Re: SGML - Who? and Why?

Subject: Re: SGML - Who? and Why?
From: Glenda Jeffrey <jeffrey -at- LEMOND -dot- HKS -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 24 Jul 1995 10:11:18 -0400

Been away for two weeks, so I'm just catching up...

Hi Alexander --

> * Antwort auf eine Nachricht von Glenda Jeffrey an All am 05.07.95

> GJ> Alexander Von_obert wrote:
> GJ> > OK, you might be able to control the first print out of your manual. But
> GJ> > is about converting and re-use of documents. And after the first
> GJ> > ALL final layout is TOTALLY automatic. This is one of the areas the
> GJ> > company mentioned above has to earn it's money.

> GJ> I disagree. This statement depends heavily on the composition system being
> GJ> used. The system we are using, for example, allows "touchups" to be
> GJ> in the text. These touchups control things like line and page
> GJ> breaking, and hard/soft space.

> OK, hard/soft space might survive. But I spoke with the head of a leading
> German company doing such SGML set up work. And he told me, that they are
> shure to be on the safe side, when they drop EVERY touch up during
> conversions.

Yes, Alexander, you're right -- the formatting touchups are indeed NOT part
of the SGML standard. They are proprietary to whatever composition system
you are using. However, the standard does allow for the presence of such
touchups -- they're called "processing instructions" (PIs) -- and any SGML
worth its salt will ignore the PIs created by a foriegn system.

So I'm not sure why your friend feels he needs to excise all the PIs from
his documents before converting them -- they should be very easy to just
ignore during the conversion process. (Maybe you actually meant that they
ignore the PIs during conversion, which makes sense.)

Aside: For those who know a little about SGML, but have never heard of PIs,
they look like this:


The <? tips off the system that this is a processing instruction, as opposed
to an SGML tag.

If you are working within a system that understands the PIs,
then the system will actually look to see whether this particular PI is on that
should indeed be processed. For example, if I wrote a composition system that
had its own set of PIs, I might format all my PIs like this:

<?Glenda instruction>

And if Alexander had another system that had its own PIs, he might format his
PIs like this:

<?Alexander instruction>

This way, my system can ignore Alexander's PIs, and his system can ignore mine.
What should be left is just the content and the PIs that make sense to the
system currently being used. Obviously, if you understand the other system's
PIs, you can do some smart things to translate them to your system if necessary.

> One topic I did not want to touch before: If you use a bigger SGML system, the
> system will not store your document in a conventional way: Part of the
> information in your document will be used to define the place of the rest
> within a data base. E.g. you write some information about a special kind of
> motor and the parts number of that motor will not be in the document as it
> stored in the data base. The parts number is in the data base.

> And when the manufacturer of the motor is sold and the parts number system
> adapted to the new owner's requirements, the next print out of your document
> will have that new parts number in it. But the old number had 8 digits, the
> new one has 12. And now look at your layout...

That may be true, but just think of the problems you'd have if the old
used FrameMaker, and the new manufacturer used heaven knows what.... Seems to me
that you'll have to go through some sort of formatting changes anyway --
I'd rather at least start with a document that's written to a standard.
Seems to me that the headaches are at least somewhat reduced in that case!

(BTW, I'm now reading the newsgroup instead of the mailing list, so you might
have to wait a few days for replies from me. The newsgroup doesn't keep up too
well with the mailing list. If you're in a hurry, email me directly at the same
time you post.)

Glenda Jeffrey Email: jeffrey -at- hks -dot- com
Hibbitt, Karlsson & Sorensen, Inc Phone: 401-727-4200
1080 Main St. Fax: 401-727-4208
Pawtucket, RI 02860

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