Stucture within formatted pages: FrameMaker and Interleaf

December 18, 1998

Liora Alschuler

Adobe’s FrameMaker and Interleaf, two page composition powerhouses, were in Chicago. In the past, both companies have seemed to oscillate around support for structured editing, at times charging ahead, at times pulling back. Year end 1998 catches them in decidedly pro angle-bracket phases.

Adobe’s FrameMaker

Adobe as a corporation has done an about face on XML, now embracing it, promoting XML-based vector graphics for the Web and showing an XML vector graphics viewer using PGML developed with IBM.

In his keynote, Charles Geschke, president and co-founder of Adobe, stressed the classic SGML publishing themes of the importance of structured information to the 85% of corporate information resources contained in documents and predicted the convergence of the document and database markets based on use of a common syntax. Sounding more like Charles Goldfarb than Charles himself, Geschke said that customization of content delivery over the Web is only possible with the separation of form and content that underlies SGML and XML. In fact, he mentioned having read an early paper of Goldfarb’s on GML, the SGML precursor developed at IBM, while a student at Carnegie-Mellon University.

Apparently, the paper did not make a positive impression at the time, since the core Adobe products -- PageMaker, Photoshop, Postscript, PDF -- meld content and appearance inextricably together. But there is no reason to doubt Adobe's enthusiasm for XML today. Geschke claimed that there is room on the Web for both PDF and XML: PDF where there is no desire to further change or modify the content; and XML where further customization and editing is expected.

Beyond the graphics work with IBM, the company was showing XML within FrameMaker+SGML and plain old FrameMaker itself. FrameMaker+SGML now exports well-formed XML. The exported file can reference an XML DTD, but the file must be parsed post-export. (It can be parsed against an SGML DTD within FrameMaker+SGML.) The latest release, 5.5.6, has added full Chinese and Korean support, Word ’97 filters, and over 300 bug fixes.

FrameMaker, the non-SGML product, can also export XML. While not offering an SGML parser for validation, users can control XML tags with FrameMaker style or attribute names. Both versions of FrameMaker export a CSS file, so that exported XML can be displayed by a browser with XML/CSS support. The export routine also gives users control over file chunking and automatically links the pages produced. The two products now use the same code base, although they were developed separately for a time.

Interleaf’s Bladerunner

Interleaf developed an SGML-capable version of its publishing system in the late 1980s to meet the needs of big tech-doc projects based on industry-standard SGML doctypes. After lying low for a number of years, Interleaf has re-emerged with a new product that seeks to be an end-to-end solution for structured documents. Bladerunner was announced earlier this year and has picked up some significant beta sites--North Carolina's Department of Commerce and Practitioners Publishing Company was added to the list last month.

The product name "Bladerunner" is a bit of catch-all encompassing content created in Microsoft Word or Interleaf 7, a content management system using Poet, and composition and delivery capabilities provided by Interleaf's page composition, WorldView and Panorama CD Web Publisher products. Each output is controlled by a separate style sheet. A content-management API layer will allow integration of alternate databases. Bladerunner uses XML + XSL to output HTML + CSS for Web publishing. XPointer support is provided within Poet.

Pricing is not yet available. The first release is expected before year’s end.