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Re: SGML tools aren't so great

Gary Preckshot wrote:
> Stein Gjoen and Jorge Godoy inadvertently showed that even
> you guys need better tools. Stein was unaware of an existing
> SGML tag and Jorge clued him to the existence of it. If
> Stein had had a good GUI SGML editor, it would have
> presented him with a choice, and he wouldn't have to ask the
> question he did. On the same subject, if LDP wants certain
> usages and style, the best way to get it consistently is to
> provide tools that make those usages and style natural. Not
> Puritanical exhortations to follow the rules. Hair shirts
> went out of style in the middle ages.

It's a chicken-and-the-egg problem.  Noone writes in SGML
because there aren't any easy editors.  No editors exist
because noone writes in SGML.  You know what?  SGML
isn't easy to write.  It's a pain.  But it's the best open
way for us to distribute documentation.  If you want to read
MS documentation while not using a MS OS, you're out of luck.
If you want to make a printed manual using .txt files, you'll spend
too much time formatting the files.  HTML how gotten into the same
bad rut as DOC and RTF:  too concerned about how things look versus
how they act.

The idea of the LDP is "information: anywhere, anytime, any platform".
SGML helps us get there.  Mac, NT, Linux, thin client, PalmOS.
It doesn't matter.

> If you can't conceive of a way of either accepting input in
> other formats, or providing SGML tools that don't require
> three Hail Marys and rigorous adherence to an easily
> violated instruction book, then SGML isn't so great. Mostly
> because the tools don't exist to make the use of it's
> wondrous capabilities easy. If you can't build the tools or
> even conceive of them, you're in the wrong business. What
> people can do by rule, so can computers. If you have
> difficulty translating your rules, then they're ambiguous.
> Try using your computers for grunt work. That's what they're
> for. Human beings are for doing things computers can't -
> like authoring.

Nothing is perfect.  SGML tools were a pain.  They're getting
better now that there's better documentation.  Don't ask how
many days it took me to get sgmltools 1.0.9 to actually
validate some old SGML I had.  Standardizing on DocBook
is going to help us greatly, especially now that the rest
of the world is using DocBook too.

Projects like SGMLtools-lite and LyX and PSGML are at least
making it a bit more non-guru-friendly to validate and render
SGML text.  I'm adding to the H-H to gear it even 
more towards new SGML users.  Hopefully it'll all pay
off in the end. 


Carlo Gavazzi IPC     | Mark F. Komarinski, RHCE - Compat. Engineer|
176 Second Ave        | markk@cgipc.com - www.cgipc.com            |
Waltham, MA 02451 USA | Ph: 781-266-1138  Fx: 781-290-4810         |

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