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Subject: tables and meta-languages
From: Richard Lander <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Richard Lander <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 26 Mar 1999 15:16:04 -0500
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 Hello,

I've got a few questions to ask that have been bouncing around my mind for
the last while. I'd appreciate a few comments if you've got time and
opinion.

1. Do we need tables anymore? I have stopped using tables for information
capturing but describe content as I best see fit, in groups. These groups,
which could be thought of as rows, always have the same content, so why
generalize them to rows? I provide each member with a descriptive name and
avoid the complexity of tables for authoring. I use XSL and DSSSL, depending
on output format, to convert these groups of well-named elements into
tabular form, using either HTML or DSSSL tables. I've come to the conclusion
that tables are a bad choice for predictable information but good for
unpredicatable sorts, allowing users to pick the number of rows and columns
they wish to use. The information that I am using always has the same number
of columns, so I can hardcode the table dimensions in my stylesheet. Does
this idea make sense?

2. Is the term 'meta-language' helpful? I've heard this term bandied about
quite a lot over the past few years but don't find it very helpful for
helping beginners understand markup. For clarification, a meta-language, in
my understanding, is a language used to write other languages (HTML as an
application of SGML rules) through general rule sets. That sort of
definition shrinks SGML and XML down to DTD languages. We all know that SGML
and XML are both the expression of structure and its resolution as document
instances. I look at DTD syntax as being a markup language of its own, to
markup or express structure. These definitions are then resolved to markup
or describe content. The DTD language might be considered a metalanguage but
not SGML or XML as a whole. Does this idea make sense?

That's it for today. Thanks for your help. I appreciate it.

take care,

Richard.

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