Feature proposal: New, Standard Documentation System

Michael Cronenworth mike at cchtml.com
Thu Nov 27 02:28:55 UTC 2008

Far too often I find myself looking for non-existent man pages, Google 
results, or help menus in GNU/Linux software. What's the problem? There 
is no single, reliable, standardized documentation system that is 
universally accepted or appreciated. Yes, what I'm about to describe 
should obsolete man, info, and all the other dozen "help" documentation 
found in all the Fedora packages.

Problem case out of the way: Fedora should pioneer a GNU/Linux 
documentation system that meets these criteria:
1. Lightweight
   The entire system should not demand hundreds of megs of fonts, 
images, or other non-reusable requirements. I'm looking at you texlive. 
Recommendations: SQLite, ncurses, GTK. Existing toolkits; not new ones.
2. CLI and GUI front-ends
   Allow users to be presented to a universal and familiar front-end no 
matter where they are. The parts should also be separable so that, for 
instance, if there is no X requirement in a said environment, the help 
packages should not require QT, GTK, etc.
3. Universal formatting
   Obvious criteria, however, application specific formatting should be 
allowed as an optional addition after a standard format has been met.
4. Easy to use creation tools
   It shouldn't take a programmer background to write help 
documentation. Be it WYSIWYG tools or a simple XML-like (hey, or even 
XML) language to create documentation pages.
5. Global access
  You should be able to access any and all documentation for all 
software through a single window, be it X or console, without having to 
open the corresponding program.

Optional criteria:
1. Platform independence (for use on non-GNU/Linux systems)

Feel free to rip me apart. To me, and I'm sure most standard Linux 
users, documentation for /any/ piece of software is a nightmare, even if 
you are the original author. It should not be that way!


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