Excosoft Documentor

July 5, 1998

Liora Alschuler

The Seybold Report on Internet Publishing
Special for

A view from SGML/XML Europe '98

by Liora Alschuler

Shown in North America for the first time last winter, Documentor is a full-fledged SGML editor built for tech docs, but which nevertheless has features that should grab attention in the XML community.

Excosoft has the only precursor that we are aware of for simultaneous editing of documents created for more than document type. Dubbed "Hierarchical Autotagging," or HAT, Documentor lets the writer cut a section from one document and paste it into a second document structured according to a different DTD. HAT makes a guess, according to fragment structure, of what the inserted text should be according to the new DTD. If there is no parallel structure, HAT retains the names from the original document.

Version 1.5 was released on May 15 this year. Highlights of the new release are support for CGM4 graphics and for all Netscape plug-ins. This allows users, for example, to incorporate an external reference to a PowerPoint file and to view the result as if the *.ppt file were part of the document being edited. Excosoft also claims an improved table GUI, ID/IDREF validation, HyTime linking, and a speedier formatter now capable of formatting 40 pages in about 4 seconds.

While most large-scale tech doc projects would be unthinkable today without SGML, the smaller technical publishing departments are still waiting for the technology to scale down to their level. These customers want a complete solution, meaning database and document management integration, but editors are sold stand-alone and editors alone do not make a tech doc solution. To address this, Excosoft has developed a minimal, low-end document handler that can store to a version-controlled archive. Called Excoconf, it is sold separately, but ready to use with the editor.

While support for CGM has been incorporated, Excosoft feels that an XML vector graphics format is needed and have submitted a Note describing such a beast to the W3C. Welcome to the party: Excosoft, Microsoft and Adobe are already here. See our coverage of VML.

In company news, Excosoft is still focusing on Northern Europe and has integrator partners in Finland, Norway and Sweden. Three weeks ago it signed funding agreements with two Swedish investment firms. The plan is to roll out version 2.0 at XML '98 in November in Chicago and begin to work the North American market with that release. Version 2.0 will have an extended API for database integration and a new macro language. It will have full XML (and therefore Unicode) support.