[rfc-i] [Tools-discuss] Direction of the RFC Format Development effort

George, Wes wesley.george at twcable.com
Tue Oct 15 12:44:48 PDT 2013

> From: Carsten Bormann [mailto:cabo at tzi.org]
> Sent: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 2:34 PM
> > need for a WYSIWYG XML editing tool
> Who "needs" that?
[WEG] Well, after having used one for 2+ years (essentially the entire time I've been writing I-Ds), and knowing how it streamlines the workflow of building I-Ds, I do. The fact that an XML2RFC plugin existed for it (maintained by Bill Fenner and Warren Kumari IIRC) tells me that I'm not the only one who was using XMLMind. I understand that plenty of people are not going to see the need for anything other than a text editor plus some CLI tools to turn out I-Ds. I'm not one of those folks, and I think user-friendliness should be a goal here.
> But I'm not sure what "WYSIWYG" means here -- do you mean looking at
> paged line printer ASCII (.txt) format or looking at XSLT-formatted
[WEG] I think it's the latter. XMLMind's UI looks somewhat similar to a word processing interface, with buttons to {add, promote, demote} sections, insert [un]numbered lists, tables, figures, and a pulldown to handle IPR declarations, document type, etc. It has the ability to simply click in a given section and type, as well as the ability to copy/paste objects (sections, references, figures, etc) in addition to copy/paste of raw text, plus spell check and direct validation of the 2629 XML DTD, and both txt and html output using XML2RFC. It doesn't replicate the format of a TXT I-D in the editing mode, but it does wrangle the XML tags for all except a few tweaks here and there.
I can supply screenshots if they'd be useful to the discussion.

> There is a clear industry trend towards markdown-based publishing chains...
[WEG] Yet Heather's recommendation in no way mentions markdown. So I think my point stands - there's multiple intermediate steps between the raw text and something that the RFC editor process can accept (XML), and replicating the functionality of something like XMLmind would be a useful way to allow people to interact directly with XML files without the intermediate steps.
> Editing markdown is rather close to "WYSIWYG editing" of an ASCII RFC.
[WEG] Note that I never mentioned editing ASCII RFCs. There is so little formatting that happens in an ASCII version of an RFC that is user-influenced that I'd rather not have to worry about the ASCII RFC formatting rules. However, as we start talking about the differences between the canonical version of an I-D and other versions (HTML, etc) that can support more robust formatting, there is going to be a need for a tool to help do things a little more WYSIWYG.
While editing Markdown is arguably easier than editing XML, I don't see much point in learning a secondary set of tags and how to use another tool to convert back and forth between XML and Markdown vs simply editing XML directly if those are my only options. Perhaps if we were to select one or more FOSS markdown WYSIWYG editors and build a useful plugin to integrate macros to generate the formatting and references unique to I-Ds and the pandoc or kramdown translation functions so that what comes out the other side is XML (and one can open an XML source doc and the tool can convert to markdown in order to edit it), that might be a workable alternative.

Wes George

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