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Re: Something I would like to see

Joshua Drake wrote:
> One of the constant drawbacks for the LDP in getting new authors is the
> requirement that they submit with SGML. We all know the benefits of SGML
> but a lot of us tend to ignore the drawbacks. Some of these are:

I humbly disagree.  I would argue (very convincingly, I'm sure! ;-) that
making DocBook as easy as possible (by fixing the very incomplete
DocBook howto, and by making sure people can get the DocBook tools
running and working) is the best thing that can be done for the LDP. 
There needs to be better information about DocBook out there (I know...I
hit the brick wall several times trying to figure it out.  Finally stuck
with LinuxDoc for my current project since I'm on a tight deadline.)
that I will concede.

> Learning curve

Not really that steep if you can get the tools working.  If you can do
HTML, you can do SGML with only a little extra effort.

> Image handling (in linuxdoc)

Fixed in DocBook.  Besides, images should be discouraged unless
absolutely needed for clarity.  The obvious reasons apply: It doesn't
convert to text, man, info, etc.  And if it is color, it does not
convert to printed page very well.

> Ease of editing - Most of us are very comfortable at the command line. A
> lot of new - very intelligent Linux users are not.
> Processing - SGML can be a pain to process and a pain to find errors in.

Ok...Let's figure out how to improve the error tracking tools.  I've
only just started working with DocBook, but LinuxDoc is EASY to fix
errors.  You look at the line number and type:

vi +<line number> file.sgml

See the problem.  Fix it.

> It's ugly

It's beautiful.

> I suggest the following:
> I would like to see the LDP start accepting more than SGML as a file
> format. My personal taste would be Word Perfect. Why?
> Word Perfect 8 has the ability to open just about any document format,
> including Frame Maker.
> It has the ability to save to HTML, Postcript, Text and RTF..
> Wordperfect 9 has the ability to save to PDF, HTML, Text, and RTF.
> They both run on Linux. Wordperfect is free.

Its not free.  The free downloadable version lacks all of the features
you speak of as being key benefits:  No images, less output formats, no
grammer check, etc. 

Another fatal flaw:  It's not scriptable.  You cannot create a script to
take a WP file and turn it into all of the needed formats, add them to
the index automagically, etc.  If I were maintaining an index of LDP
HOWTO's, I would hate to have to load Word Perfect to generate my
favorite format.  

And if I had some custom way I needed my HTML pages to look or
something, I couldn't write my own output filters.  An example of this
is people who are working on doing Palm format files, or other types of
output.  Are we going to beg Corel to make us a new output filter every
time someone needs a different format?

> They both have the ability to create internal linking and table of
> contents. They both can handle just about every image format widely in
> use.

Only the for-pay version handles images.

Have you ever created indexes and such in WP?  It's hard!  There is a
steep learning curve for creating complex documents no matter how you do

> I just don't believe that we can continue to grow the LDP without having
> a simple way for people to contribute. People should be able to just
> type something up in Wordperfect.(we could start accepting others as
> their export filters become better... StarWriter is an example). They
> can spell check with a single button. They can grammar check
> (reasonably) with a single button. They can save to multiple formats
> with a single button.

Spell check is included on every Linux distro I know of, and very easy
to use.  Just add a few quick words about ispell to the Howto-Howto and
call it a done deal.

And I disagree that the LDP can't continue to grow.  The LDP is growing
at a very rapid clip.  With more authors coming on every day.  I don't
see that slowing in the near future.
> Am I suggesting that we dumb some stuff down? You're damn right. :)

I don't think we need to, or should.  People go to the LDP expecting to
get advice from EXPERTS, not Linux Newbies.  Yes, I think one should
encourage newbies to get involved...but not at the cost of a sane
document format policy, and not when the quality of documentation found
at the LDP is at stake.

Finally...I seem to recall that WP 2000 for Windows will already output
SGML documents.  I would imagine that will be a feature of the Linux
version at some point in the future.  Probably the same for Star.  Give
it a little time, and those who really want to work with those tools
will be able to...without forcing LDP maintainers to buy, learn, and use
a whole new set of non-free tools.  The burden of fixing the shoddy SGML
that is output will fall upon the author at least, rather than everyone
else who comes in contact with the document.

One more point to consider:  Foreign language translations.  Is there a
Chinese version of WordPerfect?  Russian?  Japanese?  Can translators
get the software easily and for free?  I believe it is vital to make
translations as easy as possible.  It is difficult enough to accurately
convert a technical english document to another language...why make it
more difficult by choosing a plethora of inconsistent tools that the
translator will have to learn?

Thats my thoughts on the issue.  I think that whoever chose SGML in the
first place for the LDP had the right idea.  Let's run with it and
                    Joe Cooper <joe@swelltech.com>
                Affordable Web Caching Proxy Appliances

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