tool from having to hack the grody
bits of SGML.

The problem with authoring tools is that you can't hide all the programming.
Most authoring tools are rather limited, and once you start stretching the
boundaries or wanting to do something different with the tool, you're going
to have to start hacking. Even then, it may be easier to hack the tool than
to hack the computer itself, but its not the same as being able to just
assemble a program with little or no fuss.

Like multimedia, a lot of the bandying about of the term "authoring tool"
is marketroid hype. But who wouldn't want to be able to sell a system that
allows programming For The Rest of Us?


Laura Lemay lemay -at- kaleida -dot- com
He reached for her hand and he gave her the keys
He said "I don't have any further use for these.
I see angels on Ariels in leather and chrome
Swooping down from Heaven to carry me home."
He gave her one last kiss and died
And he gave her his Vincent Black Lightning to ride.

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