More Flexible Formatting with SGMLtools

A brief overview of the latest SGMLtools is presented by one of its developers.

One of the biggest advantages of the new version is that it is very easy to customize—once you get the hang of DSSSL. As the previous part showed, you don't even need to know a lot about the backend. In DSSSL, you deal with fairly high-level stuff like font names without worrying about how these font names are dealt with in PostScript or groff documents.

The original DocBook DSSSL style sheets supplied by SGMLtools are meant to be customized. All you need to do is write your own style sheet that includes the original one and overrides what you want to customize, often just a few lines to tune parameters. In SGMLtools you'll find a few examples of these customizations. After you set up your own DSSSL style sheet, you must make sure SGMLtools uses it. Do this by giving the -d or --dsssl-spec option pointing to your DSSSL style sheet.

Migrating from Linuxdoc

The first question of many Linuxdoc users is, “what about my current documents?” The answer is, you'll have to migrate from Linuxdoc to DocBook within six months from the release date of SGMLtools 2. The package provides a tool to help you in the conversion process.

The first step in the migration process is to make sure your documents are compliant with the latest SGML-Tools 1 version, which will be 1.0.7 or newer. Install this software and run your documents through it to make sure they're up to date.

The second step is to convert your documents with the command sgmltools --backend=ld2db, which spits out DocBook documents. If this run succeeds, you can finalize the migration by reading up on DocBook and seeing whether you are satisfied with the result of the conversion. From this point on, you can continue to write in DocBook.

In order to give you some space for planning your conversion, we'll continue to support SGML-Tools 1 for six months after the release date of SGMLtools 2 (which is unknown now, but should occur fairly close to the publication date of this article—check the web site for details). After six months, SGML-Tools 1 will be removed from the web sites and as far as we are concerned, the Linuxdoc DTD will be history. We'll remind you in comp.os.linux.announce well in advance of this event, and of course, you're free to keep using SGML-Tools 1 for as long as you wish, but we recommend you take the trouble to learn DocBook and start using SGMLtools 2—it'll give you even more flexible formatting power.

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Cees de Groot has been an avid Linux user since the early days, and he has tried to pay back the great favour Linus did him by contributing small bits and pieces to various parts of the system. Since fall 1996 he has been maintaining SGMLtools. In the daytime, he is a Java consultant working for a small company specializing in Intranets. You can reach him as