documenting schemas/DTDs

Simon St.Laurent simonstl at
Thu Nov 18 13:33:27 GMT 1999

At 06:16 AM 11/18/99 -0500, David Megginson wrote:
>"W. Eliot Kimber" <eliot at> writes:
>> My personal feeling, based on many years of painful experience
>> developing and maintaining DTDs of varying scale and complexity and
>> documenting same (including the original version of IBM's IBM ID Doc
>> application and the second edition of the HyTime architecture, both
>> massive documentation projects) is that the only practical way to
>> develop and manage non-trivial document types is by making the
>> documentation the primary definition, with the working declarations
>> extracted from it using some sort of make process.  
>> If you are are creating DTD-syntax DTDs, the syntax of DTDs is simply
>> not up to the task of maintaining and managing documentation of any
>> useful sophistication. 
>I agree very strongly with Eliot, perhaps because we both have a lot
>of experience in creating (rather than just processing) user

I'll agree with both of you as well, though with the caveat that
conventions can make comments much more useful within DTDs.  XML Authority
does a little of this, but there's a lot more that can be done if people
are willing to take the time or develop tools.  So far, no one I've seen
has really invested in this, at least in a public way.

>Even a schema spec that allowed very rich documentation in each
>declaration would be at best the equivalent of JavaDoc, and that's not
>good enough.  The problem (and this is a classic in tech writing) is
>that the optimal way to arrange information for a human reader is
>rarely the optimal way to arrange information for technical
>implementation, and vice versa.

It seems like the schema spec might do well to provide a means of including
schema information inside of the documentation, rather than in a separate
box that goes along with the declarations (and which might never get filled
out.)  A transformation between this documentation-centric format and a
more machine-centric format probably wouldn't be that hard to create.

Speaking of these transforms, does anyone else think the schema spec is a
good target for profiling and simplification?

Simon St.Laurent
XML: A Primer, 2nd Ed.
Building XML Applications
Inside XML DTDs: Scientific and Technical
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