SGML/Structured Documentation Seminar

Subject: SGML/Structured Documentation Seminar
From: Chet Ensign <Chet_Ensign%LDS -at- NOTES -dot- WORLDCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 21 Dec 1995 10:09:29 LCL

Bill Burns writes:

> I understand the basics (i.e., HTML is a flavor of
> SGML, blah blah blah), but what does SGML allow users to do that HTML does not
> (and vice versa)?

You can think of HTML as just another delivery format. HTML is the basic way to
deliver document-type information over the Web, just as PostScript is a way to
deliver it to paper. HTML describes a fairly simple set of text elements that
are common to most documents.

What SGML enables you do is describe a data description language tailored to
the type of information *you* deal with in *your* line of business. In
particular, it enables you to identify text elements by their identity. For
example, if you are writing software manuals, you may want to distinguish
executable code examples from non-executable fragments of sample code. They may
both *look* the same on final delivery, but by distinguishing the executable
from the non-executable, you can write a program to automatically extract the
executable examples and send them to the QA groups so that they can include
them in their test suites. (Actually, we did this at a company I worked for.)

Another example is the Pinnacles Component Information Standard, an SGML
description of semiconductor databooks. By identifying test data, component
parts, etc. precisely, they are going to be able to feed automated modeling
systems directly from the databook.

Once you have information that is encoded in the way that you really think
about your data, you can auto-generate HTML, PostScript, Winhelp, etc. etc.
directly from the files. You reduce your rework costs enormously.

> What tools are required to create and use SGML documentation?

There are editing tools, like ADEPT from Arbortext, InContext from XSoft or
Author/Editor from SoftQuad that produce SGML directly. There are tools like
FastTag from Avalanche or Omnimark from Exoterica that can convert word
processor/desktop publisher files to SGML (though in my experience, it is
difficult to achieve 100% automatic conversion.) Then there are various tools
available to turn the SGML data into output formats.

A good place to find info on SGML, including tools, is Robin Covers SGML
bibliography at

> I received a packet from the Department of Engineering at University of
> Wisconsin-Madison about a seminar on creating a structured documentation
> environment. Does anyone have experience with this university's programs or
> with other SGML or structured documentation seminars?

That course is being taught by Brian Travis and Dale Waldt who wrote the "SGML
Implementors Guide." (I think that is the title.) They are quite knowledgable.
Both of them have been working with SGML for years and years.

Best regards,


Chet Ensign
Logical Design Solutions
571 Central Avenue
Murray Hill, NJ 07974 censign -at- lds -dot- com [email]
908-771-9221, Ext. 152 [Phone] 908-771-0430 [FAX]

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