What is a "markup language"?
What is a document markup language and how do its components work?
A markup language identifies pieces of a document so that another application can do something with those pieces. All document creation tools have a markup language.
In early days of text processing, some markup tools used to let you see and edit their markup code; Word and MacWrite usually didn't. The following image shows an example of how WordPerfect showed you the markup in the text.
Does the markup in WordPerfect remind you of something you have done recently?
All formatters need to distinguish the text to be printed from
instructions about how to print;
these instructions are called markup.
- procedural markup tells the software what to do (space down, invoke a macro)
- generic markup describes the thing to be printed (heading, cross-reference, etc.).
Examples of markup languages
Markup has a long history. But one can understand markup by thinking about some markup languages that you are already familiar with.
Cartography - are not maps a form of a markup language?
- HTML, the HyperText Markup Language, is an example of SGML
XML, the eXtensible Markup Language is much more robust
- and Microsoft has embedded a lot of XML in MSWord
And some you may not have yet encountered
- Biology - Physiome Markup Languages
- Archival Finding Aids Markup Language - Encoded Archival Description (EAD)
Word Processing Markup Languages
WordStar was one of the earlier ones. Since there was no graphical user interface at that time, it had to show you in text what it was doing with its markup, much as the UNIX text editors do.
WordPerfect was very good for text-centric documents and was thus embraced by folks creating legal documents. The ability to see and control the text markup was critical.
But Microsoft's Word soon became the dominant markup tool.
There are a lot of possibilities out there, but MSWord has the lion's share of the market. OpenOffice Writer may eventually become a competitor to MSWord because it is based on XML and on the Open Document standard and has most of the same features as MSWord. It may well be the best choice for many. But, for now, although not everyone likes it, MSWord is a very powerful tool.
Are they something more? Perhaps an object manipulator?
MSWord is not the only tool out there, but it is a business standard.
- sharing or collaborating on papers, consider Google Docs or Zoho
- open source software and freeware, consider OpenOffice
Which program to use?
To do so, open The Awful German Language, by Mark Twain. Copy it all, then paste it into a document so we can work with it.