[Mirrored from: http://www.bradley.co.uk/], September 11, 1996
This page accompanies the book of the same name, to be published by Addison Wesley in November '96. At the moment it provides an overview of the book's contents, and some links to SGML related sites. In future it will contain updates, corrections and additional material.
The Concise SGML Companion is a compact book aimed at "hands-on" users of SGML. It explains all the important features of the language and includes several currently popular applications of its use, such as CALS Tables and HTML. It does NOT cover obsolete and little used features such as Link, Rank, Datatag and the system declaration, and it does not theorise at length about the benefits of using SGML.
The book is split into three sections: the main body, which describes the standard and various uses, the Road Map, which contains charts that illustrate the standard, and the Glossary, which contains almost 1,000 entries, making it a mini-dictionary of SGML and related terms.
Evangelism is kept to a minimum, but what there is can be found in this chapter. What do the words "Standard", "Generalized", "Markup" and "Language" mean in this context? The strengths of SGML are revealed, and its future (in conjunction with other emerging standards) is explored.
The building blocks and pre-cursors to SGML are explained. The underlying ASCII format is defined and placed in context. Traditional typesetting languages are compared with the SGML approach.
The markup that SGML adds to a text-based document is explained; including element tags and attributes, comments, marked sections and processing instructions. Finally, the issue of line-ending codes, and what effect they have, is discussed in full.
The relationship between the system rules, the document rules and the actual document itself is covered, including how they are both theorically and practically managed. The role of the parser is also covered.
An explanation of the creation and use of entities to aid document structure rule construction and actual document construction leads to a discussion on entity management and an explanation of the SGML Open catalog format.
The tags and techniques used to construct rules for a document type are covered. Ambiguous structures are explained. The use of entities to create versions of a DTD within the same file is also explained.
The syntax used to construct rules for a system specific implementation of SGML is covered.
The principles of hypertext cross-references leads to an explanation of SGML facilities to support links and practical alternatives for devising a scheme to add unique link values to objects. This chapter ends with a brief introduction to HyTime linking.
The tagging of tabular material is problematic. WYSIWYG authoring requires a popular standard to reward software effort. The CALS model has become the de facto standard, and if fully analysed in this chapter.
The tagging of mathematical formulae is problematic. WYSIWYG authoring requires a popular standard to reward software effort. The ISO 9573 model is one of the most popular models, and if fully analysed in this chapter.
The base format behind the Web is HTML. This chapter covers the SGML tags used by HTML, including those added to the latest release of HTML (3.2).
The freely available parers developed by James Clark are invaluable for simple entity management, validation and outpu conversion.
Miscellaneous charts that would have broken the flow in earlier chapters are grouped into this chapter, including character entity reference charts and the DTD for the book.
The SGML standard comprises a number of rules that form a hierarchy. These rules are illustrated in 120 inter-linked charts to aid detailed navigation thorugh the standard. Each rule is also the target of links from the main text and the Glossary.
The very extensive glossary is closer to a dictionary of SGML and related terms, including almost 1,000 entries (and 4,000 cross-references). It includes related standards and data formats, typesetting concepts, SGML keywords and product charts (cross-referenced to the Road Map).
The Concise SGML Companion is aimed at technicians, but does not provide an exhaustive description of the language. For further reading, the definitive work is "The SGML Handbook" by Charles Goldfarb (the originator of SGML), published by the Oxford University Press, ISBN: 0-19-853737-9.
The Concise SGML Companion is not aimed at managers, or other decision makers who are not yet convinced of the benefits of SGML. A good introductory work containing many case studies is the "ABCD...SGML - A User's Guide to Structured Information" by Liora Alschuler, published by International Thomson Computer Press, ISBN: 1-850-32197-3.