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  Out of the box, onto the network...

August 11, 1997 10:00 AM ET

XML gains foothold with DataChannel viewer
By Michael Moeller, PC Week Online

  XML, the heir to HTML's web page development throne, is starting to mature as a standard and, as a result, is finding its way into commercial products.

DataChannel Inc., based in Bellevue, Wash., is the latest vendor to enter the Extensible Markup Language space with client software that enables Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer or Netscape Communications Corp.'s Communicator to view and understand documents created in XML.

XML, a subset of SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language), goes where HTML falls short, especially in the area of "tagging" a document. XML designers are able to create highly segmented documents that can be structured in a variety of ways. (See column.)

DataChannel's XML Viewer, now shipping, enables IE and Communicator users to read documents created using Microsoft's Channel Definition Format, an XML-based technology.

The Viewer also enables users to build XML Navigation Trees, which contain the tags, or identification markers, that point to appropriate files. HTML documents can't be as specifically grouped or categorized because HTML tags are too generic.

XML Viewer, available free of charge at DataChannel's Web site, will bridge the gap between Microsoft's and Netscape's own initiatives. Microsoft is including a parser, the underlying technology to render XML documents, in IE 4.0. Likewise, Netscape is working to incorporate support for XML into future versions of Communicator.

XML grows up

  • DataChannel releases new Java XML viewer
  • Internet Explorer and Communicator to add support for XML
  • W3C to issue new XML style sheet specification by year's end.

To help spread the markup language to more developers, the World Wide Web Consortium is working on the next phase of XML: a new style sheet technology based on the Document Style Semantics and Specification Language.

Style sheets, now available with HTML, provide a repository for a page's tags to be collected. Browsers download style sheets with Web pages in order to understand how to render and lay out a page.

By the end of the year, the W3C workgroup is expected to deliver a new style sheet specification for XML that will enable XML tags to be grouped the way HTML tags are.

The XML style sheet is expected to be released in a working draft form at the XML/SGML 97 conference in Washington in December.

Furthermore, the W3C is putting the finishing touches on several other XML specifications, including the XML linking technology that enables an XML hyperlink to point to multiple destinations. HTML hyperlinks can point only to one location.

In addition, XML provides a better way of grouping or categorizing large documents.

"Right now, [HTML] is a string of text that goes on and on and on," said Jeff Parkins, a Web administrator for Caufer, Kliner and Jacobs, a law firm in Los Angeles. "XML sounds like it will enable me to create better-looking and more easily manageable documents."

DataChannel can be reached at (206) 462-1999 or www.datachannel.com.

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