DocBook Makefile Templates

Michael Wiedmann

Revision History
Revision 0.1.16 2001-04-19

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Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no invariant sections, with no Front-Cover texts and no Back-Cover Texts.

1. Introduction

This document tries to describe the files and usage of the DocBook Makefile Templates which are heavily based on the makefiles for the FreeBSD Documentation Project.

I adapted the original FreeBSD Makefiles for use on Debian/GNU Linux systems. If anyone supplies the appropriate values for other Linux distributions, I will add them to the corresponding file (look at

These makefiles are Berkeley Makefiles so you need a Berkeley compatible version of make. On Debian/GNU Linux systems pmake can be used. On other systems watch out for bmake.

Feedback is always welcome!

1.1. Files

Following you find a short description of the main files of the distribution.

Master makefile. Most users will only edit this file (or a copy of it). See below for a more detailled description.

Included if found in current working directory and holds local extensions. Can e.g. be used for additional automatic graphic file conversion. For details see Local extensions.

Includes the rest of the Makefiles.

Holds all operating system specific variables and their values (pathnames, etc.). Known operating system currently are FREEBSD and DEBIAN.

Builds targets for automatic conversion of graphic files.

Holds main part.

Contains the default targets for building subdirectories.

Provides variables defining the default ownership, location, and installation method.


Default styleheet file. Make all your customizations in this file.

2. Usage

2.1. Putting files in place

In general there are two ways to put the files in place on your system. Use one of the listed possibilities:

  • Copy all *.mk files to your working directory.

  • Copy all *.mk files (except to a directory which is searched by your version of Berkeley Make (/usr/share/mk/ on Debian).

2.2. Master Makefile

You should edit the file (or a copy of it) to hold the specific values for your documentation project. You may rename it e.g. to Makefile, this let's you just run pmake without a command line argument -f for setting the name of the Makefile.

The variables in the supplied version of are commented so you should be able to guess what they mean.

The most important operators for assigning values to variables are:


Assign the value to the variable, overriding any previous value.


Append the value to the current value of the variable.


Assign the value to the variable if it is not already defined.

Most likely you will only use the operator = in your Master Makefile. Experienced users may use ?= if they plan to override some variables from the command line.

2.2.1. Required variables

The following variables need to hold correct project specific values:


Set this to the filename of your document without extension.

Default: none


List all output formats (space separated) which should be generated by invoking the build process without a given target.

Possible values: html html.tar html-split html-split.tar txt rtf ps pdf tex dvi tar pdb

Default: none


List all graphics files used in the document, including filename extension.

Default: empty


List here all source files of your documentation project. This value is used for checking whether all targets are up-to-date and creating tarballs of your project.

Default: none


If you are on a Debian/GNU Linux system, set this to DEBIAN. The operating system specific values like file and pathnames are controlled by this variable.

Possible values: FREEBSD, DEBIAN

Default: FREEBSD

2.2.2. Optional variables

The following variables are optional and control the build process.


Set the document filename extension here if your document uses a filename extension other than the default.

Default: sgml


Filename (including pathname if necessary) to the DSSSL stylesheet file for HTML output.

Default: ./freebsd.dsl


Filename (including pathname if necessary) to the DSSSL stylesheet file for print output.

Default: ./freebsd.dsl


Set this to the extension of the compression utility you want to use for compressing output files.

Possible values: gz bz2 zip

Default: none


If defined, index.sgml will be added to the list of dependencies for source files, and will be run to generate index.sgml.

Currently the generation of index.sgml does not work yet for PDF/PS output!

Default: empty


If set, use openjade to process the document. Using the default stylesheets this allows for creating outlines (bookmarks) which make the navigation easier.


If set used as prefix to jade, openjade, nsgmls, and onsgmls.

Default: /usr


Used as the title for the prc/pdb target.

Default: name of the main document.

2.3. Including graphics files

Following the guidelines which Nik Clayton explains in detail in his posting to the DocBook ML from 10 Feb 2001 the Makefiles assume that all used graphic files are referenced in their <imagedata> tags without a filename extension. The backend drivers choose the most acceptable format. For the necessary customization of the styleheet file see the next section.

