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DocBook: The Definitive Guide Paperback – 7 Nov 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 648 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (7 Nov. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565925807
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565925809
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 3.5 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,988,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

The DocBook SGML specification allows publishers to markup text content to be used in traditional print as well as on the Web. DocBook: TheDefinitive Guide examines and catalogues 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, etc. The heart of DocBook: The Definitive Guide lies in its full reference of more than300 DocBook elements, organised 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 customisation, 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, stylesheet 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,customising DocBook, converting DocBook to XML .END


"……It's a top-quality reference, which is exactly what DocBook authors need." -- Linux Weekly News Feb 2000

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By CMcC on 18 Feb. 2002
Format: Paperback
When someone mentions 'markup language', you probably think of HTML. That's certainly one option, but Docbook is more flexible, more portable and easier to write. Docbook is another SGML-based language (and can be XML-compatible if you wish) which can be used to produce articles, books and publications in a huge variety of formats (Postscript, HTML, Tex, PDF...).
This book contains two main sections. The first is an introduction to the Docbook language. It provides an excellent tutorial suitable for everyone from beginners to die-hard SGML hackers. Although your grandmother might have difficulty with it, it should be fine for everyone else.
The second part is a comprehensive reference covering all of the Docbook elements. Alongside a description and the relevant DTD entry there are examples for almost all entries. This is extremely helpful if you're not sure which element you should be using.
My only serious complaint is that not enough information is provided on using Docbook tools to convert Docbook to whatever output format you use. The guide provided is over-simplified and lacking in details; it fails to cover tools such as sgml2html and sgml2ps, and instead concentrates on older, no longer developed tools which you probably don't have.
That aside, this book is excellent for anyone who wants to write something without getting stuck with the non-portable, non-standard, inflexible markup provided by word processors or the vague generalities of HTML. Definitely worth a read, but check the man / help pages for sgmltools rather than this book's appendix when you're installing the tools.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Excellent but dense! 2 Mar. 2000
By Glenn Booker - Published on
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!
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Good reference with a couple of flaws 12 May 2001
By Mike Christie - Published on
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. This section is well-intentioned but not much use--the error messages are just too poorly written to be useful. They do give you the line number though, so that's usually where you have to start.
Installation and setup is another matter. There's an appendix which is helpful but there are a lot of pieces to get right and you should be prepared to take some time over this. Get help from someone who's done it before, if possible.
I would have liked to see a diagram of how all the pieces fit together--SGML, the parser, transformation, the DSSSL files, and the output formats. I had to draw my own to understand it.
Overall, recommended, for the explanatory material and the reference section; but it could be improved.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A Useful Book for SGML/DocBook Authors 1 Jun. 2001
By Christopher B. Browne - Published on
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.
The existing tools for DocBook have the strength (over, say, using raw HTML) that they can automatically generate internal crossreferences, tables of contents, and the likes. A weakness is that other sorts of references (indexes, bibliographies) likely need programmed intervention. [Be prepared to write code...]
If you're planning to write technical documentation using DocBook, this is an excellent reference that you will likely greatly appreciate having. Personally, I prefer having a "dead trees" edition to page through to mousing through the online versions.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Great reference to help you build your DTD... 1 Dec. 2003
By Manny Hernandez - Published on
Format: Paperback
If you are (like I am) in a situation where you need to serve two masters with a DTD you're trying to build (the online and the print world), after your first or second rough passes at putting it together yourself (there's a great many tools out there to help you in this, of which I personally recommend XMLSpy from Altova), then is when O'Reilly's DocBook will come in handy. The matter of the fact is that, no matter how much brain you put into the creation of a multi-purpose DTD: these guys thought it over several times a while before you, but granted that you might not have a use for a vast majority of the elements presented in DocBook, it will help get your feet out of the mud when in trouble and you don't know how to deal with a very particular situation.
The only "negative" part about it is that, with its print date of 1999, it is clearly outdated, but who cares, when even an outdated version of the standard will be considerably better than what you can come up with on your own!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Definitive Guide 12 April 2002
By Geoffrey E. Quelch - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I recommend this book to anyone starting on the road to DocBook. Not only is it useful for the new user, like I was, it has a comprehensive reference section for all the elements of the DocBook SGML.
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