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KMWorld February 1999
By Richard Medina and Joe Fenner
For many companies, large collections of corporate documents represent a significant portion of the company's knowledge base. With the Web, companies now have a means to electronically distribute that information to users inside and outside the organization. But there are two big challenges with electronic publishing today: The publishing process is time-consuming and complex, and it is difficult to ensure that the published material is dynamically updated.
Enter Enigma (www.enigmainc.com). The vendor's Insight publishing tool is designed to automate the process of electronically publishing large document collections to a variety of distribution and access media, including the Internet, intranets, internal networks or CD-ROM. The tool also supports dynamic updates to the published information, ensuring that users are accessing the most current content available.
Such capabilities make Insight a strategic solution for organizations that want to include large-scale document publishing in their KM and information-sharing initiatives. For example, Insight can be used to publish documents securely, including customer reference guides, owners manuals, technical documentation and company policies and procedures. Ideal candidates for the product include large corporations, government organizations and reference publishers.
The Windows NT-based system provides an integrated suite of electronic publishing tools. It automatically compiles source documents into a document collection that is fully searchable, and includes hierarchical tables of contents and hyperlinking. That publishing approach makes information quickly accessible online and lowers the cost of publishing.
Using Insight's wizards, creating an electronic publication is straightforward. Administrators simply select the source documents to publish and define topic-specific search fields for the collection. Insight automatically analyzes the source documents, identifies the structure, constructs rules for indexing and defines rules for creating the table of contents and hyperlinks.
Insight then combines the source documents to form a database, builds a full-text index and topic field search indexes and creates the publication interface with a hierarchical table of contents that is hyperlinked to the individual sections. The database is a compressed, encrypted proprietary document one, which provides good performance for document-oriented data collections. However, the database may be limited in terms of scalability for information that is records-oriented, and it has no server-side code for managing users.
Insight is flexible in its support for source document types. For example, Insight can publish documents generated in common formats such as Microsoft Word, RTF, SGML, PDF and FrameMaker, as well as from document management systems such as those from Documentum (www.documentum.com), FileNet (www.filenet.com) and PC DOCS (www.pcdocs.com).
To perform publishing tasks, Insight provides three distinct interfaces: Creator, Administrator and Designer. All three include wizards to simplify the process.
The Creator interface is used to define the database structure and search topic for a document collection type and to configure navigation and formatting parameters. Thus, publishers can set up distinct characteristics for different types of publications.
The Administrator interface is used to manage content and updates to the application, as well as to create new hyperlinks, hot spots and multimedia links. Thus, publishers can easily add, delete or edit documents, and control how the table of contents is organized and displayed. Unfortunately, some tasks for setting up and updating the table of contents are not included in the wizard, which can be confusing. The Administrator interface includes a Scheduler module that automatically rebuilds the publication after it has been modified.
The Designer interface allows publishers to fully configure the user environment. The publisher can modify all the graphical elements of the application, including the desktop icon, button icons, wallpaper, navigation bars and splash screens. In that way, the publisher can control the overall look and feel of the publication, ensuring that the application is consistent with the corporate intranet or client application interface standards.
Insight also provides a Distribution Wizard that allows publishers to distribute the publication to CDs, LANs or the Web. For LAN and CD-ROM distribution, the Distribution Wizard bundles the publication, viewer and associated files into a complete self-contained package that can be made available to users. For the Web, the Distribution Wizard creates an executable that contains all the necessary components to install and configure the Web publication.
Insight provides two different user environments, depending on the distribution mechanism. For CD-ROM or LAN distribution, the user environment is a thick-client application that runs on Windows 95, Windows NT Workstation, and Windows 3.x. With Web distribution, the user environment is a thin-client application that runs in a Web browser.
Both environments are fully customizable and robust, and include a built-in viewer. Regardless of the distribution method, users have the ability to search the entire application using the topic-specific or full-text search fields. Users can sort the results of a search, print selected documents, or open multiple documents.
Overall, we found the CD-ROM and LAN client interfaces to be user friendly and intuitive. We were able to quickly navigate through the publications using the table of contents and bookmarks. In addition, the client environment allows users to create electronic sticky notes to annotate the publications.
The Web interface is easy to use, but is less functional than its thick-client cousin. For example, the table of contents and full-text searching are not available in a single interface, requiring the user to jump between pages. In addition, the Web interface does not support sticky notes.
Still, the Web interface makes great sense for organizations that want to use their intranets to share knowledge from corporate document collections. In addition, Enigma provides a helpful component called NetSight for those organizations that want to serve up their documents in HTML instead of requiring the document viewer. When users request a document, the NetSight server component locates the document in the database, converts it to HTML on the fly, then sends back the HTML document to the user through the Web server.
Insight provides organizations with an easy-to-use and comprehensive solution for publishing their large document collections in a media-independent way. The product does have some limitations, such as inconsistency between the thick client and browser interface, and a proprietary database. But none of those limitations is a show stopper.
To play a role in corporate knowledge management initiatives, Insight offers a new add-on component called Xtend. Xtend allows organizations that receive Insight publications to add their own information and business-specific knowledge and to republish the customized publication. New content is automatically added to full-text search index, placed logically in the table of contents and hyperlinked.
For example, an airline receives maintenance documentation in Insight from one of its manufacturers. Using Xtend, the airline can customize the publication to include company-specific maintenance procedures or regulatory data. Republishing the document automatically incorporates the company's specific customizations into the publication, which can be distributed to maintenance personnel.
With Xtend, Enigma has significantly enhanced and broadened Insight's ability to deliver secure, dynamic, reusable and customizable publications. A broad range of organizations will be able to leverage such capabilities effectively in their knowledge management initiatives for sharing information with internal users, as well as with external customers and business partners.
Richard Medina is a senior analyst and Joe Fenner is a senior technical writer with Doculabs (www.doculabs.com), 312-433-7793, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.