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Word processors and semantic content

Bruce Cox wrote:
>>   While the software itself was problematic, the bigger issue was that the
>> person creating the document
>> did not use the styles (structures) appropriately (abstract tagged as the
>> last claim, for example).

We were concerned about that issue when developing a document management system
for the Navy. It's an organization that operates "by the book". When the fleet
is deployed, ships must have the latest copy of engineering and preventive
maintenance procedures. For example, if there's a fire in the boiler room,
follow step 1, step 2, step 3.

The rules for document approval are taken seriously because lives are at stake.
Procedures had to conform to specific document types, styles and rules. Details
such as required topics, section order, indentation, Roman or Arabic numbering
and so on were well-defined.That seemed to me to be a plus. Instead of
developing a free-form word processor, it made sense to build a database of
templates, storing styles and other rules for document classes. When someone
started an editing session, the document type provided the key for loading
styles and rules from the database. That helped guide the editing process and
provided a solution for validating documents when a user tried to save them.

This was pre-XML and the separation of content and presentation. The documents
were coded in a proprietary markup language but the Navy's CALS initiative
introduced SGML and DTDs.

Perhaps the solution is a web site for verifying that patent applications 
to the rules before someone submits them to USPTO.

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