Ten Basic Questions
1) What is SGML?
ANSWER: SGML stands for "Standard Generalized Markup Language" (or
"Standard Goldfarb Mosher Lorie," but that's an inside joke).
Essentially, SGML is a method for creating interchangeable,
structured documents; with it, you can do the following:
- assemble a single document from many sources (such as SGML
fragments, word processor files, database queries, graphics,
video clips, and real-time data from sensing instruments);
- define a document structure using a special grammar called a
Document Type Definition (DTD);
- add markup to show the structural units in a document; and
- validate that the document follows the structure that you
defined in the DTD.
The official definition of SGML is in the international standard
ISO 8879:1986. For a list of general information on SGML,
including online tutorials, see the following link at Robin
Cover's SGML/XML Web Site (next question):
2) How do I find out more about SGML applications (i.e. DTDs),
projects, free tools, and related standards?
ANSWER: See Robin Cover's extensive SGML/XML web site at
The site is updated almost daily (or so NetMinder tells me), and
is the best source of both general and specific SGML information.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS START HERE!!! If you want to search for a
specific term or keyword, you can jump straight to the URL
For general questions, please feel free to post to the newsgroup
comp.text.sgml, once you're certain that you cannot find the
answer at Robin's or Steve Pepper's sites (for the latter, see
the next question).
3) How do I find out more about free and commercial SGML software
tools (such as editors, converters, formatters, and databases)?
ANSWER: See Steve Pepper's excellent Whirlwind Guide to SGML Tools
and Vendors at
4) Where can I buy or download a program to convert my
Postscript/Word/WordPerfect legacy documents to SGML automatically?
ANSWER: If you have any experience in construction, that's roughly
equivalent to asking where you can rent a machine to convert
bricks into a house automatically.
Accept that you'll have to do some programming (and possibly a lot
of manual intervention), then look at Steve Pepper's Whirlwind
Guide (see above) to find some software tools that can get you
5) Where can I buy or download a program to convert my SGML document
to HTML/RTF/Word/WordPerfect/Postscript automatically?
ANSWER: You _can_ do this automatically (it's more like converting
a house back to bricks), but usually not out of the box -- unless
someone has already done the job for you, you will have to use a
graphic interface or a programming language to tell the formatting
application what the document should look like. Again, Steve
Pepper's Whirlwind Guide (see above) lists some software tools
that can get you started.
6) Who's using SGML?
ANSWER: Government, many big industries, the military, academic
research projects (big and small), and everyone who uses the
World-Wide Web -- SGML consultants and developers are very busy.
For a list of major SGML initiatives in government and industry
(courtesy of Robin Cover), see
For a list of major SGML initiatives in academia, see
7) What's the difference between SGML and HTML?
ANSWER: HTML is an SGML application (a DTD and a set of processing
conventions). Most HTML browsers do not support some basic SGML
constructions, like arbitrary entities, but nearly all SGML
authoring tools are capable of producing good HTML documents.
For more information on HTML, see the HTML entry at Robin Cover's
SGML/XML Web Site, above.
8) What's the difference between SGML and XML?
ANSWER: Unlike HTML, XML is not an SGML application -- instead,
it's a set of simple conventions for using SGML without some of
the more esoteric features. It's still SGML, though.
For more information on XML, see the XML entry at Robin Cover's
SGML/XML Web Site, above.
9) Can I post job announcements to comp.text.sgml?
ANSWER: Sure, if they're real and SGML-related. It's much more
interesting to see job postings from the companies themselves than
One of the best signs of SGML's strength right now is that people
often complain about too many job postings in comp.text.sgml.
10) What about X? You didn't mention it.
ANSWER: Again, visit Robin Cover's and Steve Pepper's web sites
(questions 2 and 3) -- they are simply the best guides to SGML
information, and will tell you almost anything you want to know,
from where to download a certain DTD to what tools and standards
exist for producing formatted output from SGML documents.
__END OF FAQ__