SGML BeLux '94 conference

Hans C. Arents

SGML BeLux, Vol. 1, N° 4

On October 12th, SGML BeLux organised SGML BeLux '94, its annual conference on the practical use of SGML, this year entitled "Experience the power of SGML!". The conference was the first in a series of conferences that will focus on the practical use of SGML tools and techniques for electronic document engineering and information delivery.

In the beautiful settings of the Arenberg castle in Leuven, a selected group of speakers talked about their practical experiences with SGML. Together with the conference, an exhibition was held where commercial SGML tools and electronic document systems were available for hands-on testing by the conference participants. The conference was attended by more than 75 participants coming from industry, government and research institutions, all actively involved in the business use of SGML and related electronic document standards.

In the opening talk, SGML BeLux chairman Paul Hermans (ProText) and Jan Engelen (K.U.Leuven) stressed that the main objective of SGML BeLux was to provide accurate, up-to-date information on the practical use of SGML, and they expressed the hope that this conference would contribute to that objective.

The conference started with two case studies about the use of SGML as a key component in document management solutions. In his talk "Electronic document management for North Sea offshore oil and gas platforms", Alan Murray (Shell Expro) discussed how his company uses SGML to distribute as electronic books on CD-ROM all the legally required manuals and safety regulations for their offshore platforms. He stressed how the project had confirmed the value of analysing existing paper documents and the document management process, the need to adopt and stand by international standards, and the importance of commitment and support by senior management.

In the talk "Object-oriented information and the IMAP-DTD", Steffen R. Frederiksen (Information Mapping Europe) first introduced Information Mapping (TM), a field-tested method for the production of object-oriented information, i.e. modular, reusable information objects, which have a well-defined purpose and contents for the future document users. Paul Hermans (ProText) then discussed his experiences in developing a DTD which supports the Information Mapping (TM); method, highlighting how he had to repeatedly refine his original DTD to arrive at its present final form.

In the third talk, "A typesetter's tale on SGML", Steven Van den Bergh and Lauwrie Stevens (Fotek Grafische Bedrijven) told how their company had decided to start typesetting and producing paper pages using SGML as the underlying markup language. They described how their company made the transition to SGML-based documents, the problems they had encountered and the tools they had developed, and how they now were helping their own customers in using SGML internally.

In a more technical talk, "Document processing based on architectural forms", Klaus Harbo (Exoterica) and Bart Bauwens (K.U.Leuven-CAPS) illustrated the use of so-called architectural forms to enhance the expressive power of SGML, by discussing how these were used to develop the ICADD (International Committee for Accessible Document Design) DTD. The goal of the ICADD DTD is to make printed materials accessible to people with print disabilities, by allowing electronic documents conforming to the ICADD DTD to be converted to special media (e.g. braille).

In the first talk of the afternoon, "Current approaches to SGML up-translation", François Chahuneau (A.I.S.) elaborated on the need for a consistent approach to SGML conversion issues. He clearly explained why "up-translation" is by no way symmetrical to "down-translation" i.e. transformation of SGML data to arbitrary formats, and why different tools and programming approaches are required for each conversion problem.

In the final two talks, speakers from WordPerfect and Microsoft outlined their companies' strategies on supporting SGML in their wordprocessing software. WordPerfect illustrated how they were evolving from a wordprocessing into a documentprocessing software company, and highlighted the central role IntelliTag (a tool for the conversion of WordPerfect files into SGML files) would play in that strategy. Microsoft gave a sneak preview of their upcoming SGML Author, an add-on tool for Word for Windows that will allow users to define style sheets for SGML documents, and perform conversions between Word for Windows and SGML files. Both companies affirmed their belief in the importance of SGML as an electronic document interchange standard.

The success of this first conference has clearly shown that also in Belgium, awareness is growing that the SGML standard is the key to realising the full potential of electronic document solutions. If you are interested in receiving a paper version or an electronic copy of the conference proceedings, please contact the SGML BeLux secretariat.

latest update: November 21 1995
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