PlainDoc 1.55 review

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PlainDoc (pd2tex) document production system allows you to write documents as normal text files

License: GPL (GNU General Public License)
File size: 113K
Developer: Sampo Kellomaki
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PlainDoc (pd2tex) document production system allows you to write documents as normal text files. pd2tex tool converts the plain text files to:

TeX which then gets converted to pdf (you need pdflatex tool installed)
DocBook (dbx) which can be fed to various tool chains (not supplied) to generate pdf and html
flat HTML (entire document in one HTML file)
multipage HTML (each section as its own HTML file)

PlainDoc system was developed by Sampo Kellomaki from around 2002 onwards with the aim of solving document editing problems for writing:

IT specifications documents
software product manuals and documentation
scientific and research papers
legal documents
presentation slides

Some of the goals were:

document source is the plain text representation, no separate conversion needed
documents are intuitive to write and understand
getting a neophyte to a reasonable level of productivity and achievement should be easy. A college freshman should be able to use PlainDoc after 1 hour training, provided that all the tool chains have already been installed
it must be very difficult to fatally corrupt a document; fixing corruption should be as simple as editing the file
it must be possible to do diffs between versions of the document
using cvs should be well supported (helps to avoid fatal loss of document, too)
enable use of plain text productivity environments like emacs(1)
the PlainDoc system MUST be serious enough to produce most any type of document and thus end the need to use any other system
typeset quality output in paper and web formats

PlainDoc has now (Oct, 2004) been around for more than two years and it has been successfully used to produce:

major IT specifications conforming to formatting rules (70 page range)
research papers and theses conforming to formatting rules (200 page range)
product manuals (500 page range)
legal documents and contracts conforming to formatting rules

PlainDoc acknowledges its LaTeX legacy and does not aim at WYSIWYG (except in plain text document production, of course :-) however we are not totally against visual formatting either. Thus many hooks for accessing the underlying document formatter's capabilities have been made available, such as:

direct entry of TeX code
direct entry of DocBook code
direct entry of HTML code

These should allow you to get your job done without the system philosophy standing too much in the way, while for most part leveraging the automatic formatting of standard constructs.

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