15.031 obstacles to humanities computing: SGML authoring

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Mon May 21 2001 - 01:36:10 EDT

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                    Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 31.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Mon, 21 May 2001 06:29:26 +0100
             From: cbf@socrates.Berkeley.EDU
             Subject: Re: SGML authoring solutions

    Kirk Lowery sent me this privately. I forward it to HUMANIST, along with
    my comments, because I think it is an admirable example of what a single
    scholar working alone can accomplish and also of the obstacles that still
    need to be overcome.


    Many thanks!

    I've worked with EMACS on Windows, and I'm afraid that I didn't like it at
    all. I think that once you get the hang of it, it does everything that you
    say it will do; but it is absolutely counter-intuitive for anyone who has
    never used UNIX.

    I think that what you describe is precisely the situation that we need to
    get away from. It should _not_ be necessary for scholars to become
    computer experts in order to do the work for which we have been trained.

    You should not have had to spend uncounted hours to get to this level; and
    I think that it is a real indictment of humanities computing as a
    discipline that you have had to do so.

    Charles Faulhaber The Bancroft Library UC Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    (510) 642-3782 FAX (510) 642-7589 cfaulhab@library.berkeley.edu

    On Wed, 16 May 2001, Kirk Lowery wrote:

    > Charles,
    > I'm responding to your posting to the HUMANIST. I'm a brand-new
    > subscriber, and there was a glitch setting up my account, and I cannot yet
    > post there. Since I fit exactly the kind of person your describing --
    > largely independent scholar with little funding, and none to waste on
    > commercial SGML/XML software, I have been searching systematically for
    > solutions for over four years.
    > The short answer to your question is: I have found no easy-to-use
    > inexpensive software for authoring TEI conformant documents. I have found
    > a free (!) solution which is practical and meets my needs in creating
    > documents and data which conform to XML/SGML DTDs. They have all the
    > features one needs. There is a learning curve. But, in my opinion, not a
    > terrible one. Most scholars in my circumstances are used to making the
    > trade-off of learning-curve to money.
    > These solutions may be already known to you:
    > XML authoring solution: TEI has not yet been completely "XML'ized", but
    > TEILite has been. The simplest setup I know is Paul Kinnucan's XAE XML
    > Authoring Environment found at <http://xae.sunsite.dk/>. It requires
    > 1. Emacs
    > 2. A Java VM
    > 3. The XAE package
    > Emacs is available for all platforms. NTEmacs works quite well in Windows:
    > I use it daily. The package includes other needed elements: PSGML emacs
    > mode, Saxon XML parser and documentation. A review of the package can be
    > found at <http://www.xmlhack.com/read.php?item=1029>. The installation of
    > Emacs is the hardest part; after that, one must just place a couple lines
    > in ones emacs configuration file and you're all set to go. I have yet to
    > integrate TEILite, but XAE comes with DocBook, so one can simply follow
    > that as an example.
    > But if one wants to use the full TEI, then the matter is much more
    > complex. The best solution in this case is to follow the NTSGML tutorial,
    > which steps one through an SGML publishing solution for Windows. The URL
    > is <http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/hoenicka_markus/ntsgml.html>.
    > This was the best solution I had found until I discovered the XAE package,
    > for my focus is more on XML than plain SGML. I have worked my way through
    > the tutorial/installation many times, installing this solution on any
    > number of desktops and laptops for myself and others. It works very well,
    > but takes a number of hours to download, install and configure everything.
    > If you do choose to go this route and have more than one installation to
    > do, then I recommend that someone with strong computer skills download
    > everything, burn a CD-R, and then install the complete system for each
    > scholar's machine for them; then perhaps have them step through some of
    > Hoenicka's "First Steps With..." sections in the tutorial to get them
    > started.
    > Here's what I like about EMACS+PSGML as an author doing markup:
    > o I can insert markup from menus
    > o it won't let me do invalid markup as I go
    > o it will let me know what elements are available at a given point
    > o it will give me information about the content model for an element
    > (crucial for complex DTDs like TEI or DocBook) on the fly
    > o syntax highlighting makes reading, composition and editing *much*
    > easier (I won't do markup anymore without it; too error prone otherwise)
    > o validation, parsing and generation of target formats (TeX, HTML, PDF,
    > RTF, etc.) are done within EMACS so I don't have to remember commandline
    > syntax
    > o almost all of the standard text editor functions can be accessed from
    > the menu, so I don't have to remember all the myriad key combinations
    > (although I've found learning the PSGML key bindings to really speed up
    > my productivity).
    > I hope this helps. I have spent uncounted hours experimenting and
    > searching for solutions and have found software that is truly remarkable
    > in its functionality and thoughtfulness. Perhaps other scholars may be
    > able to avoid my frustrations and cut directly to being productive content-
    > producers.
    > Best wishes,
    > Kirk
    > ________________________________________________________________________
    > Kirk E. Lowery, Ph.D. <Kirk@leningradensis.org>
    > Associate Director, Westminster Hebrew Institute
    > General Editor, Project "eL", The XML Leningrad Codex
    > Chair, Computer Assisted Research Group, Society of Biblical Literatur

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