DocBook XSL: a Complete Guide, Open XML XSL: an Incomplete Guide


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First my admission: my subscription to Brian Jones’ Blog, Open XML Formats, is treated with a cursory glance out of a general lack of interest. Every time I read it, the Microsoft elevator music keeps droning in my ears. So it is quite possible that I overlooked any mention of an Open XML initiative that matches the scale and scope of Bob Stayton’s DocBook XSL: The Complete Guide, DocBookXslStylesheets and DocBookToXhtml at the DocBook wiki.

My years long journey to hack together my software products, CleanHTML for Word 2000/2002 and CleanXHTML for Word 2003 influences my view that Microsoft ‘makes it difficult’ to transform its “open” XML data into open formats like XHTML. And I can hear Brian Jones sigh with a noise that says, ‘What more do these people want?’ After all Word 2007 “allows” you to:

  • Save a document as HTML.
  • Post an entire Word Document to a Blog using the popular Blog APIs.

But when I look at word 2007 this is what’s not seen in my view:

  • The ability to highlight a portion of a document and save that portion as HTML, XHTML, DocBook—and any other XML format that can be plugged into some kind of file conversion architecture.
  • The ability to highlight a portion of a document and send that portion as HTML, XHTML, DocBook—and any other XML/REST/SOAP format that can be plugged into some kind of Web services architecture.

A single document of prose can be used like a free-form database supporting multiple targets. What we have now to address “my problem” (since supposedly I’m the only guy in the world who has this problem), is Visual Studio Tools for Office. You might be able to guess that I’ve been working with this tool extensively and somehow I’m still slouching here writing these words. And Brian Jones sighs again and he might produce a list of Word features that have been around for years like:

  • The Apply transform option in the File > Save As… > Save as type: XML Document (*.xml) dialog.
  • The Schema Library dialog with a view to Schema Solutions.
  • The Templates and Add-ins dialog with the XML Expansion Packs tab.

Look at all these wonderful things Microsoft is “giving” to me. But somehow I still can’t right click on a highlighted Range of text and find a Send as XML command. Why put this feature into a Word Processor? “No one” will understand it—right?

Since Microsoft clearly has not “innovated” here, why can’t they in the very least copy what DocBook culture has produced and provide a CodePlex.com-like archive/compilation of all the XSL transforms we would need to freely move in and out of “Open” XML formats? Okay, Brian is getting winded here—here is his last list before he loses all patience with me (fictionally speaking):

Like all previous flirting with this issue, these articles are treated as ‘exotic edge cases’ as long as there is no central repository like that produced by DocBook people.