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1. Introduction

A great many major open-source projects are converging on DocBook as a standard format for their documentation — projects including the Linux kernel, GNOME, KDE, Samba, and the Linux Documentation Project. The advocates of XML-based "structural markup" (as opposed to the older style of "presentation markup" exemplified by troff, Tex, and Texinfo) seem to have won the theoretical battle. You can generate presentation markup from structural markup, but going in the other direction is very difficult.

Nevertheless, a lot of confusion surrounds DocBook and the programs that support it. Its devotees speak an argot that is dense and forbidding even by computer-science standards, slinging around acronyms that have no obvious relationship to the things you need to do to write markup and make HTML or Postscript from it. XML standards and technical papers are notoriously obscure.

This HOWTO will attempt to clear up the major mysteries surrounding DocBook and its application to open-source documentation — both the technical and political ones. Our objective is to equip you to understand not just what you need to do to make documents, but why the process is as complex as it is — and how it can be expected to change as newer DocBook-related tools become available.