Document standard

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Document standards can be defined in terms of:

  • Document file formats, i.e. text or binary formats for storing documents an storage media.
  • Content structure (structured authoring, usually an XML application).

Document file formats

There are a lot of these, see Wikipedia's document file format article or the full List of file formats

See also: e-book formats

Markup languages that separate content from style

These so-called structured authoring formats are somewhat human readable.

  • DocBook (XML or SGML) was originally intended for authoring technical documents but can be used for almost any kind of document.
  • DITA
  • XHTML strict (to some extent)
  • HTML5 (to some extent)
  • ePub, an e-book format
  • TEX and related languages like Latex

There exist also a number of non-formal simple markup languages, e.g.

Specialized markup languages for education

We don't consider educational modeling languages like IMS Learning Design, IMS Simple Sequencing etc. and that are based on the IMS Content Packaging "logic" to be document standards, because contents themselves are not in any way marked up. They are just assembled in menu structures.

One also could extend/specialize DITA and DocBook with educational markup. We also think that XHTML 2.0 may have potential for that kind of things.

The following is some sorts of document standard:

  • eLML - eLesson Markup Language. In Daniel K. Schneider's opinion, about the only stable educational content markup language there is. See also Stephen Downes comment. eLML is focussed on lessons, which is of course a limitation for general purpose content markup.

Markup languages for (messy) word processor markup

These markup content, style and other things together and are not really human readable.

  • OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications (ODF), started by Open Office XML Project. This standard is used by Open Office, the now more popular Libre office, Lotus Symphony and others. Microsoft word can read and write ODF format (at least somewhat).
  • Deprecated Microsoft XML Reference Schemas (including WordML, SpreadsheetML, etc.): Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas
  • Office Open XML (also known as OOXML or Microsoft Open XML (MOX) is a zipped, XML-based file format developed by Microsoft, i.e. it defines the structure of *.docx, *.xslx, etc. files. OOXML includes several languages.
  • Adobe MARS code name for technology being developed by Adobe that provides an Extensible Markup Language (XML)-based representation of Portable Document Format (PDF) documents. A prototype did work with Adobe Profession 8. We did not test if if still works with Adobe Professional DC (2018).
  • Microsoft RTF, an older standard that is being phased out
  • Adobe FrameMaker *.MIF

Binary file formats

Not human readable

  • Microsoft *.doc
  • FrameMaker *.fm
  • Adobe *.PDF (PDF rather is a display/print format, but some people do edit PDF...)

Specialized markup formats for the Internet

These are usually combined within other formats, e.g. XHTML. Most important formats are:

  • Display of mathematical formula: MathML
  • Vector Graphics: SVG (or the defunct Microsoft WML format)
  • Multimedia sequencing: SMIL
  • Linking: XLink (this is not supported in XHTML 2)
  • Forms: XForms
  • Voice markup: VoiceML

For now, integration of various vocabularies into main-stream web pages is not obvious. Only standards-aware browsers like Firefox can handle for instance XHTML + SVG + MathML. In addition, editing is not always easy since there are no official combined DTD's available, although a general standard for this (Compound Document by Reference Framework 1.0) is almost ready.


  • Paper
  • All sorts of computers with a monitor
  • Mobile devices
  • Refreshable electronic paper