XML Editors - Word 2000??

Paul Prescod paul at prescod.net
Sun Jun 27 17:04:21 BST 1999

"Steven Livingstone, ITS, SENM" wrote:
> Maybe I'm missing something, but could they not have described the data
> using 'standard' XML and used a separate styling entity to (eg. XSL) to
> actually implement the data?? 

I'm not sure what you mean by "implement"? But yes, these tools allow you
to separate out your tool-independent XML from the configuration files
that you use to make your XML useful in a particular tool. My point is
that creating the configuration files is not something that an end-user
will want to do. You can't just open them up and start typing as if it
were Word for Windows unless your DTD happens to be one that they provide
out of the box (usually XHTML and Docbook).

> Surely describing the data for a list item and
> using some attribute understood by the styling language to interpret how it
> would be displayed would have made sense - no?

That's exactly what they do. But I'll point out again that end users don't
typially want to learn styling languages nor even style dialog boxes when
Word just lets them start typing with no setup whatsoever. Therefore "XML"
will never be as simple of a word processing format as Word binary.
Docbook might be. XHTML might be. But not "XML in general."

> I know there are things whcih just don't work - ie. Macros - but they don't
> work when saved as HTML anyway.
> I just think it would have been tremendous if we could use XML to it's
> potential and I con't see any real reason whay it couldn't have started with
> W2k.

Well, these tools exist, you don't have to wait for Microsoft. But you
don't get them "for free" the way most people get the Office tools. These
companies don't have the luxury of taxing you at the hardware retailiers
the way Microsoft does.

It would be nice if W2K supported "really" XML but turning around the Word
code-base to make it into a structured editor would be a Very Big Task.
Note that W2K's actual enhancements are much more modest. 

I would watch for Microsoft to BUY an XML editor company instead of trying
to recreate the decade's worth of work that has gone into AdeptEditor,
Documentor and XMetaL. XMetaL is the tool that emulates Word most closely.
If you want to see why XML editors are inherently quite different from
Word it would be good to play with it. You'll see that the superficial
similarity to Word is built on a radically different implementation and UI
model. Consider: the underlying data model has to change. The parser has
to change. The menu items have to change. Only the renderer could remain
remotely the same.

Consider also that the Word binary file format is Microsoft's most
powerful defacto standard other than the Windows API. There was an article
on slashdot about it recently:


It would not be in Microsoft's interest to promote files that can be moved
from Word to Wordperfect and from Windows to Linux with no degredation.

 Paul Prescod  - ISOGEN Consulting Engineer speaking for only himself

Software is largely a service industry operating under the persistent
but unfounded delusion that it is a manufacturing industry. 
  -- Eric Raymond, "The Magic Cauldron: The Manufacturing Delusion"

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