Re: [unrev-II] Fw: HTML, XML, and DocBook for beginners

From: Henry van Eyken (
Date: Tue Feb 20 2001 - 21:20:48 PST

  • Next message: Eugene Eric Kim: "Re: [unrev-II] Fw: HTML, XML, and DocBook for beginners"

    This beginner would like to know how GML, SGML, XML, TeX, etc. are related to
    one another. Who began what, when, why? Is there a simple, concise overview
    available? What I grasp from John Sowa's message is that with a little bit of
    luck anyone who knows GML can mark up complex documents (with math, etc.) that,
    with the aid of something like a bit of python script, will always be accessible
    by other markup languages (though I wonder whether HTML is suitable for marking
    up a mathematical text). What I also quickly learned is that the docbook is
    definitely not for beginners who are the likes of me.

    I don't wish to be unduly critical, but I have here a book that claims that, I
    quote, "anybody can understand" it and suggests that "marketing personnel,
    administrative assistants, teachers, managers -- allmost any job imaginable"
    should prepare themselves for learning XML. Then it proceeds to fire at the poor
    readers a broadside of gobbledygook that'll drive them to drink -- a situation
    that is worsened by the less than stellar performance of a publisher's editorial
    and production crew.

    If markup languages are to gain broad acceptance then it is essential that
    thought be given to how to communicate with plain folk. Hence my question, is
    there a simple, concise overview available - a roadmap to show the lay of the


    Jack Park wrote:

    > I am shamelessly forwarding this post to Unrev. Many good ideas here, most
    > of which we have discussed before. But now, it's coming from a well-known
    > person of the knowledge rep persuasion.
    > ----- Original Message -----
    > From: John F. Sowa <>
    > To: <>; <>
    > Sent: Tuesday, February 20, 2001 10:49 AM
    > Subject: SUO: HTML, XML, and DocBook for beginners
    > >
    > > In some previous notes, I have made the claim that conventional word
    > > processors (especially ones that use proprietary formats) are obsolete.
    > > As a replacement, I recommended that people switch their word (or text)
    > > processing methods to SGML and its derivatives, including HTML and XML.
    > >
    > > Some people have challenged my claim, protesting that not everybody
    > > is qualified to use such difficult tools. My response is that the
    > > internal format (whether XML or proprietary) has no effect whatever
    > > on ease of use. But it has an enormous impact on ease of exchange,
    > > transmission, flexibility, reproducibility, and especially longevity.
    > >
    > > As an example of longevity, I should mention that I have been using
    > > GML (the predecessor to SGML) for nearly 30 years. And every one
    > > of my GML files can be converted to HTML or SGML or XML with simple
    > > global changes with any ASCII editor. (I have also automated
    > > those changes with a very simple Python program.)
    > >
    > > As an example of professional formatting, I would recommend that
    > > people take a look at my 1984 book on Conceptual Structures, for which
    > > I produced the camera-ready copy using only a plain-text editor and
    > > a GML formatter. The quality of formatting on an IBM mainframe in 1983
    > > is still superior to any commercially available word processor today.
    > >
    > > Furthermore, with my handy-dandy Python program, I can convert any
    > > chapter or page of that text to HTML. As an example, I recommend
    > > my tutorial on math & logic, which is a revised and updated version
    > > of Appendix A of that book:
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > > Has anyone tried to convert any 10 or 15-year old file to MS Word?
    > > Or has anyone tried to convert any version of MS Word to a version
    > > that was two years older? Or four years newer?
    > >
    > > For an easy intro to HTML, I recommend:
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > > For the newest version of StarOffice (the forthcoming 6.0), which
    > > uses XML as its native format, and which can import files from more
    > > versions of MS Word than any version of MS Word, and which runs on
    > > many more platforms than MS Word, and which is, best of all, FREE:
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > > And for professional-quality formatting of books and high-quality
    > > web pages, I recommend DocBook (which also uses XML as its base):
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > > This is the formatting system that O'Reilley uses for all their
    > > books, and it is being widely adopted by many other publishing
    > > and documentation groups.
    > >
    > > And best of all, these systems are all FREE, high-quality, universal,
    > > non-proprietary, and guaranteed not to become obsolete in two years.
    > >
    > > John Sowa
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