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DocBook: The Definitive Guide

6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1565925809
ISBN-10: 1565925807
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Editorial Reviews Review

The DocBook SGML specification allows publishers to mark up text content to be used in traditional print as well as on the Web. DocBook: The Definitive Guide examines and catalogs the entirety of the DocBook specification and will be useful to anyone who uses SGML to publish documents.

DocBook uses SGML to structure the contents of a book, identifying such elements as authors, chapters, headings, and so on. The heart of DocBook: The Definitive Guide lies in its full reference of over 300 DocBook elements, organized alphabetically (from "Abbrev" to "Year"). The syntax of each element is described, along with sample SGML code illustrating its proper usage.

This book assumes a working knowledge of SGML, though basic concepts are described during the introduction. Later reference sections present a wide range of DocBook "entities." (These are values that can be used to describe custom content within a DocBook document.) Character entities, codes used to describe diacritics and mathematical symbols, are also listed.

Later sections address DocBook customization, including removal of unused elements. As you might expect, no single publishing scheme employs every SGML element available; however, like any good reference, it includes a discussion of each element that could conceivably be used. Another useful section discusses the relationship between DocBook and XML, including the fairly simple conversion possibilities for cross-translating these markup types.

DocBook is a powerful way to distribute books, both in traditional print and online. Provided you have some knowledge of SGML, anyone who makes use of the DocBook specification will benefit from this worthy reference. --Richard Dragan

Topics covered: DocBook basics and SGML/XML; publishing books with DocBook; style sheet languages: FOSIs, DSSSL, CSS, and XSL; DocBook element reference; attribute entities; class entities; common entities; module entities; local attribute entities; mixture entities; module parameter entities; role attribute parameter entities; character entities; customizing DocBook; converting DocBook to XML.

About the Author

Norm Walsh is a Production Tools Specialist at O'Reilly and Associates' Cambridge office. Before Norm joined ORA, he was a research assistant at UMass, Amherst where he earned his master's degree in computer science.

Leonard Muellner has been implementing and supporting the production of O'Reilly books marked up in DocBook since 1994.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 648 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media (November 7, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565925807
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565925809
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,487,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Booker on March 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book describes the de facto standard for creating technical documents - the Docbook Data Type Definition (DTD). Docbook is used by most of the major Linux vendors, the Linux Documentation Project, and many large companies. Docbook is a specific set of SGML tags which can be used to create technical books, articles, etc. The book is largely a very clear description of each tag which exists in the Docbook DTD. The appendices cover issues like installation and getting started, which are too brief for my taste. The authors give a brief intro to SGML, describe the structure of a Docbook document, and then jump into the tag descriptions. The problem is, there is no such thing as a Docbook application, like MS Word or something. Either you have to write documents by hand in a text processor (e.g. Notepad or vi), or you need a terribly expensive SGML tool to automate the process for you (e.g. Arbortext's products). It took me quite a while to understand that!
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mike Christie on May 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
The DocBook standard is a way of marking up a document so it can be printed in multiple ways. The benefit is that the document you create contains only the content -- if you want to generate web pages, or a printable file, the same source text file will do both for you. This can save you a lot of time in maintaining parallel print and web versions.
I used this book to create an employee handbook for my company in both print and web formats, and found it very handy, though it does have a couple of problems. Good things first: it contains a complete reference to every element in the DocBook standard, so you can look up Note or SimpleList or Article or RevHistory and find everything you need to know. This is the bulk of the book, in fact, and is what it is mostly useful for.
However, even these entries have one big flaw: they don't give you much of an indication of where they can be used. For example, if you want to add a Note to your text, can you do it from the section level, or do you have to be inside a para tag? The book won't give you this information if you look up Note--you have to look up all the different things it might be inside to find it. In practice this isn't too bad since you tend to settle down into a default set of tags you know well; it's more of a problem when you run into an exception.
The first five chapters give you an overview of SGML and XML, and then take you straight into the basics of creating DocBook documents. This section is good explanatory material and will definitely help orient you if you're not sure what DocBook can do for you. There's also a section on how to interpret OpenJade errors, which are among the least comprehensible error messages I've ever seen.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Christopher B. Browne on May 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book presents full detail on the use of the DocBook "DTD," documenting the various sorts of elements that can be used to structure a sophisticated technical document.
DocBook supports all the sorts of titles, subtitles, paragraphs, tables, itemized environments, and such that are likely to be needed to produce something like a book, and this book documents in goodly detail the hundreds of such "document elements," and how they are put together.
There is an introductory section which swiftly runs through an overview of SGML/XML, and describes how DocBook may be customized. The book contains more documentation about the DSSSL rendering language than seems to be available anywhere else, although if there is to be disappointment in the book, it is in that "more than anywhere else" still isn't quite enough.
The body of the book then goes into detail on each and every document element. This is necessarily dry material, fortunately combined with often-humorous examples of how to use the elements.
What may NOT be obvious from the book is what tools should be used to edit DocBook documents, and what the production process should be like. Briefly, the more sophisticated the text editor, the better (in a word, Emacs!), and production usually to involve some sort of "batch" process that transforms DocBook into HTML, RTF, or TeX output.
The most visible users of DocBook are the many "Open Source" and "Free Software" projects that often surround Linux. Perhaps most well-known is the Linux Documentation Project, though DocBook is used for MANY other things. I prepare my own web pages using DocBook, for instance.
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