[Mirrored from: http://www.byte.co.uk/byte/bn_sgml.html, November 8, 1996]

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at 16:35 on 8/11/96

Standard Generalized Markup Language

What is SGML? Why is it important? Let us find out...


SGML or Standard Generalized Markup Language is a platform independent format for creating documents. Looking at the SGML acronym you might think it was similiar to the HTML used on the WWW. Right and wrong! SGML is the parent of HTML. HTML is basically a small part of SGML. HTML has certainly overshadowed it over the last few years but SGML is now showing signs of becoming well known in it's own right.

SGML is platform neutral, therefore if you want to show the same information on the WWW and on a CD-ROM you need only define it using SGML the once. SGML is not concerned with the medium used to show the document: Paper, CD-ROM or the internet.

SGML is complicated isn't it?

SGML is certainly more complicated than basic HTML, but that extra complexity is rewarded by a powerful and enriching interface that genuinely adds to the contents. As HTML becomes richer (with the advent of features such as frames for example) HTML itself is becoming more complicated anyway!

Like HTML, a SGML document is basically a text file with tags to denote hypertext features such as links and multi-media files. Like HTML you can link in files such as MPEG movies and sound into your document. With SGML you can also link in databases too.

What use is SGML then?

Because of it's multi-platform nature and the ability to link in external files and databases SGML is very suitable for large product catalogues. The same SGML source can be used on a CD-ROM and on the internet. SGML allows for powerful searches and the ability to extract data in a desired report format (such as a product sheet).

SGML is also suited to store large amounts of documentation in an archive. SGML allows for powerful search and retrevial systems.

How can I view an SGML document?

SoftQuad product a free version of their SGML browser. Your best bet is to download the file by clicking here. The program can be used as an add-on to your normal HTML web browser (such as Netscape). Therefore when you encounter a SGML file out on the WWW (usually the file has an .sgml extension) your browser will automatically load the file into your SGML helper app.

Where can I learn more? And find SGML documents?

This site was last updated 11th June 1996
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