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1 Introduction

Authors of scientific or technical texts often experience the following two problems:

  1. They want to focus on contents, i.e. the actual ideas and a pleasant language, but they feel forced to take care of totally different things like page margins, line skips, fonts, table layout etc.
  2. They want to (or must) have the end product in different formats, e.g. PDF, RTF (for wordprocessors), and if possible HTML.

Authors of non-technical texts may face very similar problems.

The solution is to use XML. XML is a generic file format that has to be adapted for special purposes. tbook is one of these XML applications. It was inspired by LaTeX and can be used for documents typically written with it, although you don't need to know about LaTeX in order to use tbook.

tbook solves the above problems:

  1. tbook documents do not contain any layout information. They consist only of textual contents and structure. Stylesheets that are automatically applied later turn the document into a pleasant output.
  2. Theoretically, tbook files can be converted to virtually all other document formats. The conversions are lossless and dependable. Practically, complete conversions to Postscript, PDF, HTML, and DocBook already exist.

    Postscript and PDF are generated via LaTeX which allows for very good layout quality. DocBook can be converted into fairly good RTFs that can be read by most wordprocessors.

Some people may dislike to lose control over the layout. These people can customise tbook's behaviour in many ways. However, the strict separation of contents and layout always remains intact.

Another difficulty is that XML files are text files, and they look rather intimidating at first sight. There are only few good XML editors available so far. However, some of them help you greatly nevertheless, e.g. GNU Emacs and Cooktop1 and new editing systems come into existence almost every week.


[1] Windows only