Textual markup languages (was Re: What YAML engine do you use?)

Alan Kennedy alanmk at hotmail.com
Sun Jan 23 20:06:11 CET 2005

[Alan Kennedy]
 >> From what I've seen, pretty much every textual markup targetted
 >> for web content, e.g. wiki markup, seems to have grown/evolved
 >> organically, meaning that it is either underpowered or overpowered,
 >> full of special cases, doesn't have a meaningful object model, etc.

[Fredrik Lundh]
 > I spent the eighties designing one textual markup language after
 > another, for a wide variety of projects (mainly for technical
 > writing).  I've since come to the conclusion that they all suck
 > (for exactly the reasons you mention above, plus the usual
 > "the implementation is the only complete spec we have" issue).

Thanks Fredrik, I thought you might have a fair amount of experience in 
this area :-)

[Fredrik Lundh]
 > the only markup language I've seen lately that isn't a complete mess
 > is John Gruber's markdown:
 >     http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/
 > which has an underlying object model (HTML/XHTML) and doesn't have
 > too many warts.  not sure if anyone has done a Python implementation
 > yet, though (for html->markdown, see
 > http://www.aaronsw.com/2002/html2text/ ), and I don't think it
 > supports footnotes (HTML doesn't).

Thanks for the pointer. I took a look at Markdown, and it does look 
nice. But I don't like the dual syntax, e.g. switching into HTML for 
tables, etc: I'm concerned that the syntax switch might be too much for 

[Alan Kennedy]
 >> If I can't find such a markup language, then I might instead end up
 >> using a WYSIWYG editing component that gives the user a GUI and
 >> generates (x)html.
 >> htmlArea: http://www.htmlarea.com/
 >> Editlet:  http://www.editlet.com/
 >> But I'd prefer a markup solution.

[Fredrik Lundh]
 > some of these are amazingly usable.  have you asked your users what
 > they prefer?  (or maybe you are your user? ;-)

Actually, I'm looking for a solution for both myself and for end-users 
(who will take what they're given ;-).

For myself, I think I'll end up picking Markdown, ReST, or something 
comparable from the wiki-wiki-world.

For the end-users, I'm starting to think that GUI is the only way to go. 
The last time I looked at this area, a few years ago, the components 
were fairly immature and pretty buggy. But the number of such components 
and their quality seems to have greatly increased in recent times.

Particularly, many of them seem to address an important requirement that 
I neglected to mention in my original list: unicode support. I'll be 
processing all kinds of funny characters, e.g. math/scientific symbols, 
european, asian and middle-eastern names, etc.


alan kennedy
email alan:              http://xhaus.com/contact/alan

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