[svlug] DocBook XML Opinion?

Craig Oda craigoda at yahoo.com
Mon Aug 4 14:01:49 PDT 2003

I want to write a rather long, book-format document and want to collect
input on what documentation to use.

Back in 1995, I used LaTeX.  I liked this very much.  I could output to
my Postscript printer, convert to PDF or output to HTML using
LaTeX2HTML.  I seem to recall that the completed document was over 100
pages.  After that I dappled around with LinuxDoc and sgmltools, but
never really liked it that much.  Sad to say, but I didn't think that
the documents looked that nice and both didn't handle graphics

Now, it appears that everyone is using DocBook.  Or, are they?  I know
nothing about DocBook.  Please help.

I liked LaTeX because as Knuth would say, the primary goal was to
produce "beautiful documents."  I believe that this goal gave a
personality to the documentation system, something I found quite
elegant and pleasing to work with.  

I changed the style files so that I had a nice set of fonts for my
headers, foot notes, and chapter titles.  I had the space between lines
and the margins set up how I wanted them.  I could also include graphic
files at specific points in the printed document.  The table of
contents, references, and appendix were all set up how I wanted them. 
I remember that I used to use make or something like to compile the
files.  I could break up each chapter or section into a separate file,
then use \include{filename} in the main document.  As the document got
longer, the latex2html system broke down.  I have sad memories of
trying to figure out where the document was choking.

So, fast-forward 7 years.  I'm now once again faced with a decision on
what to use to write a longish document.  LaTeX seems to be out of
favor.  This is a consideration since other people may collaborate on
the document that I'm writing.  DocBook seems to be the most widely
used system...

I would prefer control over the look of the document.  My initial look
into DocBook printed output leads me to think that they aren't that
beautiful.  I've tried StarOffice and I don't like it.  Seems to have
no advantage over something like MS Word, IMO.  

The primary 2 formats that I want as output are HTML (broken into
seperate files) and PDF in a form that looks like it is a book.

Right now, I am using Red Hat 9.  Sometime in the next few days, I'll
go through Norman Walsh's book online at docbook.org and see if I can
slog through something.  It would be better if I had a real simple
"hello, world" type of tutorial on docbook XML.  Can someone point me
to easy to use information on DocBook XML?  Most of the documents I've
found are for the SGML tools.

Or, before I start on this, is there a better system to consider?

Thanks for any advice.

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