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Re: Several questions to sgml-tools

I wrote:
> > Do you have some logical concepts you want to express with the points
> > 1-3,5 above?

On Thu, Oct 29, 1998 at 09:57:11PM +0100, Andreas Tille wrote:
> Think so.  The logical concept is based on my lazyness to update
> three or more documentations for one and the same thing.  Thought
> that sgml-tools (linuxdoc) where inteded to help in this case.

I think you misunderstood me.  I didn't mean to ask, whether there was
logic behind the questions - no doubt there was.  Instead, I wanted to
know, whether you were just trying to get the layout "just right"
instead of trying to find some means to express eg. "this bit of text
is important", "that bit is a summary".  In the latter case, if you
can't find a good tag in linuxdoc, you can either file a wishlist bug
or develop your own DTD and use (IIRC) Jade.  In the former case, you
would be better served by writing in TeX and *roff directly, and
forget about SGML and HTML, since they cannot help you.

> May be my ideas of SGML show that I'm a bloody beginner but
> I thought SGML gives the possibility of some literate programming
> (DocBook) and deriving different file formats from the same
> source.

Your ideas do show that you haven't grasped the idea of separating
content from presentation, which is fundamental to SGML, HTML and
LaTeX (in decreasing order of the idea's importance).  However, that
does not imply that you are a beginner: I know many professional HTML
authors that make the same mistake.

On the second point, I'm not sure what you mean with "literate
programming".  In the Knuthian sense: no, SGML is not a literate
programming tool.

On the third point you are quite right.  SGML is a tool for producing
many document formats from one source.  This, however, comes with a
price, which is why the idea of separating presentation and content is

> Do I expect to much if I want to produce HTML pages with a certain
> layout (for instance centered text ... see question 2) and tell me
> if centered text is an advanced feature ??) using sgml-tools.

Yes.  In fact, you are asking too much of HTML, too.  You cannot
expect Lynx to show larger fonts, yet Lynx is (at least trying to be)
a conforming HTML implementation.  Likewise, you cannot expect a
speech syntesizer to implement text centering - the whole idea is
meaningless in that context!  Yet, many visually impaired people do
use speech synthesizers for reading HTML documents.

Thus it is more important to tell the computer about titles, headings,
emphasis, trivia, summaries and other logical concepts than about how
the text should be rendered.  That way, even if the looks is not "just
right", the text will understandable even in most unusual
circumstances, which is the most important thing.

The way to go is this:

Write your SGML source with the content and its logical structure in
mind.  For now, forget about presentation, such as centering and font
size.  Just think about the main text, headings, subheadings,
summaries, important text, not-so-important text, program names,
people's names and the like.

When you are finished, let your SGML implementation try to render your
text as it does by default.  If you are not satisfied with the looks,
try to modify the parameters the implementation uses to determine what
to do.  Usually, this means writing or modifying a style sheet.

> Are the style sheets from sgml-tools to poor to get this functionality?

Probably.  Last time I looked at that side of sgml-tools, it was quite
simplistic.  You will probably get better results if you start using

Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho A7 <gaia@iki.fi> ** <URL:http://www.iki.fi/gaia/> **

                       The FAQ is your friend.
                            Trust the FAQ.

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