Arbortext Epic 4.3: More than Just a Point Release


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In May 6, Arbortext announced Epic version 4.3, its XML multichannel publishing solution. This robust release demonstrates Arbortext's continuing, deep commitment to XML standards and business results. Epic is one of three popular XML authoring tools; Adobe FrameMaker and SoftQuad XMetaL are the other two. Only Epic and XMetaL are "native" XML tools, meaning that they can work with any XML model directly. The business problems that this release addresses are easier use, increased XML integration with MS Windows and FileNET, and more capabilities for multichannel publishing: Creating many products on different platforms in less time. The biggest new features in 4.3 are comprehensive support for XML Schemas and other XML standards, better support for MathML and SVG, increased ease of use, and XML pipeline support.

Schemas are the latest expression of XML document models, providing richer data typing than is possible with Document Type Definitions (DTDs). Schemas were promoted to the status of "recommendation" (the World Wide Web Consortium's term for "released standards") in May 2001. SoftQuad announced XMetaL support for Schemas earlier this year. Epic 4.3 now does this too, but upping the ante with robust support for virtually all Schema capabilities including local data models, wildcards in data type definitions, and both and for easier reuse. Epic also supports other key XML standards, such as XSL formatting objects (offering multilanguage hyphenation) and extensions to the standard supporting change bars and more. Epic also supports XPath comprehensively; this support is required for other W3C recommendations like XSLT, XPointer, and level 3 of the Document Object Model. Without getting into details, suffice it to say that supporting the basic XML standard alone won't get you the business benefits of multichannel publishing.

MathML, the markup language for mathematical notation, and SVG, the Scalable Vector Graphic standard, are also XML standards. As such, native XML systems always support them. However, Epic displays visual renditions of MathML and SVG content in context, via ActiveX controls and plug-ins available from MathML and SVG vendors. Epic also supports forms created in Visual Basic, increasing its integration with MS Windows. Finally, XML pipeline support avoids the problem of individual XML content chunks being valid while their assembled order in a larger document might be invalid.

Beneath the feature set, this release shows what Arbortext believes XML content management users are seeking. Arbortext is increasingly moving away from the desktop publishing paradigms of whole documents and WYSIWYG. Instead, Epic deals handily with individual portions of documents, letting subject matter experts in various disciplines write about what they know best. WYSIWYG was important for printed or PDF output, but with multichannel outputs now including small real estate devices like PDAs and cell phones, paper design is not only meaningless, but can even encourage bad habits, having authors depend on the look of a document to convey meaning, when that design is guaranteed to change. Still, authoring has gotten easier, and the standard Epic screen looks surprisingly like MS Word. Arbortext believes that the improved interface, but support for a view of XML as objects rather than complete documents, will increase authoring adoption rates, significantly reduce publishing time, and reduce content maintenance costs by up to 20 times since content can now truly be written once and delivered many times and ways. With this standard set as a point release, imagine what 5.0 holds in store.