Re: Gut Reactions to SGML

Subject: Re: Gut Reactions to SGML
From: Chet Ensign <Chet_Ensign%LDS -at- NOTES -dot- WORLDCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 12 Dec 1994 11:49:30 EDT

The question "What does SGML do for the reader?" was asked.
(In words to that affect; I don't have the actual message
in front of me.)

Actually, when I thought about it, I realized that SGML is
the *only* technique I know of that actually *does* offer
something to the reader.

The word processing/desktop publishing tools that are
usually contrasted with SGML are *word painters*. They are
tools for applying various kinds of typographic affects
to text: position on page, family, size and weight of
font, color, etc. As such, about all they can't really
*do* anything for the reader. The reader gets the paper.

SGML applications are designed to store information about
the *identity* of the words. The appearance is derived
from the identity. This now gives me the power to actually
*do something for the reader.* For example...

Let's say my document is a software manual. That's something
that I'm familiar with. In my document, I have cautions,
warnings, tips, error messages, etc. all identified as such
by the SGML structure that I have defined. Now I can turn out
a search engine that says:

LOOK FOR: ..............
IN: ..... (and here I put a list that includes Warnings,
System messages, Chapter and Section titles, etc. The list
can be derived dynamically by the reader program.)

That's something additional for the reader.

Another example: My drafts are reviewed by n+1 readers.
I need for them to check all the published limits of the
product. In the usual scheme of things, the reviewers just
get a big lump of paper. They are supposed to remember to
look at the limits, along with the new featues, corrections
to old features, product names, etc. etc.

But let's say I've defined <LIMIT> as an element-type in my
SGML structure. Now, I send them a separate document, meant
only for reviewing the published limits. The document simply
contains the chapter, section, and paragraph for each published
limit in the book. They can check this quickly, without having
to dig through the volumes of text that would otherwise get
in their way.

Just two quick examples; I'm sure other people could come up
with more. But that, to me, is a significant point. Because
with SGML you are, for the first time, storing information
about the structure of the document, you have, for the first
time, a document that can actually do something for its

Best regards to all,


Chet Ensign
Director, Electronic Publishing
Logical Design Solutions, Inc.

Phone: (908) 771-9221
Fax: (908) 771-0430
Email: chet -at- lds -dot- com
Email: censign -at- interserv -dot- com

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