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Seybold Report on Publishing Systems has kindly made available the
text of a review for Liora Alschuler's book on SGML.  I have placed
an HTML version of the review on the SGML Web Page:
 
           http://www.sil.org/sgml/seyboldAlschuler.html
 
A copy of the text version is appended below.  The same issue of
SRPS contained a review of Turner/Douglass/Turner, README.1ST: SGML
for Writers and Editors.
 
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Review of Liora Alschuler, ABCD . . . SGML: A User's Guide to
Structured Information.
 
"The well-rounded guide to SGML. ABCD . . . SGML: A User's Guide to
Structured Information, by Liora Alschuler; Thomson Computer Press."
The Seybold Report on Publishing Systems 25/9 (January 29, 1995) 42.
 
Well researched, well organized, and, most important, well written, Liora
Alschuler's overview of SGML and its application to structuring
documents is among the most engaging works yet published on this subject.
The book not only covers the history of SGML but also lays out the issues
in building SGML systems, explains a variety of approaches based on
actual case studies, and provides a wealth of resources useful to both novice
and experienced SGML practitioners. If you are looking for a book that
puts SGML in perspective, this is it.
 
In contrast with other SGML primers, Alschuler focuses not on the
standard but on information and how structure can add value to
information. As a result, this book does an excellent job of explaining how
SGML relates to everyday publishing problems -- a perspective often
missing from texts that try to explain the inner workings of the language. It
also is refreshingly free of hyperbole so common to SGML texts. While
she is clearly a believer in SGML's potential, Alschuler is up-front and
direct about the role SGML plays and is frank about its costs and
limitations.
 
The book begins by relating the history of SGML and explaining what it is
and how it works. There are erudite comparisons with other technologies
-- WYSIWYG formatters, ODA, RTF, PDF and the Web -- that
concisely present the current state of affairs in the industry.
 
That Alschuler does not have an ax to grind is evident, for example, in her
treatment of WYSIWYG formatters. Where other SGML writers dismiss
them, Alschuler acknowledges their important role in the industry today
and their utility in specific situations. As she says herself, "Much of this
book is about how to find the right balance between [SGML and
non-SGML tools]."
 
In helping the reader make those decisions, Alschuler discusses tools, but
rightly places much more emphasis on process. There are in-depth chapters
on cost justification, document architectures, system design, data
conversion and SGML-based production.
 
A writer, not an implementer, Alschuler's process outlines are drawn from
an extensive study of the market, and her case studies are one of the best
aspects of this book. They are stories rich in detail yet succinct enough to
keep the reader engaged. They represent very different publishers with very
different problems, yet Alschuler ties them together, showing in each how
WYSIWYG, SGML and fielded data relate to the input, managing and
output processes. Alschuler devotes more than 100 pages to case studies,
offering in one place an impressively broad survey of practical
implementations of SGML in use today.
 
The compendium of resources that closes out this book, including an
overview of all of the public SGML initiatives, is a terrific companion to
the text. As a bonus, the book includes a diskette containing SoftQuad's
Panorama Pro SGML viewer and various samples and URLs.
 
Most SGML texts are aimed either at editorial staff or at technical staff.
Alschuler masterfully satisfies both audiences in a technical exposition that
is remarkably engaging to read.
 
[Review supplied to Robin Cover by Seybold via email, Date: 7 Feb 96 9:16:37
EDT, Message-Id: <[log in to unmask]>]
 
 
 
 
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Robin Cover                Email: [log in to unmask]  ("uta-ef-el-el")
6634 Sarah Drive
Dallas, TX  75236  USA     In case of link failure, use:
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Tel: (1 214) 709-3346 (w)
FAX: (1 214) 709-3380      SGML Page: http://www.sil.org/sgml/sgml.html
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