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Re: C.4 Undeclared entities?

From: <lee@sq.com>
Date: Fri, 18 Oct 96 00:50:44 EDT
Message-Id: <9610180450.AA26369@sqrex.sq.com>
To: U35395@UICVM.CC.UIC.EDU, w3c-sgml-wg@w3.org
> C.4 if XML makes DTDs optional and allows partial DTDs, what must or
> may a parser do when it encounters references to undeclared entities
> (9.4)?  Should XML declare any set of entities automatically?

I would like to suggest -- at least briefly :-) -- a model in which
entities can be expanded by a (conceptual) preprocessor.  By conceptual,
I mean that it doesn't need to be a separate physical process or a
separate pass -- it could all be handled within a single program.

SGML reinvented the C preprocessor with entities, but added some features...
It seems that XML has only three kinds of entity:
    [1] parameter entities in the DTD (possibly)
    [2] entities for text substitution
    [3] entities for referring to and including external files

Now, entities of type [1] and [2] are the same as each other, except
for the different scopes and permitted contexts.  That is, they do
essentially the same thing.

Entities of type 3 may be general or parameter entities, and may be used
in one of three ways:
    [a] as an in-place inclusion

	<!Entity Simon "http://www.other.stuff/goes/here.fragment">

    [b] as a reference to a different kind of information

	<!Entity Simon "http://www.other.stuff/goes/here.gif" NDATA GIF>
    [c] as a delayed reference

	<!Entity Simon.gif "http://www.other.stuff/goes/here.gif" NDATA GIF>
	<boy picture=Simon.gif>
    Case [a] can be handled before the parser ever sees the data, just
    as the C preprocessor handles #include.
    For error handling, C allows
	#line 45 "filename"
    so that the C preprocessor can tell the C compiler what line number
    to put out on errors.  (apologies to all those to whom this is
    blindingly obvious).

    Without a DTD you can't distinguish [a] and [b] until you
    actually fetch the data -- you then either inspect the data stream
    or use the MIME media type to determine how to handle the data.
    In a WWW environment, the actual declared notation (if you had a DTD)
    should of course be overridden by the MIME media type.

    In general, the media type may vary depending on the time of day --
    for example, a server might have access to the same information
    in multiple formats, and prefer to serve up the most appropriate
    version (given the list that the browser said it handles) that is
    in the cache.

    I suppose a notation of "DYNAMIC" would be appropriate for that.

    At any rate, in XML we can't handle case [b] without a DTD.
    If there was no DTD, where did the entitiy definition come from?
    So there could always be a NOTATION, although we wouldn't know
    that it was right without fetching the data.  It's a hint, if you will.

    Case [c], an entity-valued attribute, can't be handled at all
    without a DTD.  With a DTD, the behaviour is implementation defined
    even in SGML (as I understand it).

    You can get even more undefined by having an NDATA attribute -- the
    standard and the handbook are hard to follow on this, as I and several
    others have found, especially when used without conref.  But I digress.

Entities for text substitution and for file inclusion can without loss of
generality be expanded as the text is read over the network (say).

Entities that have an associated notation must be passed on to the client
of the parser.

Does that sound reasonable?

If we can phrase it in that way, it is just a sort of brain-dead cpp,
or m4 with most of the features removed :-), and is easy to write and

You are then amenable, however, to evil tricks which must be firmly
    <!Entity x '<!entity y "zzz">'>
    <!Entity startP "<P>">
and so on.

The only complication I see is that %entity; is not allowed after the
start of the document, and &entity; is not expanded in the DTD itself.

This does not quite work correctly with the current SGML rules on
attribute values, where a CDATA attribute, despite being declared
as CDATA, is actually RCDATA.  Hence,
    <!Entity mine "It's mine">
    <declaim what='&mine;'>
would expand to
    <declaim what='It's mine'>
and break.

Is that a problem?  My feeling is yes, it's a problem, although
I have encountered more than one commercial parser that did indeed
have problems with this sort of thing, especially with nested
parameter entities.

Received on Friday, 18 October 1996 00:50:50 UTC

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