This introductory section contains pointers to general information on the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML). The documents referenced are designed to answer questions like "What is SGML?" and "Why is SGML important?" and "Who uses SGML?" and "What are the principal features of encoding notations used in SGML?"
- SGML: Introductions and Overviews
- SGML FAQs (Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions")
- History of Generalized Markup and SGML
A number of general introductions to SGML may be found on the Internet. Popular misconceptions about SGML abound, however: the initiate is warned not to believe just everything written about SGML. Short articles in the trade journals are notably inaccurate. Of the online SGML introductions and tutorials known to me, the following are of high or reasonable quality. The TEI "Gentle Introduction to SGML" cited below is especially good -- probably the best intermediate-depth SGML introduction available online. For XML in particular, see "Introducing the Extensible Markup Language (XML)."
TEI's "A Gentle Introduction to SGML." Canonical and current HTML version: available from the UIC TEI Web server, or from Oxford: http://sable.ox.ac.uk/ota/teip3sg/. In text format: FTP from UIC, or FTP from the SGML Repository. Read a rich hypertext version from: Electronic Book Technologies (EBT); or UVA Gentle Introduction, or from UMich Gentle Introduction. An HTML version (UVA), or a plain text version on the local Web server. Translated into Russian by Boris Tobotras: HTML or SGML format, [local archive copy].
ArborText's White Paper Getting Started with SGML: A Guide to the Standard Generalized Markup Language and Its Role in Information Management, available online.
SoftQuad Inc.'s introduction to SGML: The SGML PRIMER. SoftQuad's Quick Reference Guide to the Essentials fo the Standard: The SGML Needed for Reading a DTD and Marked-Up Documents and Discussing Them Reasonably. See online: (1) SGML Primer: Introduction, and (2) The SGML Primer: Main Text. See the bibliographic entry for further details on obtaining the paper print version.
What is SGML and How Does it Help?, by Lou Burnard. See the official HTML version on its canonical WWW server, or the local mirror copy. An earlier plain text version was online here. Or, see and consult the full bibliographic entry.
Brief and informal response to "What is SGML" by Erik Naggum, posted to CTS. Read it twice for good measure.
"The SGML Puzzle: The Pieces and How They Fit Together." SGML/XML '97 paper. "Various components of an SGML system are examined using a graphical framework; where applicable, software applications and the relevance of XML are reviewed within this framework. Using a broad concept of an SGML document, the following tools which work with these documents are discussed, including their interrelationships: authoring, conversion, document management, and output."
Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Markup Language (ETD-ML) User's Guide, by Neill A. Kipp (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). Note: This User's Guide to the ETD markup language provides a simple but very clear overview of SGML encoding constructs using annotated examples with graphical models.
"An Introduction to the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML)", by Martin Bryan (The SGML Centre); [mirror copy].
"SGML Introduction - An Introduction to the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML)", from the University of Waterloo. This SGML tutorial module is part of a larger course "English 210E -- Technical Writing on the World-Wide Web," sponsored by the English Department of the University of Waterloo. See the main link to the tutorial.
"What is SGML and Why Should I Use It?" The most recent version (revised by R. Cover) is available on the ISUG Web site. Probably written originally by Michael Popham and Paul Ellison. See also the original version at Exeter, or the document in mirror copy on the local Web server.
"Introduction to Generalized Markup Languages," by Richard Lander.
"A Practical Introduction to SGML." Prepared by Michel Goossens and Janne Saarela, CERN. "...discusses the basic ideas of SGML and looks at a few interesting tools... [June 1995]
A token detractor: Darrell R. Raymond, Frank Wm. Tompa, and Derick Wood. "Markup Reconsidered." Department of Computer Science, Technical Report No. 356. 1993. The University of Western Ontario. ISBN: 0-7714-1504-4. 15 pages, 32 references. See the published Abstract for further comments, and the full bibliographic entry for availability of the document in Postscript format on the Internet.
