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Re: Newbie question about XMetaL and XEmacs

At 02:37 PM 24/06/2001 -0700, Des Dougan wrote:
>I'm <snip> investigating my options and am at present working my way 
>through a tutorial I found linked from the OASIS site for setting up Emacs 
>on Windows NT (by Markus Hoenicka). I'm actually using XEmacs, so there 
>are some slight differences there.
>I've also just downloaded a trial version of XMetaL, as I saw a note on 
>the OASIS site that indicated DocBook support "out of the box".
>I am interested in feedback from those using DocBook on Windows as to 
>which environment they feel is most straightforward for a bunch of 
>non-professional writers.

It's hard to give advice when the extent of your requirements is 
"web-friendly environment." If generating HTML or HTML Help is your sole 
concern, why would you not research some of the software tools that do that 
sort of thing from a Word document base? There may be no need to get 
involved with XML at all if your requirements are narrowly focused on the 
web and very solid.

If XML, why DocBook? The richness of the possibilities offered by DocBook 
goes a long way beyond what you would ordinarily need to do web.

>Secondly, XMetaL doesn't seem to support DocBook (although its help uses 
>the term DocBook in what seems a generic sense, rather than relating to 
>the DocBook DTD). Is it as straightforward as applying the DocBook 
>download archive to XMetaL to provide DocBook support?

XMetaL is certainly a programmers' environment. I think the intention is 
that it be customized, extensively customized to support a particular 
document production process. It attempts to provide a Word-like face but 
I'm not convinced it does so or can do so to the extent needed by a bunch 
of non-professional writers thoroughly oriented to the Word face. Even the 
XMetaL documentation inclines/encourages the reader to move on to the 
so-called tags-on view. Tags-on is an environment that is similar to many 
of the programmer oriented HTML editors. In fact, you can do HTML in XMetaL 
although there is little customization available.

More devil's advocay: why wouldn't you move to straight HTML editing?

XMetaL comes with a demo customization that is a derivative of DocBook. 
It's called, I think, the Journalist DTD. It is a highly simplified version 
of DocBook, even more simplified than Norm's simplified DocBook DTD. I 
think one would be comfortable doing articles and press releases, etc., but 
it's hard to say whether this is enough structure for your needs. I've had 
a long standing experiment to find out if this customization will work with 
Norm's XSL style-sheets. I doubt it but it may be possible with some 
patching and/or minor modifications to either or both sides. On the other 
hand, some of the customizations can probably easily be translated to the 
'real' DocBook editing environment. For example, its a relatively short 
exercise to convert the Journalist CSS to something that makes DocBook look 
quite nice.

All this is to say (in a devil's advocate sort of way) that you have a lot 
of work to do on almost every level -- human and technical -- in order to 
move your folks to XML. I think one strategy might be to get them involved 
somehow because the learning curve can be steep and all the good will and 
support you can muster from the non-professional troops will be necessary 
to get them out of the Word ruts on onto the XML... tracks. DocBook is some 
ways is irrelevant to your decision at this point.


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