Re: SGML -- Still in use today?

Subject: Re: SGML -- Still in use today?
From: Mary Nurminen <manurmin -at- TRE -dot- TELE -dot- NOKIA -dot- FI>
Date: Tue, 31 Mar 1998 09:21:37 +0300

Ron Brown asked:

> Is SGML something that I would want to take the time to learn? Does
> anyone still use SGML? Is this a skill that would look good on a
> technical writer's resume?

One thing I noticed at last year's STC conference was that SGML seems to have
taken off much more in Europe than in North America. I was on the lookout all
the time for others who use SGML, but with very little luck. Finally, in one
session someone asked if anyone was using it and a couple of women raised their
hands. I went to talk to them after the session and found out why they were
using SGML: they worked for Ericsson. Yes, the tool decision had been made in

We have had SGML in full production use for the last 2 releases of our software
system. We have a product with several different versions, writers in different
countries, and a big need to reuse information. This is what makes SGML

Someone mentioned that the learning curve was steep. I guess it is. I've been in
on the project from the beginning and made the transition from Word. Our newer
writers have never used anything but SGML.

The things I like about SGML:

1. In a huge company you can write all the style guides and Standard Operating
Procedures that you want, and you still won't get anything near a uniform
structure. SGML won't give you it either, of course, but it does guarantee at
least a certain level of uniformity.

2. You need that uniformity if you want to exchange and reuse information.

3. For our online Help we have a very semantic DTD. I find it very guiding. You
have to know the top-level basic structures, but under them the DTD helps you
along by allowing only certain things to be put in certain places.

4. Once information is tagged, you can import/export to other places easily,
normally automatically just by running a script. We have some information in an
MS Access database, and we generate an SGML document directly from it. Fast,
easy, and guaranteed that the information is correct. We have used it in other
places as well.

What everyone's waiting for now is XML, which supposedly will replace both SGML
and HTML as the perfect in-between which uses the best of both (that's what I've
gathered, anyway, don't know much about it).

I don't know how much SGML will do for you on a resume in the States, but it'll
get you in many doors in Europe.


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