Friday, 22 June 2007

X-Pubs again

Apologies to my regular readers (both of you) for the hiatus in my blogging efforts. Life, work, and various voluntary activities have been taking up my time recently. More on this later.

Earlier this month I attended the X-Pubs conference. If you hadn't read my earlier post in which I mentioned this event, you might have thought that "X-pubs" either had something to do with "X-rated" publications, or perhaps with former landlords of licensed premises ("ex pubs").

The truth is far more prosaic - it was about publishing documents with XML, and included lots of references to DITA and S-1000-D.

These are all standards for creating structured documentation, and they are all in their own ways descendants of SGML, the grand-daddy of markup languages, that became an international standard in the mid 1980s. I have always found the principle of mark-up languages to be profoundly simple. Separate content from formatting, and mark content according to function. Then let formatting follow function, and don't format text for any other reason. I realise I may sound like a bit of a Luddite for saying this, but the direct formatting tools available in a certain very popular word processing packages lead to very bad documents from the point of view of consistency an durability. I pride myself on being able to fix them, so I shouldn't really complain too loudly.

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