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Working with DTDs

A Document Type Definition (DTD) is a text file that contains the “rules” for an XML file. There’s nothing magical about these rules—there’s just a formal version of the things you think about as you design and lay out a document. Heading levels, for example, follow a particular order; a numbered list must have at least two list items; last name data fields in directory data do not include middle names, and so on. Laying out documents is all about applying a structure to the data in the document (in addition to making it pretty to look at).

If, as we said earlier, an XML file can contain any data, in any order, how the heck can you work with other people? Most of us have, at one point or another, had some success training the writers and editors we work with to provide text files that are reasonably close to what we want. We’ve done this by giving them a detailed set of instructions on the way that they should prepare the text. And, at least for some of us, we’ve come up with a system that produces files that we can work with.


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