New direction for Microstar: handling financial transactions

January 10, 1998

Seybold Report on Internet Publishing
Vol 2, No 5
January, 1998

Microstar, recovering from financial problems and organizational upheaval, is becoming increasingly focused on SGML and XML consulting, integration and specialized software tools. It no longer offers Near & Far Author, its Microsoft Word add-on for SGML authoring. Near & Far Designer (the visual tool for DTD creation and editing) is still available, and it now works with DTDs for XML as well as SGML. It also has helpful features to assist those wishing to convert an SGML DTD to an XML DTD.

Near & Far Designer is the only Microstar product that is likely to appeal to broad markets. But the company does have some additional software tools that could be of interest to SGML integrators. These include a product that automates the creation of OmniMark programs for various common situations; and a "heavy-duty" SGML differencing engine, for identifying differences in files as big as 2 GB.

Microstar sees a growth opportunity for a technology it has developed called Active SG/XML. This uses SGML and XML tools for handling real-time transactions between computers, or between people and computers. A key application is electronic commerce.

In practice, the Active SG/XML user creates a DTD to represent the transaction record. This is done using Near & Far Designer. Then, the Active SG/XML software creates an ActiveX control based on the DTD. This control can then be provided with a user interface and embedded in an HTML page. The resulting Web page can be linked to an ODBC-compliant database. This arrangement provides a quick but powerful way of setting up a transaction mechanism for use over the Web.