From a user's point of view, Word produces different kinds of documents: my project reports are different from my RFPs provided I view them in Word. But from any other point of view -- a developer's, a machine's -- the differences are meaningless. Both the project report and the RFP are pretty much the same.
To do any significant processing on those two different kinds of documents, there would have to be a detailed prior agreement between the user and the developer. So the problem is not simply to re-express in XML whatever the user happened to do, it's to hold the user to this agreement -- in the gentlest possible way. In other words, we can wrap strings in tags and put "xml" on the file extension, but unless we agree about the meaning of the tags names (and other details), we have accomplished very little. The production of useful, valid XML that adheres to a prior agreement in a practical editing interface presents such a difficult set of problems that only a tiny handful of companies has even considered it. Two or three have succeeded.
But that's just the beginning. The more interesting problem is how you make a project report *act* differently from an RFP during its creation, or make a legal contract act differently for the user, than does a set of meeting notes. When you succeed at that, you are no longer just constraining your user, you are simplifying the authoring task while you assure yourself of input that your software can safely process.
The distinctions among editors that produce valid XML have very little to do with the production of a valid document, but a great deal to do with the degree to which they are open to customization and integration into larger XML systems. When these systems evolve, the customizations and integrations have to evolve with them. Good XML "editors" are actually developer tools that allow the creation of good XML editing interfaces -- for any kind of document. Most XML editors fail at both levels.
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> -----Original Message-----
> From: Bullard, Claude L (Len) [mailto:email@example.com]
> Sent: Thursday, 07 June, 2001 11:57 AM
> To: Michael Champion; firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: RE: MS Word as XML editor?
> Which is probably why a very big and innovative customer
> for XMetal is Microsoft.
> Ekam sat.h, Vipraah bahudhaa vadanti.
> Daamyata. Datta. Dayadhvam.h
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Michael Champion [mailto:email@example.com]
> > So, I think going for a pure XML editor is the only way to
> go, except of
> > course in cases where you produce XML at the complexity
> degree of XHTML.
> I strongly agree. Products such as XMetaL are very easy for
> end-users to use
> once they've been setup with schemas, styleshseets, and some UI
> for the specific application. It's probably easier for a typical XML
> developer to learn how to customize XMetaL than it is to setup all the
> scripts, styles, templates etc. that a Word add-in would require.
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