The Telecommunications Industry Forum/Information Products Interchange (TCIF/IPI) Committee recently passed two letter ballots dealing with telecommunications document interchange. These long-awaited guidelines cover the file formats for text and the overall directory structure developed and tested by the committee. The committee is currently developing guidelines on graphics and hypermedia.
The two guidelines provide a way to organize and identify files for delivery and a way to mark up the text contents of the files to preserve logical and semantic structure. The two guidelines, affectionately known to IPI participants as TIM and TEDD (Telecommunications Industry Markup and Telecommunications Electronic Document Delivery), are designed to address information interchange between the producers of telecommunications equipment and the providers of telecommunications services. Both guidelines adhere closely to the relevant ISO standards for information processing.
The TEDD package is a specification of how information should be organized in electronic media for interchange between trading partners. A TEDD package provides, first of all, a document-management mechanism through its admin directory, where partners can find the "card catalogue" information for the document. Other TEDD directories contain the text of a document, the graphic files called in by the document, and a print image of the document (for a customer's print-on-demand system). Optionally, there may also be viewable versions of the document (Adobe Acrobat, PostScript, and so on), or customers may choose to create their own viewable versions from the richly marked-up text files. The TEDD package in an earlier form was exhaustively tested during an independent trial conducted by BellSouth Telecommunications in 1993, which asked several switch vendors to provide information according to this organizational scheme. BellSouth found the scheme helpful and made many useful inputs to the update of the TEDD package specification, which is now getting its final testing by many of the IPI participants.
The TIM Document Type Definition (DTD) is a specification for describing the structural information contained in telecommunications documents, using SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language). SGML is the basis of most electronic documentation systems in development today, including the HTML (HyperText Markup Language) used on the World Wide Web. The TIM DTD is based largely on theDocBook DTD released in 1992 by the Davenport Group, the most widely used DTD for technical documentation. TIM extends DocBook by describing the structural constructs that are found in telecommunications documents. There will be filters available soon to convert documents from many word processors and desktop-publishing systems into TIM, and to convert TIM documents to DocBook, HTML, work processors, and browsers like Superbook, DynaText, and OLIAS. TIM also provides markup for hyperlinks that can be used in these browsers. TIM itself supports any type of graphic or multimedia object, although preferred formats will be specified in later IPI guidelines, after considerably more testing has been done.
The current release of TIM will soon be supplemented by "plug-in-modules" for methods, procedures, and requirements. Other ways of extending TIM are provided, including a data dictionary of descriptive terms for document elements. It allows sections to be labeled as parts, chapters appendices, prefaces, and many other specific types. TIM also allows local extensions so that trading partners can design their own plug-in modules to meet specific goals for information delivery and retrieval.
We members of the IPI Committee are happy to announce these two new guidelines. All of the necessary file for implementing the TIM and TEDD guidelines are available from this site. If you are interested in more information about or would like to participate on the IPI Committee, please call committee chair Art Kedzierski at RELTEC +1 (817) 540-8296.
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Copyright 1996 ATIS. Revised February 9, 1996.