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Subject: Re: SGML versus XML in authoring environment (was: no subject)
From: John Hanratty <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:General discussion of Extensible Markup Language <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 16 Mar 1999 12:35:02 +0000
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A prime reason for staying with SGML is one of the usual arguments for adopting
it in the first place, namely to have a platform-independent, vendor-neutral and
stable medium for long term storage of mission-critical information (sorry about
the corporate-speak). To me, at the moment XML is just another output format
that SGML can easily filter to, but not one that I have any need to support as
yet.

We set out on the SGML road a couple of years ago, and restricted our use of
SGML to the XML sub-set (we don't use marked, sections, for example, because
they are not supported by XML). This means it should be very easy for us to
filter to XML *when* it becomes the standard for browser-based documentation.
Until that happens, though (and there is a lot of dust still to settle), we will
continue to filter to HTML, Word and PDF. We use Adept to author in SGML, and
though it supports XML now, if we started shipping XML we would be way out of
step with our clients.

Another reason for sticking with SGML is that, as far as I can make out, most of
the proprietary vendor resources (MS, Sun, et. al.) are going into XML as a
platform for e-commerce, which has no relevance to me, and is only a tiny part
of what XML should be capable of. I look forward to the day when XML will enable
me to code equations in SGML using the ISO equation DTD, and these will both
filter to XML for Browser-based distribution, and import into Word (when MS
adopts XML as its underlying file format).

At the moment, I have to save my Word equations as GIFs for HTML distribution,
but my authors need editable versions of them, as they use MS Word to write the
documents.

We're experimenting with SGML Author for Word (1.2) to go from SGML to Word, and
have had encouraging results, but the 'round trip' conversion philosophy results
in some irritations: SGML Author has no idea of a tag in context, so you have to
create different Word styles for each context in which certian tags occur,as it
insists on a one-to-one mapping. For this reason, I think we will get better
results using two map files, one optimised for SGML-to-Word, one for
Word-to-SGML.

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