FW: Single Sourcing HTML Files

Subject: FW: Single Sourcing HTML Files
From: eilrh -at- EXCHANGE -dot- WCC -dot- LUCENT -dot- COM
Date: Mon, 19 Aug 1996 11:56:00 -0400

>I suggest you check out the SGML Standard (ISO 8879). SGML is specifically
>intended to solve the problem of using the same document for more than one
>purpose. SGML is particularly good at doing paper + web for many reasons -
>not least of which is that HTML is an application of SGML. Try

>www.sgmlopen.com and/or www.sil.org/sgml for more info.
>>There was an issue of the Journal a few years back dealing with SGML, but
>>I'll be darned if I can find it now.

Just a couple of minor points:

1. HTML is more patterned along the lines of SGML. I don't believe it's
a true application (or DTD) of SGML.

2. Do NOT bother with the SGML article in the STC journal. I read most
of this, but could not take it seriously after the 5 or 6 glaring errors
I found in the first couple of paragraphs. They didn't even get "what
SGML stands for" right. I don't know all that much about SGML, and I
knew even less at the time; so I think I can assume there are even more
errors than I was able to catch.

>I think I'd vote for the FrameMaker solution first, especially if the number
>of documents was relatively small, say under a total of a thousand pages or
>so. FrameMaker is a known and popular package with conditional text
>capability and lots of third-party software for making docs into HTML. You
>can find FrameMaker operators without much trouble and you can similarly
>find support in most places. We use FrameMaker commonly for creating two or
>more versions of a single document.

I've done this, and would not recommend it. Some of this may be my
personal bias or even my personality, but I do not like working with
proprietary formats. I feel like I'm fumbling around in the dark when
I'm forced to work with the code in a document file that I can't even
LOOK at. I did end up converting a number of files using WebMaker, but
if I had it to do again, I'd start with ASCII text. It seemed like it
would save me time, but I really don't think it did. (Parenthetically,
it was a simple field description guide, one of the few cases in which I
think the structure of the document needs very little retooling in the
paper-to-hypertext transition.)

Sure, you can convert your FM files to MIF format, which lets you view
the code; but I've found MIF to be too hairy to even bother with. (And
this is from someone who has actually handwritten Postscript to save
time. Also because I'm stupid and masochistic, but it did save time.)

I would also argue that using a public standard is almost always
preferable to using a proprietary format. Not only do the proprietary
formats bind you to the software manufacturer that owns them, but
whatever conversion tool you decide to use is probably going to end up
making a lot of decisions for you.

Frankly, SGML is a little difficult to get going with, so that's not
necessarily the answer; but I would highly recommend going with
something like WordPerfect or even LaTeX or TROFF or something, then
writing your own conversion macros.

And if you disagree with me, you're just a stupid little Word Weenie,
and you're also puerile and stupid and also you probably smell gross.

Lisa Higgins
eilrh -at- ei -dot- lucent -dot- com

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