The following lines shows how to edit your source file:

        <imagedata fileref="image">  <!-- Filename, without extension -->
All files listed in the IMAGES variable are converted to the needed formats. This automatic conversion step may not fully work yet in all cases.

2.4. Stylesheet customization

You definitely want to customize the output of your DocBook document. You can do this by editing the stylesheet file freebsd.dsl. Look carefully over this file, most variables have meaningful comments so you should be able to figure out what they mean.

More experienced users should additionally look at the original DocBook DSSSL customization files for print and HTML output (dbparam.dsl). If you find a variable which isn't yet referenced in freebsd.dsl just copy and paste it and set its value accordingly.

On Debian systems you find these files in /usr/lib/sgml/stylesheet/dsssl/docbook/nwalsh/html/ and /usr/lib/sgml/stylesheet/dsssl/docbook/nwalsh/print/).

2.4.1. Detailled description of freebsd.dsl

The default stylesheet customization file basically is divided into 5 parts: output.html, output.print, output.html.images, output.print.pdf, and a section for both HTML and print stylesheets. Each part is conditionally included by corresponding command line arguments to (open)jade (e.g. -i output.print.pdf).


2.5. Building

After editing the master makefile building the desired outpout formats is simply invoking make like:

    $ pmake -f
For building formats other than the ones listed in FORMAT just type e.g.:
    $ pmake -f
To create a tarball with all sourcefiles type:
    $ pmake -f PROJECT.tar.gz
For a list of the most importants targets see Targets.

2.6. Targets

Following a list of the main targets:


Creates chunked HTML output (split at <section> level).


Creates one big HTML file.


Creates a TXT version using w3m.


Creates a RTF file.


Creates a PDF file.

PostScript output.


Output of PalmPilot doc format (used by AprortisDoc Reader).


Output of PalmPilot iSilo format (used by iSilo).


Creates a compressed tarball of all sourcefiles using the content of variable SRCS.

validate, lint

Validates the document using nsgmls or onsgmls (depending whether OPENJADE is set or not).


Cleans all files created by the targets in FORMATS.

2.7. Local extensions

The master Makefile includes the file if it exists in the working directory. You can extend the default functionality of the Makefiles e.g if you need additional targets.

3. Special enhancements

In this chapter you will find special tips and tricks for enhancing your DocBook documents. If you want to share your special tip with other users let me know, I will include it here.

3.1. Controlling PDF output using jadetex.cfg

The output of (pdf)jadetex can be finetuned with the file jadetex.cfg. Create the file and put it in your working directory. The most important directives for this file are documented here. You should consult the documentation of the hyperref package if you are interested in a complete and more detailled description.

The general layout looks like:

                pdftitle={Document Title},
                pdfsubject={Document Subject},
                pdfauthor={Authors Name},
                pdfkeywords={Keyword1 Keyword2}
A short explanation of the directives shown above follows:

Hyperlinks are shown by default with a surrounding box. If you prefer to show the links coloured, set this to true. The used colours can be configured too, see the hyperref documentation for more information.


Determines how the file is opened in Acrobat Reader. Possible values are None, UseThumbs (show thumbnails), UseOutlines (show bookmarks), and FullScreen.

If you choose UseOutlines you may find bookmarksopen helpful. Default value is false, if true all the subtrees will be shown expanded. If you have many deep nested subtrees this is maybe not what you want, so you can control the level up to which the subtrees will be expanded with bookmarksopenlevel.


Title of the document. If set will be shown in the PDF Document Info Title field in Acrobat Reader.


Subject of the document. If set will be shown in the PDF Document Info Subject field in Acrobat Reader.


Author of the document. If set will be shown in the PDF Document Info Author field in Acrobat Reader.


If set will be shown in the PDF Document Info Keywords field in Acrobat Reader.

3.1.1. Notes on PDF Bookmarks (Outlines)

Especially for large documents I find PDF bookmarks (also called Outlines) very helpful because they make navigating in the document much easier.

jade is not capable of producing bookmarks, you have to use openjade instead - actually this is not a drawback because active development only happens for openjade so you should use it anyway.

openjade needs a special extension in the stylesheet files to actually create the bookmarks:

    (declare-characteristic heading-level
              "UNREGISTERED::James Clark//Characteristic::heading-level" 2)
Unfortunately the default DSSSL stylesheet file print/docbook.dsl contains
    (declare-characteristic heading-level
              "UNREGISTERED::James Clark//Characteristic::heading-level" 0)
so this won't work. You have to override this in your customization DSSSL file instead.

