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Subject: Re: DOCBOOK-APPS: Trying to find a DocBook solution that simply works

Tom Epperly <tepperly@llnl.gov> writes:

> [...] I haven't been able to find a combination of tools that is
> capable of processing the online copy of DocBook The Definitive
> Guide (from SourceForge) or all the examples on the version 0.0.1 CD
> that comes with DocBook The Definitive Guide. The available
> applications don't appear to be that mature. I could only find
> minimal documentation for each tools, and no tools worked on all the
> examples.

When you say "capable of processing", what do you mean? I'm guessing
you mean "capable of producing high-quality print/PDF output", because
I doubt you're having any problems generating good HTML. If you're
having problems producing HTML from DocBook using the tools you
mentioned, it's pilot error, not tool problems.

> At this point, I am about to recommend using something other than
> DocBook, and this isn't the recommendation I expected to be making.

Please recognize that if you end up doing that, you'll be recommending
using something other than XML/SGML, not just recommending something
other than DocBook. What I mean is, any deficiencies you're running
into in producing quality print/PDF output are not deficiencies in
DocBook or in the modular DocBook stylesheets -- they're deficiencies
in the processing applications you're using.

For example, the modular DocBook XSL stylesheets produce excellent FO
files, but none of the open-source FO processors are mature enough to
correctly process everything in those FO files. But this is not a
DocBook problem -- you'll run into problems with FO engines no matter
what XML DTD or XSLT stylesheets you use.

That said, there are lots of authoring groups, like the FreeBSD
documentation project, that have managed to produce high-quality print
output from DocBook. Most of them are going the DSSSL/Jade route,
because currently that's the open-source tool chain that works most

> Is there a set of DocBook applications that can take a validated
> DocBook or DocBook XML file and simply and reliably make HTML, PDF
> and RTF?

How important is it too you and how much money are you willing to
spend? If you're limited to open-source solutions, then you'll need to
find ways to work around the current deficiencies.

If you can get a budget, there are several mature commercial tools you
can use to go from XML to print. Arbortext makes an XSL-FO-based
print-publishing tool that you can use standalone if you want --
without necessarily using their editing app or anything else from
them. I've seen it demo'ed and it seems to work very well.

Note that you don't need to buy a copy of a print-publishing app for
every person in your authoring group. You can divide your work
assignments up so that you have one or two people doing production
work, with the writers just doing the authoring -- better able to
focus on content because they're freed up from dealing with formatting
issues. You think of it in those terms, and the cost of the Arbortext
publishing app looks a lot more reasonable.

FWIW, I think one way to look at it is: Invest in an XML-based
authoring/publishing environment now, and you're investing in the
future. Invest in anything else, and you're paying for old technology,
and will certainly be spending more money later when you inevitably
end up moving to XML-based authoring.

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