Literate Programming and XML

Anthony B. Coates tony at
Wed Apr 22 06:39:52 BST 1998

Recently, I was asked to put together a seminar on literate programming and
XML.  For those of you who may not be familiar with literate programming, it is
a system that turns code documentation on its head.  Instead of 90% code with
10% comments (if you are lucky), literate programming tools allow code chunks to
be spread throughout a descriptive document, with the code appearing in the
order that best suits the description, rather than the compiler.  The literate
programming tools then take this combined document and "tangle" it (create the
source files) and "weave" it (create the documentation files).

In the past, literate programming documents have used various custom markup
syntaxes, and produced output most commonly in TeX or LaTeX (Donald Knuth
invented both TeX and literate programming, hence the connection).  It strikes
me that XML would be a better solution, both in terms of unifying the disparate
document syntaxes, and in avoiding the replication of effort in creating parsers
for each different format.  Equally, XSL, XLink, and XPtr all address important
issues that any literate programming tool author normally has to solve in code
her/himself, so there is the chance to make literate programming tools into
lighter applications that sit on top of solid standards.

If you are interested, the seminar is available via the Web at


I would like to try and organise a group of literate programming and XML people
to see if we can't work something out.  The success of this list in creating the
SAX specification makes me believe that the same process could make literate
programming accessible and useful to a much broader audience.  If you are
interested, please e-mail me:

<mailto:tony at>


Educational Multimedia Services
  = reduced workloads for lecturers, teachers, and tutors
  = better results for students.
Another 100% Pure Java e-mail.  Is yours?
Anthony B. Coates.
Multimedia Developer (Software Design)
Educational Multimedia Services
TEDI, The University of Queensland.
AJUG-QLD Steering Committee Member
(Australian Java Users' Group <>).
QMUG Committee Member
(Queensland Macromedia Users' Group <>).
E-mail: tony at
UIN: 5191015
All opinions are mine, and may not represent
those of The University of Queensland.

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