Re: is it possible to single-source online & print and author in HTML?

Subject: Re: is it possible to single-source online & print and author in HTML?
From: Mark Baker <mbaker -at- OMNIMARK -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 11 May 1999 18:54:17 -0400

Chuck Martin wrote

>Awhile back, Eric responded to a post in a somewhat similar vein that
>moving to HTML is essentially a one-way process. Once you get
>something--particularly something structured--into the unstructured
>environment of hypertext, going back the other way at the very least
>isn't one bit pretty.

This is a common and dangerous misconception. HTML is not unstructured. If
it were it would be useless. It is one particular structure. When you go
from Word to HTML you have just about as much structure as you had before.
You can, in principle go from HTML to Word just as easilly, though you may
not have quite such a rich tool pallet to hand.

Word, Frame, and other DTP packages contain formatting structure. So does
HTML. You can go from one to the other as much as you like. The only loss
will occur if there is some formatting that one supports and the other
doesn't. Inside the broad common ground that they all share, you have lots
of room to move back and forth without loss.

HTML is probably the richest of the three in formatting terms -- look at the
power of HTML 4 and CSS2. (This excludes page formatting of course, but you
can add that in translating from HTML to paginated formats.) So if you
wanted to pick a format-oriented structure for your data, HTML would be a
good choice. I would tend to use a sparse set of HTML 4 tags and use CSS 2
for as much as I could.

Now if the differences between your output formats goes beyond what can be
inferred from the formatting structure of another media, that's another
story. Then you want a database and SGML. (Not XML. XML is a data
interchange format for machines. Humans need the richer markup provided by
SGML.) This is an expensive step. You should not take it unless you need to.

>Complicating things is a desire to perform some customization on the
>HTML files. That seems to rule out document-based authoring solutions,
>such as RoboHELP, because every time you output the HTML, you have to
>have well-written and tested scripts to tun against the hundreds or
>thousands of HTML files, a rather non-productive process. Thus the
>desire to work directly in HTML, where you create files the way you want
>them to appear.

Which seems to suggest that, for you, HTML may be the richest of the formats
you need to support. If so, it is an appropriate authoring format, if you
have the right tools to transform it into your other formats in the way you
want to.

The right tool for this job is the OmniMark programming language.

>As a small side note, there is a bit of sorrow in feeling the need to
>leave a Word-based authoring environment because I'm reasonably
>proficient in WordBASIC and have used it successfully to do a lot of
>document manipulation.

If you have been doing document manipulation in WordBasic, you will love
OmniMark. Whether you decide to author in HTML, XML, SGML, or even Word,
OmniMark is the best tool for creating multiple media versions that look and
behave the way you want them to.

Mark Baker
Manager, Technical Communication
OmniMark Technologies Corporation
1400 Blair Place
Gloucester, Ontario
Canada, K1J 9B8
Phone: 613-745-4242
Fax: 613-745-5560
Email mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com

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