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Grif SymposiaPro: Edit while you browse

June 30, 1996

Seybold Report on Publishing Systems,
Vol 25, No 19

June 30, 1996

Grif, the French supplier of SGML editing software, takes the approach that HTML is a simplified form of SGML, and it applies that approach to marketing and licensing. Its Symposia Pro is a combination Web browser and WYSIWYG editor that is upgradable to the full Grif SGML Editor. Apart from this policy, three features distinguish Grif Symposia Pro from most other editors designed for creating Web pages: integration of an HTML browser with the editor; use of the "put" command for remote editing; and the SGML-like ability to verify HTML.

Browse and edit. Inclusion of a browser with the HTTP library has a significant impact on the editorial functions of the tool. First, of course, is the convenience of seeing immediately the way a document will look on import into a browser. More significant, from the perspective of the author, is the ability to browse pages that can then become link-ends to the document being edited. In two mouse clicks the Symposia editor can list, copy, paste and edit links that appear in the browser.

While the browser does not have all of the functionality of the market leaders -- it does not have direct E-mail and cannot process the latest Java scripts — it does have link history and hot lists (bookmarks) that support the editorial function. Both the editor and browser have a small number of predefined presentation templates, which cannot be edited. The user can change the scale factor for text, which gives limited flexibility over presentation. The purpose is not to compete with the market-leading browsers, but to integrate the functions of browsing and editing to support the inclusion of links in the edited document.

The browser and editor do support forms and have tool palettes for editing and viewing tables and math. Currently, the editor supports the HTML presentational math declarations.

Cooperation over the Web. Taking advantage of a function of the W3C Network Library makes it possible to edit and save an HTML document on a remote server. The remote site must use a CERN server and must have implemented the "put" command. (Support for other servers is under development.) The host can, of course, password-protect the site and still lock the document, even to accredited users.

Symposia supports many graphics formats, including GIF, JPEG and CGM. The editor recognizes and inserts special characters and has multilanguage spelling checking. It uses the same parser as the Grif SGML Editor. HTML parsing can be turned on and off. The editor does not handle two-byte characters.

Aimed at the intranet market. The Unix version of Symposia (which is unsupported freeware) and the Windows version of Symposia Pro (which is supported and is not free) are both available now. Grif claims to have 2,500 beta users for the Unix version. The Unix and Macintosh versions of Symposia Pro should be out shortly, but there is no date for release of the unsupported version for platforms other than Unix. While the SGML Grif Editor claims the largest share of the European SGML editing market and the company has distributors in Japan and Korea, it has, as yet, no direct U.S. distributor.

Grif has done well in taking functionality developed for SGML and applying it creatively to work over corporate intranets. We hope that the reverse will come to pass as well, and that new features supporting workgroups and integration of viewing and editing will be ported to the products that support full SGML.

(We know that someone in Seattle likes this design. Two weeks after SGML Europe 96, Jean Paoli, technical director for Grif, announced his move to Seattle to work for Microsoft.)