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Re: SGML tools aren't so great

Gary Preckshot wrote:
>Joe Cooper wrote:
> >I LIKE Word Perfect.  I've been a Word Perfect user since the beginning
> of time (version 2.0 for DOS to be more precise).  But it has it's
> place.  It's place is writing letters, resumes, showy presentation
> papers that don't need frequent revision, novels, stories, etc.
> Technical papers, in my humble opinion, are not it's strong suit.  But
> this is definitely NOT a NIH situation.  It is a situation of BTFTJ
> (Best Tool For The Job).  DocBook has features that are so perfect for
> the LDP's needs that it's difficult for me to fathom that there is any
> argument about using it
> Having been in an organization that used both WP and Wurd for technical
> documentation, I can assure that it's both possible and practical. One of
> the Wurd features that was intensely practical was the "show revisions"
> feature. Several authors could work on a doc, and you could tell instantly
> what was new or changed. Revision bars (you know, those vertical lines)
> automatically were put alongside changes. Wurd also has a very good equation
> editor, which is essential for technical documentation. I think your humble
> opinion comes from not using the tool.

You're probably quite right.  Word is too complicated for me to

> I don't advocate going to Wurd or WordPerfect, but there certainly seems to
> be a very provincial attitude here. Some of the desktop publishing packages,
> like Ventura, do very well on longer docs with many revisions. Many
> publishing houses use them - they expect authors to write in Wurd using
> their macro packages, and then they "typeset" them semiautomatically using a
> DTP package.

I won't argue that a well macro'd Word or WP can't do what is needed, as
I would hope that it can be.  I guess I just prefer the raw markup
itself.  Somewhere along the way I started writing all of my HTML and
SGML by hand in vi, and liking it.  It must be a sickness.

> >The reason is that DocBook does not just define what a
> document looks like.  In fact that's not even it's main goal.  It
> describes what the content is.  'Examples' are labelled as what they
> are, not <bold><teletype><center>.  So are: user interaction, program
> output, references to other works, images, diagrams, chapter headings,
> copyright notices, author names, version numbers, and a ton of other
> things.  These things will still have to be entered in some way that is
> not immediately made obvious by a point and click interface (how do you
> iconize those concepts or put them on a menu bar in a simplified
> manner?).
> It's easy. Haven't you ever written a word processor macro? You can add all
> sorts of things, including things that bring up a dialog box and ask you for
> input. You can even bring up dialog boxes at the start of a new document or
> at the close of a document to enforce data discipline. You can program these
> things five ways from Sunday, and you are not limited to a point and click
> interface. You can vet the entries and make the author enter thing that have
> to be entered before he/she can continue. These are called templates, and
> they exist because lots of organizations have the metadata problem, so word
> processors are infinitely customizable. You just make a template for the
> kind of document you want. Thereafter, anyone using the template is guided
> to enter things they have to enter, and use styles they have to use.
> > However, I see that you have hopes of never SEEING the SGML.
> That just isn't going to work.  You will have to see the SGML (or at
> least a functional WYSIWYG equivelent, which will HAVE to be just as
> complicated).   I've so far not seen much about how Word Perfect works with
> SGML documents and if it can deal with the full range of tags needed for
> a technical document.
> I'm resigned to seeing it once, when I write the templates and macros, but
> never thereafter. All the SGML does is convey information. All I should have
> to see is the information interface, not the grubby SGML details. Yeah, I
> know WP has reveal codes. They're there because WP screws up, and sometimes
> you have to fix it.

Hey, you're not so bad, after all.  No matter what they say about you.
;-)  You DO understand everything that is needed for the LDP to be
"right".  I won't argue with you anymore, because we're on the same side
and we agree entirely.  We just like a different toolset.  I got no
bones with choosing a different toolset.  As I understand it there are
even people who like Emacs.

Regardless of your choice of tools, it sounds like you're someone the
LDP needs around.

My argument is with those who think there should be some debate over
whether the LDP should insist upon an open document standard that
provides the level of flexibility and power that SGML (preferably
DocBook) does.  You're not one of those, as it seems you've got plenty
of experience in writing technical docs.  You're expertise will be a
welcome addition around here I'm sure.

> >it doesn't make much sense to
> stick to documentation that focuses on appearence more than
> 'findability'.
> Have you got a limited view of word processors! What do you think the rest
> of the world has been doing? Word processors support findability,
> versioning, revision, and they can pop up dialog boxes virtually anywhere
> and anytime you please to collect metadata or enforce styles. Do you imagine
> the commercial and technical world has been awaiting DocBook with baited
> breath? People have been writing and maintaining technical documents with
> word processors for years. By now, all successful word processors support
> these activities. Your paeans of praise for what DocBook might do in the
> future are several years out of date for both WordPerfect and Wurd.

I don't know that I'd go that far.  If you've only seen the very
outdated LDP SGML stuff, then you haven't seen all of DocBook.  There is
a reason that a large number of tech shops (O'Reilly being enough proof
for me...but Sun, SGI and many others as well) are using DocBook.  It
has it's geewhiz features...some things that even the venerable Word and
WP can't match (while those two have some definite benefits over
DocBook, also).

> I'll see what it's SGML looks like when I get it. I suppose I'll have to
> write some macros to put in the various information blocks required by
> DocBook. Can't be much worse than Microsoft's help rtf format. They wrote a
> bunch of Wurd macros to do that.

I hope you'll make those macros available to anyone who would prefer a
word processor interface for their SGML editing?  Sounds like something
that could be of great value to people who go for that sort of thing.

I'm about through with this thread.  ;-)
                    Joe Cooper <joe@swelltech.com>
                Affordable Web Caching Proxy Appliances

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