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The delivery of SGML encoded documents is most definitely a problem, though
the future looks more promising now than it did a year ago. Changing the
outlook is the development of XML or Extensible Markup Language, an IETF
effort. XML is a subset of the SGML standard, a subset that eliminates some
features that make it difficult to write SGML-aware applications.

The XML development is promising because Sun, MicroSoft, SoftQuad,
Inso/EBT, Netscape (after at first balking) and other developers are
supporting the effort. MicroSoft already has submitted at least two XML
compliant DTDs for discussion to the IETF. If the current trend continues,
and it appears it will, MicroSoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape's
Navigator will support XML display and other applications not possible
using HTML (more profound linking, searching, and metadata (descriptive and
control) for example). There are also likely to be many JAVA applets that
process XML.

The EAD DTD, thanks to good advice from Steve DeRose (Inso) and Debbie
Lapeyre (Mulberry) is nearly compliant with XML specifications, and making
it so is highly unlikely to invalidate current EAD documents. And so it
appears relief is on its way for the SGML browser blues.

In the meantime, though, the following options are available for making
EAD-encoded finding aids available on the Internet:

1) Inso's DynaText/DynaWeb configuration. This requires an outright
purchase of the DynaText/DynaWeb software, or applying for an educational
grant for the same. The grant process takes a bit of time, and the
DynaText/DynaWeb software requires that you have highly skilled technical
support in or available to your repository.

2) SoftQuad's Panorama is available as a "helper" application to the
Windows versions of Netscape and Explorer. Since Panorama does not come
bundled with either browser, the user must download, install, and configure
the software to look at finding aids being pitched to Panorama. Usually
this is a fairly simple process, but occastionally is difficult. Another
weakness is that Panorama's table handling functions are not sufficiently
flexible to handle the <tspecs> in EAD.

3) Translate the SGML into HTML on-the-fly or in advance using various
scripts. This requires that you have staff available that can work with
perl and/or CGI scripts, or you create the finding aids in a database
package that has good exporting support, or you encode your finding aids
using the EAD in exactly the same way as someone else who has developed the
perl/CGI scripts, and "borrow" them. Both UVa and UCSD are participating
with UC Berkeley in projects that involve using the same encoding, and both
institutions are "piping" the SGML files the WEB, though UCSD is "piping"
them from a database. (The EAD Retrospective Conversion Guidelines are
available at Berkeley).

Until XML blooms, that's about it for now.

I hope this contributes a little to the discussion.





At 04:58 PM 5/17/97 -0400, you wrote:
>On Sat, 17 May 1997, Scott Alan Leonard wrote:
>
>> What does this hold for us in terms of trying to use the EAD
>> when our patrons have to have the latest Microsoft OS just to get an SGML
>> browser to view our finding aids?  Are there any other SGML browsers on
>> the market, or does SoftQuad have a monopoly?
>
>This isn't anything new.  Those of us using the Mac OS have been waiting
>for years to have a Panorama version for the Mac!  Scott Leonard's message
>highlights the inherent weakness in relying on any software development
>company's browser product in order to disseminate information encoded in
>EAD finding aids.  It also highlights the need right now in the archival
>community for a broader discussion of dissemination options that use SGML
>for intelligent storage and retrieval of f.a. data and HTML for delivery
>to end users.  Maybe the best option to pursue is not to rely on SGML
>*browsers* for the delivery of SGML-encoded *data*, but to take advantage
>of the overwhelming ubiquitousness of HTML (browsers, CGI programming,
>etc.) as an information delivery vehicle.  What we really need are good
>analyses of the EAD delivery systems being put together at institutions,
>like Yale and UCSD to name two, where Panorama is not the sole alternative
>for utilization of the encoded information!
>
>            ----------------------------Bill Landis
>            "His eyes                   JSTOR Production Coordinator-------
>are closed. He looks                                    [log in to unmask] |
>like a man who has just prayed for something            313 936 2363      |
>his life is not worth a prayer without."                fax 647 6897      |
>.  .  . T. R. Hummer.  ."The Age Before Passion: A Vision".  .  .  .  .  .|
>
>
Daniel V. Pitti
Project Director
Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities
Alderman Library
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia 22903
phone: 804 924-6594
fax: 804 982-2363
email: [log in to unmask]