Re: SGML implementation

Subject: Re: SGML implementation
From: Alessandro Bottoni <bottoni -at- CADLAB -dot- IT>
Date: Thu, 21 May 1998 09:44:10 +0200

[Answering to Pac Mgmt about SGML implementation]

I'm not a SMGL expert but I think this can help you:

[Pac Mgmt]
What particular types of documents or development environments is SGML most
suited for?
[Alessandro Bottoni]
Strongly structured documents like software manuals, chemical products
catalogs, electronic reference books and so on.
In other terms, the kind of documents that contains recurring and formalized
pieces of text.
You will get the best from SGML by using a special database to record the
text components and special editors to re-use that components.
(See ArborText's software and Crystal's Astoria SGML database)

[Pac Mgmt]
Would environments where constant document updates occur be suitable for
SGML use?
[Alessandro Bottoni]
SGML was designed to deal with continuous changes. You file text COMPONENTS
and reuse them when and where you need them.
Any change will affect one or more component, not documents. Once changed
the components, the changes will be propagated to all the documents that use
those components.

[Pac Mgmt]
Could online help benefit?
[Alessandro Bottoni]
If the online help is build on the basis of a SGML derived text, yes. This
is the case of MS HTML Help, that uses HTML documents. Given that HTML is a
SGML DTD, HTML documents can be easily derived from other SGML ones, like
DocBook, thanks to special converters.

[Pac Mgmt]
As simply a markup language, what procedures would have to be used to have a
completed document, suitable for various media?
[Alessandro Bottoni]
1) Choose or create a DTD (for example DocBook, if you want to make software
manuals), using a DTD generator if needed.
2) Write a reference book that comply with the DTD using a SGML editor
3) Record the reference book COMPONENTS in a SGML database
4) Reuse the text components by writing user's guides and tutorials
5) Format your documents for paper and other media (web, online help,
etc...) using FOSI or DSSS style sheets
6) Print on paper and publish on the web your documents

[Pac Mgmt]
Which situations would the use of SGML be a more of a hinderance than a
[Alessandro Bottoni]
When few, small and/or unstructured documents are involved you should avoid
SGML. SGML is designed to deal with a large amount of big, strictly
structured documents. It is complex and hard to handle, so the SGML handling
can become more demanding than text writing and publishing if the documents
are few, simple and small.

For further info, visit these web sites:

Any further comments and suggestions about this topic are welcome.

Alessandro Bottoni ( bottoni -at- cadlab -dot- it )
Technical Writer
Cad.Lab SPA ( )

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