XML Editors - Word 2000??

Marcus Carr mrc at allette.com.au
Mon Jun 28 10:22:10 BST 1999

Ketil Z Malde wrote:

> I am not.  I don't find Word easy to use at all, and I certainly
> wouldn't want to edit XML with it.  I *might* - were I in a good mood,
> and I am not - be able to see the point of it storing documents
> according to a fixed DTD with a separate style sheet reflecting the
> formatting, but for general XML documents?  Rather not.

What might I ask does a general XML document look like? Legislation? Database records?
Automotive diagnostic data? Financial transactions?

> One might think that WYSIWYG is a good idea, and apply a style sheet
> to hide the tags, but you're really working with the structure of the
> information, and not its presentation, and hiding what you work with
> is IMHO *not* a good idea.  Would you, driving a car, cover the
> windshield, because traffic is too complex?  Thought not.

People who are drafting XML documents such as legislation are not working with the structure,
they're working with the content. It is the duty of the application designer to support them,
not lay bare the system's guts and watch them run shrieking into the night. Content experts
are valued for their knowledge about a particular topic, not for being able to read a DTD.
Structure should seek to make sense of what content provides, not grease it up and shoehorn it
into a digestible shape. In many circumstances, there is no conflict between structure and
content, so the two coexist happily, but best of luck trying to tell someone drafting
legislation that they "just have to change it a bit to make it valid".

> If you want WYSIWYG - i.e. using your computer as a "paper simulator"
> to borrow Ted Nelson's words - you already have that with Word et al.
> XML is more useful if it's viewed as something deeper.

I believe that tools such as FrameMaker+SGML or WordPerfect 8.0 (I think it is) can be useful
in some circumstances to mask complication from people who needn't know about it. Using the
cues that paper provides is not a bad thing, provided what's happening in the background is
valid. Would you hold the same argument about databases? (Only sissies use forms...) Structure
and format need not be mutually exclusive, though I would agree there is still plenty of room
for abuse with WYSIWYG tools. Obviously there are many types of XML documents that won't
benefit from a nice application, but many will.

> But, yes, I have no illusions about people bothering to understand
> this.  I fully expect them to take the time - a lot of it - to fire up
> Word and edit XML using <address>-elements to get italics.  Sigh.

How would that differ from making an incorrect assumption about the semantics of an element in
a text editor and then applying a stylesheet? There aren't that many ways of assisting users
with element usage, but one of the main ones might be requiring validity over well-formedness
at the authoring stage and do a good job of the analysis. At least it can be of some help, and
is available either with or without an application.

>From one Grumpy Old Fart to another...


Marcus Carr                      email:  mrc at allette.com.au
Allette Systems (Australia)      www:    http://www.allette.com.au
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."
       - Einstein

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