© 2009 Ugur Akinci
DocBook is a set of tools for implementing XML (Extended Markup Language)-based structured documentation. It is developed back in 1991 and is widely used today by those technical writers who generate single-sourced documentation. It is especially well suited for software, hardware and networking documentation.
A DocBook set includes the DocBook DTD (Document Type Definition) to determine all the relationships between all document elements, a collection of pre-defined XML tags to mark up the content with, DocBook XSL stylesheet, and processing tools to apply the XSL stylesheet to the DocBook markup file.
DocBook does not determine how your technical document will look like once it is published as a web site, help file, a PDF file, etc. What it defines is the logical relationship between the ELEMENTS of a document. For example, whether an “Introduction” should follow a “Header,” or a “Table Cell Header” should be followed by a “Table Cell Content,” etc.
DocBook comes with its own predefined elements including the following:
A “set” which is a collection of “books.”
A “book” which is a collection of “parts.”
A “part” which is a collection of “chapters.”
These elements are gathered in three broad categories of Structural, Block-level, and Inline elements. DocBook has rules guiding the behavior of all these elements like which block-level elements can be nested inside which other block-level elements, etc.
To convert a DocBook file into a usable end product (like PDF, Postscript, RTF or an HTML web page) you need to use a DocBook XSL stylesheet.
If you’d like to get ahead in your career as a technical writer who keeps up with the advances in technology and who is ready for the future, familiarize yourself with XML publishing in general and DocBook in particular.
The chances are, one these days, during an interview for one of those high-paying technical writing jobs, the recruiter or the HR manager will ask you whether you know anything about DocBook or not. That’s why you should start learning it now. Get ready for that day.