Appendix B. DocBook Variants and Future Directions

1. DocBook Variants

The DocBook community has developed several variants that, while not part of the normative specification, have proven to be useful. These include:

Simplified DocBook

Simplified DocBook is a proper subset of DocBook. Therefore, any valid instance will also be valid against the full DocBook schema. The objective is to provide a significantly smaller schema that is useful for articles and other small documents. As of the publication of this book, the latest version of Simplified DocBook was based on DocBook V4.5. Further information can be found at http://www.docbook.org/schemas/simplified.

DocBook website

The DocBook website schema is a customization of the schema designed for building websites. There is also support in the DocBook stylesheets for this schema. As of the publication of this book, there is a version of the schema based on DocBook V5.0 under development. Information about the DocBook website and how to use it can be found in DocBook XSL: The Complete Guide [Stayton07] and at http://www.dpawson.co.uk/docbook/website/. The latter has information about the DocBook V5.0 version of the schema.

DocBook slides

This schema is a customization for making slide sets. The schema and stylesheets can be found at http://docbook.sourceforge.net as part of the open source DocBook stylesheet distribution.

2. Future Directions

With the introduction of DocBook V5.0, there have been several new initiatives started to take advantage of the increased flexibility and customizability of the standard. Two of these initiatives have become subcommittees of the OASIS DocBook Technical Committee:

OASIS DocBook Publisher’s Subcommittee

This subcommittee is chartered to develop and maintain official variants of DocBook in support of the publishing industry. In May, 2009, this subcommittee released The DocBook Publishers Schema Version 1.0, a draft based on the DocBook V5.0 standard.

OASIS DocBook eLearning Subcommittee

This subcommittee will develop enhancements to the DocBook standard for eLearning applications, including materials for online learning, instructor-led training and other related educational activities.

2.1. DocBook Assembly Mechanism

In addition to these two subcommittees, there is a current effort to create markup for an “assembly” capability to better support development of documents using a modular approach.

Most modular methodologies use a topic-oriented approach, where writers create independent units of information that are meant to stand alone. Topics are then collected into a library in much the same way that programmers create libraries of functions. Authors select the topics they need to assemble the documentation for a particular system from the library.

In order to support modular methodologies, you need support for marking up individual topics, which DocBook does well. You also need support for some kind of “map” or “assembly” file that identifies which topics are required for a particular deliverable, and at least for print deliverables, what order they should be presented in.

The proposed DocBook assembly would serve this purpose. While still under consideration as this book is being written, the general outline of an assembly is clear. It would identify a collection of resources (which could include topics and other modules), an ordering of those resources for a particular document, a set of relationships between resources, and the transformations that are to be applied to the collection.

While DocBook already supports many aspects of topic-oriented writing, the assembly mechanism is being designed to provide a more capable and intuitive model for this type of methodology.