Will anyone challenge Inso in electronic delivery?

December 17, 1998

Mark Walter

The Seybold Report on Internet Publishing
Vol. 3, No. 4

For years DynaText, created by Electronic Book Technologies and then sold to Inso, has ruled the high end of SGML document delivery. Its most serious competition came from Synex, which Inso gobbled up earlier this year.

Today there are signs that the dynasty is vulnerable. The emergence of XML viewers from Netscape and (soon we hope) Microsoft gives developers an alternative base platform for creating XML client software. On the server side, the lack of true database functionality in DynaWeb creates an opening for repository-based Web production servers.

Rising to the challenge. Among the alternatives shown at the recent XML98 event was a proof-of-concept built for the British defense agency. Database Publishing Systems demonstrated an XML- based interactive manual running from Internet Explorer 4. The system converts SGML source files into XML, loads them into an Access database, and then pulls chunks according to HTML-encoded pages.

Another example was CITEC, which resells Viewport in its MultiDoc Pro viewer. It previewed Multidoc Zilla, one of the first commercial products to make use of Netscape’s NG Layout.

AIS Berger Levrault showed the released version of Dual Prism, positioned as a DynaText/DynaWeb killer. It certainly features better scripting; AIS claims that it also is easier to configure than Inso’s product.

Another scripting specialist, OmniMark, continues to win customers to its transformation language, especially with the release of Konstructor, a complete toolkit for creating XML-powered Web sites. OmniMark is said to be working on a user interface to Konstructor, a move that would make it suitable to a much wider audience.

Inso is not standing still, of course. At this event it demonstrated the Synex viewer running on hand-held computers and released the Technician’s Edition of DynaText. DynaText/TE comes with a set of prebuilt functions, built by the TechSight group at General Dynamics, for creating interactive documentation. The package lacks a good authoring front end, but if you have SGML source files for your interactive manuals, you can have someone accustomed to writing DynaText styles create the interactive manual, instead of having to enlist the aid of a C or C++ programmer.