Seeking Refuge: Documentor and EditTime
December 18, 1998
These two editors continue to make improvements and show cause why they should be taken seriously in the US, at least for a market sector comparable to the ones they have carved out in Europe -- that would be product documentation for Documentor and multi-language editing and translating for EditTime. Both are seeking US partners, distributors, and integrators (investors always welcome!) as well as end-users.
Documentor, in case you haven’t seen earlier Seybold coverage, is a mature and stable SGML (and now XML) editor developed by engineers working for the Ericsson telecommunications giant in Sweden that is nevertheless new to the market outside Scandinavia. Version 2.0 was shown for the first time in Chicago.
Documentor gives you two views of a document in which to edit. The first is a visual representation of the familiar "containers" metaphor for XML elements, the second is tree view of element hierarchy where pieces of the document can be collapsed and expanded. The outstanding feature, from our point of view, is the ability to create structures and text without a DTD and then cut and paste that material into a document with a DTD. Documentor automatically maps the tag names between documents.
Links and views.
The editor supports all Netscape plug-ins for preview and graphics formats. It also supports XLink inline links, both for pointer links and transclusion links (the former work like HTML, when clicked on, the link is traversed; the latter take the linked text and insert it into the text stream at the anchor point.)
Math can be entered as TeX and will be styled for WYSIWYG display. For the TeX impaired, there is a selection of formulas in Help that can be cut and pasted and edited.
The user can create rules for HTML export that published an entire file as one HTML page or that chunks it according to the user’s export rules.
Nits, nags and next.
We hate to nag, but the tool shows the usual ignorance of structured tables, giving the user the choice between flowing text with semantic tags and text positioned in an array with format-driven tags. There is built in support for CALS and HTML tables. Styles are proprietary today, but there is a stated intent to support XSL and CSS. Documentor has its own API and does not yet support the DOM.
Questions we would ask before launching a project based on Documentor include how well the company is doing finding US distributors and how the product will be supported and how well it has been integrated with the usual assortment of content management tools. Also, as the name implies, this is a tool developed for creating product documentation. While we see no reason that it can’t be applied to general structured writing tasks, this has yet to be established.
We did not look at DrawML, Excosoft’s integrated XML vector drawing package simply because we were suffering from vector graphics fatigue and felt that with strong contending formats from Microsoft and Adobe, it is unlikely that an editor from a relatively new and small player will become an odds-on favorite in the wagering over XML vector graphics standards.
Coming next spring from Excosoft is a "lite" version as an Internet portal to access Dcoumentum over the Internet for updates to structured documents with high security. This is a joint development project with Documentum which is looking for an entree into the telecom market.
EditTime is another of the special-purpose European editors we have been following for some time and while it, too, has yet to make even a crack into the market outside Europe, we continue to be intrigued with the capabilities that it has felt fit to develop. EditTime’s strengths lie in its native Unicode and XSL support and the ease of use built in for multilanguage editing.
Timelux's Unicode support includes a full Unicode parser (their own), and filters to detect Unicode encoding.
TimeLux used the Chicago venue to introduce two new tools. Xport is an XSL transformation engine that works in batch, command line or GUI modes and will operate on either XML or SGML files, with internal or external DTDs. Xact is an XML version of the Timelux editor. Demo copies of Xport were handed out in Chicago. Both products should become available from the TimeLux Web site "real soon now."