reStructured Text vs. XML

Thursday 13 February 2003

reStructured Text is another near-plain-text format for structuring text so that it can be transmogrified into a number of other useful formats. This is the right way to go: give people something familiar and forgiving to deal with, and have the computers pick up the slack.

I think this is one of the reasons Palm Grafitti worked out: it was almost ordinary writing, or close enough that people could remember it, while also being constrained enough for the computer to deal with.

Java understood this with their JavaDoc format: just enough extra junk to make it structured for the computer. It’s one of the things that truly surprised me about C#: they use XML tags in comments to structure the in-code documentation. Seems like a high barrier to acceptance to me.

It’s also one of the things that should get fixed about Ant and XSLT: their reliance on XML as an input format. There are already some proposals about this. XML wasn’t meant to be typed by people.

(Nerdly Ironic Disclaimer) To produce this website, I write XSLT stylesheets (in XML), and all of the content is authored in XML by hand (usually in Notepad). That doesn’t mean it’s the right way to do it!

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