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XML?Defining Documents on the 'Net

February 1998
Catalog printers, pay close attention: XML—an enhancement of HTML or a redefined, simplified version of SGML, depending on how you view it—is one document manipulation language you need to know, and know well.

XML will be your friend. Why?

Extensible Markup Language (XML) allows users to define their own structure and tags, completely tailored to a particular document. XML is considered a subset of Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML)—the 20-year-old, far too complex, yet far too vital to lose an ounce of respect for—document language.

HTML is an application of SGML.

For commercial printers, notably high-end catalog printers that repurpose wares onto glitzy Internet pages for continued sales appeal, XML, a nonproprietary standard, will become quite a considerable player in everyday operations.

"A catalog publisher that is repurposing data for the World Wide Web can use XML to mix and match information in ways not possible with HTML," reports Frank Gilbane, a director at CAP Ventures, a Norwell, MA-based research firm. "XML is designed to solve the main limitations of HTML without the complexities that a full SGML would carry with it."

So, if you were wondering why Microsoft god Bill Gates trumpeted XML during Seybold San Francisco this past fall—tagging the new language as a key to the future of publishing—now you have a clue.

Beyond the Internet
While Internet publishers, naturally, will be enthused by and entrenched in the document manipulation flexibility afforded by this new kid on the block, it's critical that printers, especially catalog printers, welcome this new face to the publishing neighborhood.

"XML will aid in the creation of custom catalogs, allowing commercial printers to enhance their services, thus offering more bits of information within the data they transform from paper to the World Wide Web," CAP's Gilbane explains.

How will XML empower the innovative graphic arts operation? Paul Trevithick, vice president of marketing at Bitstream—better known throughout the industry as the founder of Archetype, recently acquired by Bitstream—offers some direction.

"Since the philosophy behind XML (and SGML) is to separate content from presentation (format, color, font, geometry), it allows writers, editors, illustrators and database personnel to create pure and structured content, free from issues—like how the information will be used and presented," Trevithick says. "More and more, we need to be able to develop information content independently because increasingly these same chunks of content will be reused and reconfigured into many different pages in different media."

 

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