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Creation of a general and adequate FAQ file for SGML has proven elusive. Only an SGML expert is qualified to write the the most sensitive parts of the FAQ document, and the SGML experts are currently overworked. However, here is a list of several current and past attempts (some abortive) at preparing and maintaining FAQ documents. Some of the information in the FAQ documents is now out of date, but the core information is relatively timeless.
- Shorter General SGML FAQ Document: SGML FAQ: Ten Basic Questions. Written originally and maintained by David Megginson. [Was: 'A current [August 1997] FAQ document created for Usenet Newsgroup comp.text.sgml by David Megginson of Microstar Software Ltd.. This FAQ document is posted to CTS by John Lamp on the 15th of each month. Also archived at: http://lamp.man.deakin.edu.au/sgml/sgmlfaq.txt.
- Longer Technical FAQ Document: The SGML FAQ Book: Understanding the Foundation of HTML and XML, by Steve DeRose. Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1997. See the bibliographic entry for full details, or the Detailed Table of Contents, which includes the list of "Questions" answered in the book.
- SGML FAQ document from the SGML Repository; [mirror copy]
- Not the comp.text.sgml Frequently Asked Questions List." Updated 1 April 2002 (or later). From: http://www.flightlab.com/~joe/sgml/faq-not.txt
- NOT the comp.text.sgml FAQ. By Joe English. 1999-04-01 and previously. Printed in <TAG> Volume 13, Number 4 (April 1999).
- SGML FAQ from Exeter; [mirror copy]
- "SGML: Answers to Basic Questions." Written by Robin Cover for the International SGML Users' Group.
- SGML FAQ dated (about) 05/18/93 available via email: Send the command GET SGML FAQ on a single line in the body of an email message to firstname.lastname@example.org
- SGML FAQ on the SIL GOPHER, compliments of Michael Popham and Erik Naggum
- Email: email@example.com. Try possible home page of Jeffrey C. Ollie for attempt at writing a DTD for an SGML FAQ)
- Jeffrey McArthur (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) for yet another attempt)
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Note: I once had a research project underway which would have resulted in a written history of "the beginnings of SGML." I discovered, in the process of investigation, that there are a lot of strong feelings about those beginnings; various people have their own versions of "history." It appears certain to me that at least these three ideas were common already in the 1960's, often within distinct communities which rarely talked to each other: (a) the notion of separating "content and structure" encoding from specifications for [print] processing; (b) the notion of using names for markup elements which identified text objects "descriptively" or "generically"; (c) the notion of using a (formal) grammar to model structural relationships between encoded text objects. Some of these intellectual streams eventually flowed into the standards work where they took a particular canonical shape, and some important intellectual work developed outside the standards arena. How many of the "fundamental" notions of current SGML (ISO 8879:1986) were (first, best) articulated within efforts that may be reckoned as belonging, genetically or otherwise, to "the beginnings of SGML" will probably remain a matter of personal interpretation rather than of public record. If I ever complete the writeup from the materials collected so far, the picture will reveal a somewhat broader base for the "beginnings of SGML" than is documented in other published treatments of this topic to date. -- Robin Cover
- "Brief History" (SGML Users' Group) [also available from the SGML Repository]
- SVG Markup Timeline from ISGMLUG "This SVG file allows users to view important events in the development of SGML/XML and related standards."
- "The SGML History Niche", by Charles F. Goldfarb. Goldfarb says: "For history buffs, [here are] some reliable papers on the early history of SGML and its precursor, GML. I invented SGML in 1974, and led the technical efforts of several hundred people for a dozen years that developed it into its present form as an International Standard."
- A Brief History of Document Markup (by Dennis G. Watson of FAIRS [ Florida Agricultural Information Retrieval System]) (URL was before January 1995: ae038 [contact: email@example.com]
- DeRose and Durand history of generalized markup: [withdrawn]
- Tributes to the memory of Yuri Rubinsky for his influential role in advancing SGML
- Tributes to the memory of William W. Tunnicliffe, early pioneer and advocate for the development and adoption of SGML
- FIPS 152 Withdrawn (October 1996)