I've always had an interest in markup and document formatting
languages, and have long used
for document formatting and XML and DocBook for markup, using the DSSSL DocBook
Stylesheets and OpenJade along
JadeTeX to produce HTML and PDF output. I've also used a
homebrewed application that produced Postscript output from Simplified
DocBook using Groff.
Unfortunately, I've not been particularly satisfied with the results.
Many of the tools involved are complicated to set up, some are
suffering from a lack of manpower for maintenance, and often it is
very difficult to customize the appearance of the generate output.
Groff is perhaps the simpliest to install, but I've no desire to write
in bare troff any more than I have in bare
groff and its
macro packages lack good support for PDF - in particular, pdfmarks.
LaTeX has good support for PDF (especially when you are using
pdfelatex), but it is difficult to customize the appearance of the
output, and there are a number of quirks when it comes to font
handling. 1 And the PDF output from the DSSSL DocBook Stylesheets
2 can be very ugly when you are doing complicated things, and since
JadeTeX it's even harder to customize the appearance of the
output than LaTeX .
While I've not found any general solution for the problem, I've have
run across something that looks promising: ConTeXt. It is a TeX macro package that provides about the
same level of structural markup as LaTeX but appears to be much more
customizable. 3 It also has very good support for interactive
documents, reasonably good manuals, and appears to have significant
development resources behind it. I think it would make a more suitable
As for those documents where XML markup is too much of a pain (say, things that should be easy to read as plain text, where the verbosity of XML tags overwhelms the text), I've found that the reStructuredText (part of the Docutils project) fits the bill nicely. Every since Steffan O'Sullivan produced the Fudge RPG in plain text format I've been looking for an easy way to turn something that looks like plain text into reasonably nicely formatted output. reStructuredText fits that bill nicely. It has enough structure to be useful without overloading the plain text with markup, it produces good looking output, and it's reasonably easy to process, with a DTD, an XML form, and an extensible implementation that's not too difficult to program. For things that I would otherwise be writing in plain text I'll be using reStructuredText from here on out, and I'm writing an reStructuredText to ConTeXt writer as I have time.
WYSIWYG? Well, that's a nice idea, but I've yet to find a system that works well for anything but the simpliest documents. I'd like to find a portable, open source WYSIWYG XML editor that supports DocBook, but they seem in short supply.
In particular, it's very annoying to have the ligatures disappear from printed output when using the standard Postscript fonts because Adobe Acrobat 's printer driver mishandles them.
I've not tried the XSL DocBook Stylesheets because in some ways the toolchain involved is even more complicated than for the DSSSL DocBook Stylesheets toolchain.
Doesn't that mean I'll be using
TeX, which is rather complicated to install and use? Well, yes. However, there are easy-to-use distributions of TeX that include ConTeXt for the Unix distributions that I use as well as for MS Windows (teTeX, for instance).