Moving to SGML, take III

Subject: Moving to SGML, take III
From: "Geoff Hart (by way of \"Eric J. Ray\" <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>)" <ght -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 06:44:31 -0700

In response to my second message on the topic, Mark Baker wrote:

<<Those of us who have been composing HTML by hand all these years
must all be real geniuses then.>>

Not necessarily, though based on your contributions to techwr-l, I'd
say you're closer than most. <g>

<<A well designed SGML markup language is, or should be, easy to
write by hand. That was a key design goal of SGML and one of the
things that the designers did a reasonable good job of.>>

"Easy" is a very relative thing. Whether or not you feel that I
exaggerated in describing SGML as the next best thing to rocket
science, the point is that it's significantly more demanding than
HTML. The difficulty starts with defining an adequate DTD: anyone can
write messy but functional HTML, but a sloppy DTD isn't worth the
effort. Creating a document that conforms is relatively easy at that
point, particularly with a proper authoring tool. Without one...
well, let me revise my statement that it's like writing raw RTF.
A better analogy would be writing WinHelp files by hand (i.e.,
handcoding the footnotes instead of letting RoboHelp do them for
you). It's certainly easy enough with some practice, but it's not for
the fainthearted or careless.

<<Like many large standards, learning all of the properties of SGML
is difficult, but learning the subset that is actually useful for 99%
of everything you would really want to do with it is quite simple.>>

With the caveats that learning to create useful DTDs isn't nearly as
easy as you're suggesting and that identifying the 20% that you will
use to do 80% of your work isn't trivial, I'll accept that without
further quibble.

<<In fact, if you learn XML, then it is about three more hours work
to learn short references and tag omission and you have all the SGML
you need to know to create SGML tagging languages that are easy to

So if you already know a bit of HTML, then XML makes a logical bridge
into SGML. That's pretty much the direction I was headed in my
original suggestion.

<<Writing RTF by hand to build a win help application would be
virtually impossible. On the other hand, one could fairly easily
create an SGML language for this purpose that would be dead simple to
write in. The all you would need to do would be to write an OmniMark
program to translate that SGML language into RTF for the help

Do I sense an impending product launch? <gdr> Seriously, though, it
strikes me as an interesting proposition. It would make a fascinating
add-on for the standard help-authoring tools, like RoboHelp. For that
matter, with a proper front end, it would make a nice replacement for
RoboHelp et al. So tell me... when are you going public with the IPO?
--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Patience comes to those who wait."--Anon.

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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