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From Paul Richards <>
Subject Re: Don't know other ways (fwd)
Date Mon, 25 Nov 1996 19:11:40 GMT
Brian Behlendorf <> writes:

> Let's get our terms straight.  SGML is a document meta-language.  HTML is
> defined in a Document Type Definition, written in SGML.  Documents are not "in
> SGML format", they are in a document language described by an SGML DTD. By
> definition, HTML is an "SGML format".  So, I'm confused - are you saying we
> should create our own DTD, and author within that?  I don't see significant
> value of that over using a well-defined subset of HTML 2.0 or 3.2 (i.e. 
> avoiding <FONT>, etc).  If there's a need for richer semantics, we could use
> CLASSes on tags, and then apply style sheets to those classes.  The costs in my
> opinion of switching to our own DTD would be in reduced access (those who edit
> and view the source docs must use SGML tools), having to decide upon a new DTD
> (a political/engineering process), and we'd still have to define how the new
> DTD maps to PS, LaTex, etc.  All that work has been done for us with HTML.

I know that technically HTML is in "SGML format" but it's a really bad
DTD that even when strictly adhered to doesn't sit well with the
concepts of SGML in that a lot of the tags are to do with presentation
and not structure.

In practice, if we used HTML as our "source" DTD then we'd have very
boring web pages and the breadth of structure available for our
docuements would be restricted.

I'm not thinking in terms of just producing hard-copy of the web
pages, I'm thinking in terms of producing the manual as a book or as
info-pages etc. You want to be able to tag something as a chapter
heading or a section heading, rather than <H1> which says nothing
about what the tagged text actually is. Then your mapping file can
decide how to display a chapter heading in whatever the output format
is. We could use <H1> to mean "chapter heading" but we'd have to
overload the tags since html doesn't have a particularly rich set of
structure tags since as I said above, its tags are overly geared
towards presentation.

We wouldn't need to create our own DTD, there are plenty out there
already. FreeBSD is moving from a linux DTD (which is basically Latex
markup as SGML tags) to docbook. The tools for conversion and all the
mappings would be there to just pick up. I could find out how the
XFree86 team do their docs since that's more comparable to FreeBSD and
they use SGML as well.

I agree that the source would be less accessible in that people here
will be familiar with html but my experience from FreeBSD is that
writing docs using some other DTD is not a problem since most
computer folks are quite comfortable with the concept of tagging text
(either from html or latex) and using different tags hasn't been a
problem particularly if they're tags such as <chapter> etc.

  Paul Richards. Originative Solutions Ltd.  (Netcraft Ltd. contractor)
  Elsevier Science TIS online journal project.
  Phone: 0370 462071 (Mobile), +44 (0)1865 843155

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