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[comp.text.sgml] Frequently Asked Questions

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Archive-name: text/sgml-faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Maintainer: David Megginson <>
Version: $Revision: 0.8 $
Last-modified: $Date: 1998/09/16 16:21:17 $

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Ten Basic Questions

1) What is SGML?

   ANSWER: SGML stands for "Standard Generalized Markup Language" (or
    "Standard Goldfarb Mosher Lorie," but that's an inside joke).
    Essentially, SGML is a method for creating interchangeable,
    structured documents; with it, you can do the following:

    - assemble a single document from many sources (such as SGML
      fragments, word processor files, database queries, graphics,
      video clips, and real-time data from sensing instruments);

    - define a document structure using a special grammar called a
      Document Type Definition (DTD);

    - add markup to show the structural units in a document; and
    - validate that the document follows the structure that you
      defined in the DTD.

    The official definition of SGML is in the international standard
    ISO 8879:1986.  For a list of general information on SGML,
    including online tutorials, see the following link at Robin
    Cover's SGML/XML Web Site (next question):

2) How do I find out more about SGML applications (i.e. DTDs),
   projects, free tools, and related standards?

   ANSWER: See Robin Cover's extensive SGML/XML web site at

    The site is updated almost daily (or so NetMinder tells me), and
    is the best source of both general and specific SGML information.
    ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS START HERE!!!  If you want to search for a
    specific term or keyword, you can jump straight to the URL

    For general questions, please feel free to post to the newsgroup
    comp.text.sgml, once you're certain that you cannot find the
    answer at Robin's or Steve Pepper's sites (for the latter, see
    the next question).

3) How do I find out more about free and commercial SGML software
   tools (such as editors, converters, formatters, and databases)?

   ANSWER: See Steve Pepper's excellent Whirlwind Guide to SGML Tools
    and Vendors at

4) Where can I buy or download a program to convert my
   Postscript/Word/WordPerfect legacy documents to SGML automatically?

   ANSWER: If you have any experience in construction, that's roughly
    equivalent to asking where you can rent a machine to convert
    bricks into a house automatically.

    Accept that you'll have to do some programming (and possibly a lot
    of manual intervention), then look at Steve Pepper's Whirlwind
    Guide (see above) to find some software tools that can get you

5) Where can I buy or download a program to convert my SGML document
   to HTML/RTF/Word/WordPerfect/Postscript automatically?

   ANSWER: You _can_ do this automatically (it's more like converting
    a house back to bricks), but usually not out of the box -- unless
    someone has already done the job for you, you will have to use a
    graphic interface or a programming language to tell the formatting
    application what the document should look like.  Again, Steve
    Pepper's Whirlwind Guide (see above) lists some software tools
    that can get you started.

6) Who's using SGML?

   ANSWER: Government, many big industries, the military, academic
    research projects (big and small), and everyone who uses the
    World-Wide Web -- SGML consultants and developers are very busy.
    For a list of major SGML initiatives in government and industry
    (courtesy of Robin Cover), see

    For a list of major SGML initiatives in academia, see

7) What's the difference between SGML and HTML?

   ANSWER: HTML is an SGML application (a DTD and a set of processing
    conventions).  Most HTML browsers do not support some basic SGML
    constructions, like arbitrary entities, but nearly all SGML
    authoring tools are capable of producing good HTML documents.

    For more information on HTML, see the HTML entry at Robin Cover's
    SGML/XML Web Site, above.

8) What's the difference between SGML and XML?

   ANSWER: Unlike HTML, XML is not an SGML application -- instead,
    it's a set of simple conventions for using SGML without some of
    the more esoteric features.  It's still SGML, though.

    For more information on XML, see the XML entry at Robin Cover's
    SGML/XML Web Site, above.

9) Can I post job announcements to comp.text.sgml?

   ANSWER: Sure, if they're real and SGML-related.  It's much more
    interesting to see job postings from the companies themselves than
    from head-hunters.

    One of the best signs of SGML's strength right now is that people
    often complain about too many job postings in comp.text.sgml.

10) What about X?  You didn't mention it.

   ANSWER: Again, visit Robin Cover's and Steve Pepper's web sites
    (questions 2 and 3) -- they are simply the best guides to SGML
    information, and will tell you almost anything you want to know,
    from where to download a certain DTD to what tools and standards
    exist for producing formatted output from SGML documents.


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