You still have to tell pdfjadetex to show the bookmarks in the PDF file with the above mentioned entry in jadetex.cfg:

If you use jade to process a file with such a configuration don't get confused: you will get an empty window for the bookmarks!

Note: The current stylesheets (at least up to V1.64) is buggy which results in an empty bookmark entry for the bookinfo/title tag. Norman Walsh currently works on a solution for this.

3.1.2. Notes on PDF Thumbnails

Note: The following explanation is based on V1.x of thumbpdf. The procedure has changed a bit for V2.x. I will update this section as soon as I find some time.

Using the package thumbpdf (which should come with your TeX installation) by Heiko Oberdiek you can create thumbnails for every page in your PDF document. These thumbnails provide another way for navigating through your document.

The general procedure looks like follows:

Generate PDF file

There is nothing special for this step. Just run the command to produce the PDF file.

Create the thumbnail files

By running filename.pdf the perl script creates small PNG files for every page in the PDF file.

Create second PDF file thumbpdf.pdf

In the next step the perl script creates a second PDF file which holds all created PNG files.

Create TeX file thumbdta.tex

The perl script creates in the third step a TeX file (thumbdta.tex) which holds the object representation of the thumbnails.

Include thumbpdf.sty

Include the package thumbpdf.sty in your source document and run the command to create PDF output.

I found the following problems with the above outlined procedure:

ghostscript uses ghostscript to create the PNG files for every page. Only very recent versions of ghostscript (V 6.X) are capable of doing this. At least for Debian/GNU Linux systems this version is not yet freely available.

A temporary solution for this is to create the PNG files for every page in a separate step using the tool of your choice.

Including thumbpdf.sty into your source file

Because we deal with DocBook source files it's not obvious how to include the generated thumbpdf.sty.

The solution is to include it through jadetex.cfg like:


Integration in Makefile templates

The described procedure is not integrated in the Makefile templates. So you have to do some steps manually.

3.2. Editing SGML/XML files using Emacs and PSGML

PSGML is an Emacs major mode for editing SGML and XML files. It contains a SGML parser and can work with any DTD. The provided commands let users only insert contextually valid tags, edit attribute values, etc.

If you are already familiar with Emacs you definitely should give PSGML mode a try. It's one of the most powerful and flexible SGML/XML editor you can find.

For special tips on using PSGML mode see Bob DuCharme's pages.

4. Links and other documentation

4.1. Links

FreeBSD DocBook Makefile Templates

DocBook Apps ML

Discussion about all DocBook backend related questions. Subscribe with email to: with subscribe in the body.

Norman Walsh's Homepage

You definitely should have a look at Norman Walsh's homepage.



Bob DuCharme's tips on using PSGML mode

4.2. Other documentation

  • Berkeley Make on your system should have a manual page which you may consult for an introduction to this flavor of Make.

  • ...

A. File hierarchy

The following picture tries to make clear how all the files work together. --+
               +---> include
               +---+ include
                   +---> include
                   +---> include
                   +---> include
                   +---> include
                   +---> include

B. How it all began...

A posting of Nik Clayton in DocBook Apps ML was the reason I started adapting the FreeBSD Makefile templates to Debian/GNU Linux. The original email is documented here. Read it carefully, it contains all the information you may need ;-)

