TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Sue Stewart worries about minor adjustments to formatted text under an
SGML compliant system:
> One issue I have not seen addressed, and that represents my major objection
> to SGML, is that SGML does NOT allow minor adjustments to improve
> It was explained, with great glee, at the presentation on SGML I saw that
> SGML will *not* allow this adjustment. You got 15 ingredients on one page
> and one on another? Tuff, honey. Better hope your user turns the page
> before heading for the grocery store.
> Any comments? Am I understanding this correctly? Or are you a slave to
> SGML-standard spacing, etc.? suepstewrt -at- aol -dot- com
You don't give up control under SGML compliant systems, you just
exercise the control in different ways.
A document type definition (a DTD) contains rules for what tags can
occur in what type of document in what order. The DTD is something *you*
develop. A parser enforces the DTD before formatting. You can get
parsers that parse as you input text, or as a separate step afterwards
(like a compile).
A file output specification interpretter (a FOSI) turns your tagged text
into formatted output. The FOSI is also something *you* develop. This
would include page size, widow and orphan control (could be for lists
too, keeping that 15th item on a page by compressing text in
circumstances you describe in the FOSI), how headers look, the format of
the output file (Postscript, RTF, Bookmanager format, whatever).
Here's the thing; you can use the same tagged text file to feed several
different FOSI's, feeding several different output formats. The FOSI's
can each be tweaked appropriately for each output format. The text, once
developed, stays the same. Now you're concentrating on the output.
So when you use a procedural markup or proprietary wysiwyg method to
produce your text, and you play with the spacing to get it right and the
15th recipe ingredient stays with the main list of ingredients, you've
got formatted output for one medium. Go ahead and try to use the same
source file, without changes, to feed 7 other formats. Go ahead, I've
got time; I'll wait.
You only have one output format to satisfy, you say? Lucky you. You
don't really need SGML compliance in your tools, then, do you? Don't
worry about it then. Use WordPerfect. Maybe WFW.
You've got 10 platforms and 18 different output formats to satisfy, you
say? Aren't you glad you only have to make revisions to one text file,
and the FOSI's take care of your multiple formatting requirements? Do
you feel as though you've lost control of your output format situation,
or that you've just *taken* control of it?
SGML in its current state of development isn't for everybody. But for
some situations, it's like a miracle. With several stops along the
continuum in between. It's not black *or* white. If SGML compliance is
not for you, don't worry about it. If it *is* for you, you might finally
get some time to take up that hobby.
|Len Olszewski, Technical Writer |"Never give anything a name that you|
|saslpo -at- unx -dot- sas -dot- com|Cary, NC, USA|might have to eat." -Klingon Proverb|
| Opinions this ludicrous are mine. Reasonable opinions will cost you.|