Vervet Logic's XML Pro

July 5, 1998

Liora Alschuler

The Seybold Report on Internet Publishing
Special for

An Editor for Data Applications

by Liora Alschuler

Of the brand-new XML editors covered by us (XED, Raven, XMetal), only Vervet Logic’s XML Pro claims release 1.0 status. Priced at $150 ($100 until July 1), XML Pro is clearly aimed at the low-end editing market, but it is not clear who the company thinks this market consists of. The XML sample files sent with the editor include a parts catalog, a channel definition document consisting of resource metadata, and Jon Bosak’s copy of Hamlet. Do they really think this is the editor for serious tech pubs apps, your-average-Web-page, and the great literature of the world? (Hint: We don't, but it's still pretty interesting.)

click to load illustrationThe XML Pro GUI puts a hierarchical tree view of the document in the primary workspace and has a full-time view of attributes and attribute values. This is an about-face from the traditional structured editor that emphasizes the text editing space and provides auxiliary windows for structure views and for attribute editing. See, for example, the user interface of Adobe's XML editor, click to load illustration FrameMaker+SGML (don't worry, it also does XML), which puts the narrative window in the primary workspace and the structure view in an auxiliary window.

In the XML Pro GUI, the character data at the leaf ends of the tree can be viewed on the structured tree when fully expanded. Data can be edited only when a leaf end is highlighted and the text appears in the editing window at right. This interface is better suited to creation and editing of metadata, such as a CDF channel, than continuous narrative.

This is not an editor for large documents. Hamlet, which is distributed with the release as a sample file, took an entire minute to load on a 266-MHz Pentium. (The product specifies a 133-MHz clock with 32 MB of RAM. The "faster" machine had only 16 MB.) XED took the same amount of time to load the file, but Henry Thompson, the author of XED, explicitly says that XED is for small to medium-size files, not for the likes of the 274-MB Hamlet.)

The interface and performance of the tool reveal more of their intentions than does the press release: Compare the Vervet GUI handling of the channel document shown above its handling of click to load illustrationHamlet. The data and metadata of the channel document are presented clearly and are easily edited. The Hamlet narrative, on the other hand, is editable only in the lower right-hand window, and only one leaf end is editable at one time.

There is nothing wrong with an XML editor created for data entry—in fact, we think this might be a great application space to lay claim to. A laudatory testimonial posted on the Vervet site describes an application where the software is used to edit "message definitions, message routing, data transformation, workflows, data schemas, business rules, and presentation scenarios." See the Vervet Logic home page.

Unfortunately, in its self-promotion, if not in its design, Vervet Logic has fallen into the trap of trying to be everything for everyone and so is likely to disappoint those looking for a general-purpose or narrative XML editor rather than to interest those looking for a data and metadata editor. Anyone who thinks this is an editor for what we classically think of as a "document" will get a wake-up call when using the XML Pro print facility: It prints the "document," in courier, complete with markup.

Like XED, which is a product directed to fast keyboard entry of small to medium-size catalog-type documents, we would like to see XML Pro carve out an intended piece of the XML editor market that does not necessarily overlap with or compete with existing word processing and publishing tools.