Structured Editing and Tagging Tools

January 10, 1998

Seybold Report on Internet Publishing
Vol 2, No 5
January, 1998

As noted above, the market for editing software is undergoing consolidation. That fits in with the notion that most text finds its way into SGML today by way of data conversion, not structured editing. That’s likely to continue with XML, until we see dramatic changes in these offerings. Depending on how they choose to implement it, Microsoft’s planned support for XML within Microsoft Office may be such a change. Then again, it may take new entrants, such as Trellix, to bring XML authoring to the mainstream.

The best news about editing wasn’t about editing text at all, but about the prominence of style sheet editing and style sheet design as a feature within established products such as Inso’s DynaTag ArborText’s Cedar. Back when DSSSL was just ISO whistling in the wind, the rationale for a separate style specification language was a difficult case to make to the WYSIWYG public, which had just grabbed onto the mouse and couldn’t get enough of dragging and dropping. Besides, DSSSL (though elegant and powerful) was so complex that the barriers to implementation were daunting. Vendors ignored it.

Today, just as HTML made the Internet safe for increasingly sophisticated markup, so we expect that Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and XML (and eventually XSL—Extensible Style Language) will make the Web safe for increasingly sophisticated style-sheet-based formatting. Style sheet editors will have to follow.

In terms of editors of text and style, we are still in the stages of infancy, analogous to the pre-VisiCalc era of statistical applications or the early WordStar era of document editing. Still, several of the tools shown in Washington, and the airtime given to them, indicate that "Why do I need a separate style sheet?" is not a question that will go begging for very long.

Indications from composition vendors that they will accept/support XSL style sheets, although they have not made plans for style sheet editors, should encourage this trend.

That said, one important product reviewed below, Corel WordPerfect, true to its word processing origins, is in the old, WYSIWYG tradition, which blurs the distinction between structural markup and style application and does not yet support any of the industry-standard style sheets.