    Date: Sat, 10 Feb 2001 00:27:38 +0000
    From: Nik Clayton <>
    Subject: Re: DOCBOOK-APPS: Problem converting DB to PDF...
    To: Dan York <>
    On Thu, Feb 08, 2001 at 05:28:38PM -0500, Dan York wrote:
    > However, because we also would like to have a version available that can
    > be easily printed, I have been trying to generate a PDF or PostScript
    > file.  So far, I have been unsuccessful.  The two major problems are:
    > 1. Graphics do not appear in the PDF file. They are implemented as
    > <mediaobject> in the DocBook file.
    I've been meaning to write this for a while.  This is my guide to
    including images in DocBook as painlessly as possible.
      Assuming that you want to create, as a minimum, HTML, PS, and PDF
      documents with the best quality images, you need to do the following.
      First of all, you need to choose your preferred image format(s).  This
      is not as simple as simply picking a single format.  The difference
      between bitmap and vector based image styles means that one single
      format won't suffice.
      Instead, you need to pick a format that's good for bitmap images, and
      a format that's good for vector images.
      The rest of this document assumes PNG for bitmaps, and EPS for vector.
      There's another wrinkle.  In my experience, PDF generation works best
      if you pass pdftex the name of a .pdf file, and not a .eps file.
      However, EPS files can still be the source from which the PDF is
      If you look at DocBook's image inclusion support, you'll see the
      <mediaobject> element, which can contain one or more <imageobject>s.
      The original idea was that, for each image, you would have one
      <mediaobject>, which would contain several different <imageobject>s,
      each pointing to a file in a different format.
      The stylesheets would then select which <imageobject> to use.  This is
      the approach taken in Norm Walsh's stylesheets.
      However, in my experience, this doesn't work quite right, and I had
      difficulty getting the stylesheets to always select the correct
      <imageobject> element to use.  A better approach has been to never
      include the filename's extension in the <imageobject> element's
      attributes, and let the stylesheets add the extension, or not, as
      A useful side effect of this is that you only ever write one
      <imageobject> per <mediaobject>.
      So, some sample markup might look like this:
          <imagedata fileref="image">  <!-- Filename, without extension -->
          <phrase>An image</phrase>
      Of course, this assumes that you have image.{png,eps,pdf} in the
      current directory as well.
      If you want to convert a document containing this to HTML, you need to
      use a stylesheet that customise's Norm's sheets, and has
        (define %graphic-default-extension% "png")
      in it.
      HTML is easy in this respect.  PS and PDF are a little more
      Again, you need to use a customisation of Norm's stylesheets.  
      the following two functions (these work at least up to v1.61 of Norm's
      sheets).  These are re-writes of Norm's functions.
    -------- 8< -------- 8< -------- 8< -------- 8< -------- 8< --------
      ; Norm's sheets try and work out which one of the <imageobject>s 
      ; should be used.  However, we only ever have one, so just use
      ; the first one.
      ; XXX This can probably be made more efficient by dropping the let*
      ; clause.  One day, I'll get around to testing that.
      (define (find-displayable-object objlist notlist extlist)
        (let loop ((nl objlist))
          (if (node-list-empty? nl)
              (let* ((objdata  (node-list-filter-by-gi
                                (children (node-list-first nl))
                                (list (normalize "videodata")
                                      (normalize "audiodata")
                                      (normalize "imagedata"))))
                     (filename (data-filename objdata))
                     (extension (file-extension filename))
                     (notation (attribute-string (normalize "format") objdata)))
                (node-list-first nl)))))
      ; This function, given a graphic filename, looks at the filename's
      ; extension, and appends %graphic-default-extension% as necessary.
      ; However, given a bare filename (such as "image") TeX is perfectly
      ; capable of adding the .eps or the .pdf as necessary.  Rather than
      ; try and second guess TeX, don't do anything if the tex-backend 
      ; variable is set.
      (define (graphic-file filename)
        (let ((ext (file-extension filename)))
          (if (or tex-backend   ;; TeX can work this out itself
                  (not filename)
                  (not %graphic-default-extension%)
                  (member ext %graphic-extensions%))
               (string-append filename "." %graphic-default-extension%))))
    -------- 8< -------- 8< -------- 8< -------- 8< -------- 8< --------
      You can see this in the FreeBSD customisation layer, at
      We keep both HTML and Print customisation layers in one file.  You can
      do the same thing, or use two different files if you want.
      OK, so suppose you have, in one directory, the following files:
         doc.sgml           Your document
         html.dsl           Your customisation layer for HTML docs,
