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Subject: Re: [docbook-apps] DocBook editor

lars.bjerges@swedbank.se wrote:
> Does anybody have any experience in using MS Word as a DocBook editor?

Not me, but that won't stop me from levying an opinion. :)

> Does it work?

I haven't been keeping up with recent releases of Office, but the last 
time I checked, Word didn't know the first thing about DocBook.  Unless 
that's changed, the answer is "not unless you make it work".

> Is it easy or hard to set up?

It seems to me that it could be made to work, if one had the will and 
power to apply that will.  You'd need:

1. A culture where styles are used to the exclusion of all other 
formatting mechanisms.  You need a group of people who would never think 
of changing a font from the toolbar.  People for whom the Page Layout 
dialog is taboo.  People who shudder at the thought of pressing the Bold 
button on the toolbar.

2. A willingness to only save in .docx format or something like it.  If 
the goal is to support old .doc files, you're doomed from the start.

3. A willingness to write your own conversion tools from .docx to .dbx 
which are written to be liberal in what they accept as input but only 
produce valid DocBook XML.  Naturally they map all the styles you 
defined for #1 from input to output, but they need to be able to cope 
with people hitting the Bold button: what does "bold" mean in DocBook, 
which has no "bold" tag?  Your tool will have to make that choice, and 
you'll need to be willing to accept that choice, because it'll be 
expensive to keep changing the tool if whims keep changing.

4. A willingness to accept suboptimal results.  Your converted documents 
will probably only be able to use 10% of the tags in DocBook, simply 
because Word has no way to make the semantic assertions necessary for an 
automated tool to select the others.  The best you can hope for is to 
get all the major structural tags right, like <sect1>.  You can't expect 
to be able to use inline tags like <varname>.

5. A willingness to accept that these suboptimal results as an ongoing 
thing, with no practical ability to improve your lot short of "getting 
out of the game", so to speak.  Your conversion tool can't support 
everything DocBook does, so if someone hand-edits a DocBook file to add 
something your conversion tool can't, you can't round-trip that file any 
more, even if you have a tool that will convert from .dbx back to .docx. 
  Such a tool can only be of limited use, because it would have to strip 
out any semantic markup that Word cannot preserve in its .docx output.

> Is it easy or hard to use?

Provided none of the items above present a problem, it could be very 
easy to use.  It's the up-front development cost that'll run most people 
off such a project.

> Thank you in advance.

And I wish you luck, if you undertake this project.  Please consider 
making it open source if you do.  I'm sure there are lots of people who 
would be willing to accept this "training wheels for DocBook" approach, 
if the initial hurdle wasn't as high.

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