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Re: XML word processors and the SW (was Re: First Order Logic .. .)

Title: RE: XML word processors and the SW (was Re: First Order Logic ...)
Thanks, John,
Not so much proposing a way to automate generation of DTDs as proposing a way to generate prototype DTDs. And not so much proposing that as advocating an attitude of "Try to avoid building the standard DTDs before you understand what they should really look like."
Of course, tools like XMetal should be useful all during the process, if they are sufficiently flexible.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, May 19, 2001 12:12 AM
Subject: RE: XML word processors and the SW (was Re: First Order Logic .. .)

Joel Rees wrote:

> My company is betting that there will be a large range of
> applications for
> which one would rather not have the DTD in the way.
> I tend to figure that DTD-less is an intermediate step,
> something to use
> while trying to get a grasp of what a document class should
> include and what
> it should not.
> When I think of writing XML documents with a word processor, I imagine
> formatting some piece, then selecting a range and assigning a
> semantic tag
> of my choosing to it. The word processor should split the
> semantic XML from
> the formatting XML, then save the format as an XSL document
> and the semantic
> as straight XML.
> An automatic DTD generator should eat a batch of similar
> files (possibly
> built from a single original as a template) and spit the DTD
> out as whatever
> is needed to describe everything in the batch.
> When editing the doc, a palette would appear showing the
> current set of tags
> not made directly manipulable by the current XSL.
> So, following this line of reasoning, SW would simply take a
> DTD and allow
> selecting a node/nodeset and attaching some attributes or
> child elements
> that specify some common/standard qualitative semantic?
> How far in the future am I imagining? I know Microsoft is doing the
> smoke-and-mirrors about Word saving as XML. Any bets (or
> inside info) about
> whether they have even considered semantics issues?

I believe you are proposing a way to automate the creation of DTDs. My intuition says that useful authoring DTDs express ideas that are, so far, too difficult for practical algorithms to create.

However, once you have the DTD, the question is not "Should I offer to the author a set of semantics and content rules?", but rather "Should I require that the author be constrained within the limits of a model during the writing process?" Most authors answer No. Almost everyone who bears the cost of document processing answers Yes.

You ask about Microsoft. They have considered the semantics issue deeply and they have addressed their need with XMetaL. Microsoft purchased an enterprise license for XMetaL and is making widespread use of it in some very interesting ways.

Fortunately, there is something in it for authors too. The model, in addition to constraint,  offers a structure on which useful programmatic behaviors can be created for use during authoring. There are hardly any documents, at least in the business world, whose creation cannot be facilitated by partial automation. That's the major economic driver behind the use of XML for rich content and Microsoft's decision to purchase an authoring tool that is also a developer's platform.

John Turnbull
SoftQuad Software Ltd.