                        which sets %graphic-default-extension%
         print.dsl          Your customisation layer for print docs,
                        which contains the two functions
                    listed earlier.
         image.png          PNG image
         image.eps          EPS image
         image.pdf          PDF image
      what are the command lines you need to use?
      As I said, HTML is easy.
        jade -c /your/path/to/the/catalog/files             \
             -d html.dsl                        \
         -t sgml                        \
      Add things like "-Vnochunks" or whatever, depending on your
      preference.  This should have used the PNG images.
      PS is also relatively simple.
        jade -c /your/path/to/the/catalog/files         \
             -d print.dsl                       \
         -Vtex-backend                      \
         -t tex                         \
         -o doc.tex                     \
      Notice that you have to give the "-Vtex-backend" option.  I've also
      shown the use of -o to explicitly set the output file name.
      You can then run
        tex "&jadetex" doc.tex
      a few times, to generate the .dvi file, and then convert the DVI file
      to PS.
      PDF is a little more complex.  As shipped, when producing PDF files,
      teTeX will prefer to include a .png file over a .pdf file.  I don't
      why that is.  
      The way to work around this is to make sure that the line
      appears at the start of the .tex file, before you process it with
      pdftex.  There are many ways in which you can do this.
      Anyway, your command line for generating PDF should look like this;
        jade -c /your/path/to/the/catalog/files         \
          -d print.dsl                      \
          -Vtex-backend                     \
          -t tex                            \
          -o doc.tex                        \
      As you can see, this is the same command line as for generating PS
      Once you've run this to generate doc.tex, edit doc.tex, and insert the
      earlier "\catcode..." line at the start of the file.  Then you can run
        pdftex "&pdfjadetex" doc.tex
      a few times, to generate the .pdf file.
      That's that, pretty much.  You can see BSD style .mk files that
      implement all of this, at
      and pay particular attention to  I'm not aware of any
      Linux distributions (with scripts like dbtopdf) that make this level
      of customisation possible.  Of course, it would be trivial for you to
      implement your own replacement scripts which do this.  The FreeBSD
      make(1) approach is, of course, there for the taking, and I'm happy to
      discuss it further on either this list, or
      <columbo>Oh, and one more thing.</columbo>
      As you might be aware, you can use w3m (a text mode browser, with
      support for tables) to provide very good DocBook -> Text, by first
      going DocBook -> HTML (as one big file), and then using w3m to convert
      the HTML to plain text.
      Wouldn't it be neat if you could include ASCII art in your document as
      well, such that when you were going to produce plain text, instead of
      getting the ALT text on the image, you got ASCII art instead?  Well,
      you can.
      First, suppose that your markup looks like this
          <imagedata fileref="image">  <!-- Filename, without extension -->
        |  A  |
          <phrase>An image</phrase>
      (assume, for the moment, that your image is of a box with the letter A
      in it). 
      The HTML stylesheets will search and make sure that the file
      exists.  If the image doesn't exist then the stylesheets will use the
      contents of the first <textobject> instead.
      So if you run something like
        jade -c /your/path/to/the/catalog/files                     \
             -d /path/to/nwalsh's/html/docbook.dsl                  \
             -t sgml                                                \
             -Vnochunks                     \
             doc.sgml > doc.html
        w3m -T text/html -S -dump doc.html > doc.txt
      Then you will have doc.txt that contains your ASCII art instead.  This
      works because Norm's sheets, by default, do not define a value for
      %graphic-default-extension%.  In case he ever changes this, you might
      want to create another HTML stylesheet which explicitly sets the
      variable to #f.
      For an example of this in action, take a look at 
      and examine the files in there.
    > 2. More importantly, outside of the missing graphics, the PDF file
    > looks fine for the first 19 pages, until it gets to Chapter 4. In 
    > this chapter, I really just have the following construction:
    >   <sect1>
    >   <title></title>
    >   <table>
    >   ....
    >   </table>
    >   <table>
    >   ....
    >   </table>
    >   </sect1>
    I've downloaded your document, created a bunch of test images (I'm on a
    56K dialup at the moment), and can't replicate this on FreeBSD, using
    Jade 1.2.1, JadeTeX 2.2, and teTeX 1.0.7.
    Internet connection, $19.95 a month. Computer, $799.95.  Modem, $149.95.
    Telephone line, $24.95 a month.  Software, free.  USENET transmission,
    hundreds if not thousands of dollars.  Thinking before posting, priceless.
    Somethings in life you can't buy.  For everything else, there's MasterCard.
      -- Graham Reed, in the Scary Devil Monastery