The Concrete Syntax of Documents: Purpose and Variety
In the mid-eighties a group at Stanford built the MUIR language-development environment as a system for notation design with rendering and layout from the abstract syntax, parsing from concrete syntax, and semi-automated transformation between language variants. We developed models for representing documents at all levels and understanding how the levels relate to one another.
Presentation widgets have a purpose: to convey specific abstract syntax relationships. Having an account of what kinds of widgets there are, what kinds of abstract relationships there are, and how the two connect allows for an analysis of how the notation works as a whole. The concept of "notation" taken here is a broad one, encompassing programming or technical notations as well as the form of structured documents of various kinds.
Notation designers can apply such an analysis to improve their designs so that the structure is more clearly conveyed by the concrete syntax or so that humans can more readily use the notation without confusion. Software can render or parse instances of notations using rules that capture the concrete syntax, the abstract syntax, and the rules between them in a declarative.