Grif brings collaborative authoring to the Web

May 8, 1995

The Seybold Report on Desktop Publishing
Vol. 9, No. 9

Remote locking and updating of individual hyperlink anchors

May 8, 1995

Grif became the latest SGML authoring vendor to introduce a Web authoring tool when it announced last month a series of Symposia products. Symposia goes further than most HTML tools, supporting hypertext authoring over the Web network, not just on a local machine.

Grif made its announcement with INRIA at the World Wide Web (W3) Consortium conference in Darmstadt, Germany. INRIA (Institut de Recherche en Automatique) is a French research institute dedicated to basic and applied research in information technology. Employing more than 1,500 people, it has contributed to the creation of more than 20 companies in the past decade, including GRIF, which was founded in 1991.

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Simplified structured authoring. Symposia comes in three flavors, and all three provide WYSIWYG structured authoring, writing the underlying tags without the user having to see the codes. (Grif’s SGML editor takes a similar approach.) Because the products are based on Grif’s core SGML technology, however, each ensures that all of the documents produced conform to the HTML 2.0 specification.

Consistent with the latest fashion, Symposia lets you point and click to create hyperlink anchors and to follow links over the Internet.

The three versions offer three levels of sophistication and support:

  • Symposia, a free version offered by INRIA. INRIA plays a leading role in the W3 Consortium and worked with Grif in developing the Symposia products. A beta version of Symposia for Unix (IBM, Sun, HP) is available free from INRIA’s Web site at Windows and Mac versions are on the way.
  • Symposia Pro, which has much of the same functionality but is documented and supported by Grif. It also includes a spelling checker and supports additional graphics formats. It will be available next month. The price is $495.
  • Grif Symposia, which is the full Grif SGML editor with additional HTML capabilities. Unlike the introductory Symposia products, this one is really a Web extension to an SGML editor, not a separate editor. It will be offered to Grif’s installed base as an upgrade; its price will be about the same as Grif’s current SGML editing tools. It is expected to arrive first on Unix this summer, followed by Windows and Mac platforms. Grif currently offers its SGML editor on all three.

Grif’s SGML editor is used to produce documentation in aerospace, power-plant, military and telecommunication applications. In commercial publishing, it is used in insurance, legal and scientific publishing. Most customers are in Europe, where Grif has a distribution network in place.

What is different? One of the distinguishing characteristics of Grif’s SGML editor is that it supports simultaneous editing of a document displayed in different views. In Grif Symposia, for example, a user could edit an SGML document and view both an SGML and HTML style sheet for a WYSIWYG display. With this extension, Grif’s SGML editor can be used to insert and follow Web hyperlinks from within just about any SGML document.

Compared with products from some other SGML vendors, Grif has modified its SGML parser to accept existing HTML documents that do not adhere to the 2.0 specification. On import, Grif Symposia makes some modifications to nonconforming documents to bring them into a conforming structure.

Grif’s focus with Symposia, though, is collaboration, as the product’s name suggests. The product is one of the first to be able to update HTML documents from remote servers. Symposia can open, lock, follow, save and unlock individual universal resource locators (URLs, or link references) so that multiple people can edit the same document at the same time.

Grif also makes use of a new “put” feature in some servers that enables them to be updated from remote hosts.

In these latter respects, Symposia is like NaviSoft’s NaviPress, which was introduced a few weeks earlier at Seybold Seminars. Unlike NaviPress, Grif’s product is intended to work with any server that supports external editing capabilities. Grif does not yet offer a web visualizer, however.

Grif is promising that later versions of its product will offer even more cooperative authoring features.