Category : XML

Flowing Data through Templates: the Art of Silicon Paginator

Flowing Data through Templates – the Art of Silicon Paginator

For 16 years we at Silicon Publishing have carried on a tradition we first encountered from our former life at Bertelsmann Industry Services (a now defunct company with its own 20-year history): database publishing. We automate the flow of data through templates, producing the entire spectrum of documents that can be generated from data:

  • Catalogs
  • Directories
  • Financial statements
  • Insurance documents
  • Report cards
  • One-to-one marketing pieces
  • Practically anything you can think of…

 

Paginator Documents

The diversity of “data-generated documents” has surprised me ever since I started working in this business. 20 years ago, we were still producing internal phone directories for companies such as Chevron and Mobile, large organizations that spewed forth paper to communicate information before the web took over.

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The Fall and Rise of SVG

The Fall and Rise of SVG

SVG certainly crashed and burned before it rose like a phoenix from the ashes…

Sometime in 1998, a former co-worker who had gone to work at Adobe came by my office at Bertlesmann to inform me of a brand new technology that she knew would excite me: PGML, or “Precision Graphics Markup Language.” This was the Adobe flavor of XML for Vector Graphics. As Jon Warnock put it at the time:

“The PGML proposal solves a growing need for a precise specification that enables members of the Web community to readily and reliably post, control and interact with graphics on the Web.”

I fell for it, hook, line and sinker, and ever since that time, I have followed the standards for XML-based vector graphics closely. PGML (mainly from Adobe) and VML (mainly from Microsoft), as well as a few other similar efforts (Web Schematics, Hyper Graphics Markup Language, WebCGM, and DrawML) soon merged into a “real” W3C standard, called Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG). This promised to serve as a format for rendering interactive vector graphics in Web browsers, which at that time (the era of Netscape Navigator 4.7 and Internet Explorer 5) was only possible with Macromedia Flash.

Completely obvious in the year 2000

What made SVG so cool? It could almost be considered “PostScript for the Web,” so it certainly made sense for Adobe to sponsor and support it in its infancy: with SVG (as with PostScript), art was primarily described via vectors, a method far more efficient (and more naturally “scalable”) than using raster images.

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Standards are the Present

Standards are the Present

I was writing a press release recently, and I was just about to write a heading that has been something of a mantra the past 20 years: “Standards are the Future”. But I paused, realizing the product I was describing is completely standards-based, thanks to recent technology advances. I corrected the title, and I think now is the right time to declare victory for web standards over proprietary technologies and walled gardens.

As of 2015, web standards-based approaches at last make complete sense for the majority of software use cases, at least those that our company works with on a daily basis. Sure, there are places where walled gardens and native software have a valid reason to exist, but those have become the exception rather than the rule.

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Good News and Bad News for HTML5

Good News and Bad News for HTML5

I am at the HTML5 Developers’ Conference in San Francisco. One of my friends said “it must feel like Christmas for you over there” and it actually does feel that way, not in the sense of “everything is easy now” but more in the sense of “our path forward is clear.” Like Christmas before a year-long war we know we will win.

The 2012 HTML5 Developer Conference in San Francisco

Paul Irish spoke this morning about the various tools he’s using these days, or as of 10/16/12 (one gets the impression he’ll be adding a new one tomorrow), so certainly things are more mature in terms of the “tool chain” (in the old days we were waiting for “tools” to simply get plural, as text editors reigned supreme). Now we can say there are ToolS for HTML5. Cool.

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Moore's Law and Adobe InDesign Server

Moore’s Law and Adobe InDesign Server

We have been automating Adobe InDesign for 12 years, InDesign Server for 7 (since it came out), and it seems that just now we are finally being proven right in our bet long ago that going with the slowest, yet far and away most robust, composition engine would in the long run be the best path. After all, hardware just gets faster and faster. Desktop tools and capabilities do tend to end up on servers.

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WWW Proposal

How the Web has advanced since its original design

I just set up a basic Web site (WordPress blog) for a friend, Paris Tompkins. This took only a few minutes’ spare time, including the hosting, DNS, customization. She chose the theme herself; I just made the side look OK and added the vital “Add to Any” plugin.

I still barely know WordPress, but I have had almost no trouble with any aspect of it recently: I played around with various blogging software about 8 years ago, and it was nowhere near this easy. I have only had to do something with PHP within a WordPress site once, and probably because of the nature of the template.

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The Two Perspectives on XML

The Two Perspectives on XML

XML

I have been working with XML since it was a glimmer in the eye of Jon Bosak. In fact, before XML was conceived, there was SGML; this evolution of SGML represented a streamlining for the web, but at its core there was not much functional difference; in fact the new invention was defined as a mere SGML subset. The key concept of semantic markup is central to the core value of SGML as well as its “streamlined for mass consumption” child.

The two main perspectives I have seen are Document-centric and Data-centric. SGML initially appeared in support of document-centric work: managing all the technical documents or contracts of IBM or Boeing, for example. Charles Goldfarb has maintained that “SGML literally makes the infrastructure of modern society possible” and I think he’s right – hmm, should we blame him for the lengths to which humans have gone to destroy the earth?

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