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Publishing on the Internet

This has been included in this report because the end result we often require is a published report of some kind with a mix of text and graphics. Three products are addressed here. The Acrobat software and associated file format PDF seems likely to dominate for those wishing to have page description files of this kind. The products listed all have the look and feel of printed pages as their model for online publishing.


Adobe have signalled a commitment to the WWW with various moves recently. Their PostScript file format has always provided a format which is largely reliable and portable between machines and software and printers. They built on the success of PostScript a few years ago in producing their Portable Document Format (PDF). Adobe had learned from their PostScript experience that it is possible to have an open standard for exchange and still obtain revenue from those products which used the format - in the case of PostScript these were the laser printers with PostScript capability.


PDF through the Acrobat suite of software tools is a page description language which allows navigation within documents, the ability to annotate, collaboration tools for document development and indexing. Scanned documents can be turned into PDF. PDF can be converted to PostScript for exchange and printing. It has gained popularity with publishers experimenting with electronic journals. The reasons for this include the fact that it allows the publisher to maintain integrity of documents which are stored in a page format thus allowing continuity of style as well as document fidelity.


Adobe and Apple have recently announced PageMill and SiteMill which allow creation and management of pages on the WWW which have been created using Adobe software. A future version of the Acrobat software has been announced, and this will include what is described as being more tightly integrated with the WWW technology. There will no longer be a need for the separate (free) Acrobat Reader. As part of this strategic direction, Adobe are working with suppliers of browsers, including NetScape, to build PDF support into their browsers. Other recently added extensions include the ability to embed AVI video and audio files.


The real problem, in the view of the writer of this report, is whether the page paradigm is the one we wish to follow when using online documents. It seems to have attractions for people for the wrong reasons, which include: maintenance of paper-based styles; maintaining information fidelity (is there a better way?); maintaining equivalence between paper and online forms of documents. There is however a lot of interest in PDF and Acrobat tools, particularly from those investigating the possibilities of the electronic library.


The Acrobat software is available for Windows, Apple Mac and Unix systems.



Envoy is marketed by Novell, having been originally launched by WordPerfect and is part of the Perfect Office suite. This gives it a large market share, but it certainly has less visibility than its competitor Acrobat. Recent extensions to Envoy have been made by a company called Tumbleweed and Tumbleweed Publishing Essentials was released in December 1995. Indexing, hyperlinks and conversion from PostScript have been added. An OLE Control object for Microsoft's Internet Studio publishing tool has also been produced. It is supported on Windows 95 and NT. An Apple version is expected.


Common Ground

This product has a relatively small share of the market and is available for Windows only at the time of writing. An Apple version is expected.