Chapter 1: Introduction

Yodl stands for `Your Own Document Language' (originally: Yet Oneother Document Language) and is basically a pre-processor to convert document files in a special macro language (the Yodl language) to any output format. The Yodl language is not a `final' language, in the sense that it can be viewed or printed directly. Rather, a document in the Yodl language is a `pre-document', that is converted with some macro package to an output format, to be further processed.

Yodl was designed in 1996 by Karel Kubat when he needed a good document preprocessor to convert output to either LaTeX (for printing) or to HTML for publishing via a WWW site. Although SGML does this too, he wanted something that is used `intuitively' and with greater ease. This is reflected in the syntax of the Yodl language, in the available macros of the Yodl macro package, and very probably also in other aspects of Yodl. However, Yodl is designed to convert to any output format; so it is possible to write a macro package that converts Yodl documents to, say, the man format for manual pages.

Some highlights of Yodl:

This document first describes Yodl from the point of the user: how can macros be defined, how is the program used etc.. Next, my own macro package is presented and the macros therein described. Finally, this document holds technical information about the installation and the inner workings of Yodl.

1.1: What's new since version 4.00.00?

In Yodl Version 4.02.00 several new features were introduced.

In Yodl Version 4.00.00 some old features were removed, and several new ones were introducted.

1.2: Why use Yodl?

Yodl is not a word processor, not even an editor. At first glance you might say, yeah, why should I learn Your Own Document Language? The answer is exactly that: because it can be Your own document language!

First of all, Yodl may lower the threshold of new users to start writing documents. An example of an excellent, though not very user-friendly document language is LaTeX. Typing all the backslash and curly brace characters in LaTeX and remembering that an asterisk must be typed as $*$ may be hard at first. In such situations, a properly configured Yodl macro set removes these obstacles and thereby helps novices. Yodl is designed to be easy to learn. As the Yodl package is growing, so is the manual. The ease of `learning Yodl' may thus somewhat diminish, but just keep in mind: as long as you need just plain texts, Yodl does OK. If you want more functionality, e.g., the composition of manual pages for Unix, dig into the documentation.

Second, Yodl permits to create more than one macro set, defining the same commands, but leading to different output actions. Thereby, the same input file can be converted to several output formats, depending on the loaded macro set. In this, Yodl is a `general front' document language, which converts a Yodl document to a specialized language for further processing. This was of course one of my reasons to write Yodl: I needed a good converter for either LaTeX or HTML.

Third, Yodl always allows an `escape route' to the output format. Most situations can be handled with Yodl macros, but sure enough, some users will want special actions for a given output format. A typical example for the necessity of such an escape route is the typesetting of mathematical formulas. Say you want to use Yodl for a document that is converted either to LaTeX (being a very good mathematical typesetter) or to HTML (a very poor mathematical typesetter). An approach might be to decide inside the document how to typeset a mathematical formula. Yodl provides conditional command processing to accomplish this. The decision would be based on the output format: for LaTeX, you'd typeset the formula using all the facilities that LaTeX offers, and for HTML you'd use poor-mans typesetting. Typically, other pre-processors for documents don't allow such escape routes. Well, Yodl does.

1.3: Copying Yodl

Yodl is free software; it is distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public Licence. For details, please refer to the file COPYING.