AFs and the DPH (Was Animal Friends, etc.)

Jonathan Robie jwrobie at
Thu Oct 2 02:18:28 BST 1997

At 12:31 AM 10/2/97, Peter Murray-Rust wrote:
>At 07:10 30/09/97 -0400, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>>At 09:35 AM 9/30/97 BST, Henry S. Thompson wrote:
>>So now we have all the players!

>Many people (e.g. Eliot Kimber and James
>Clark) have been very helpful but I suffer from not having:
>	- a beginner's introduction to AFs on the WWW

Yes, I have found a few things on the web, but nothing as clear and
well-written as Microsoft's paper on XML-Data. If someone would just follow
the organization of Microsoft's paper to present the same information on
Architectural Forms, that would be a great way to demonstrate that
Architectural Forms have the same power, and would make it much easier to
make fair comparisons.

>	- simple free working software to see how they work
>[If I'm wrong in this, I'll be delighted.]

Well, SP supports AFs, and you can use an option (I think the -A option) to
strip out the part of a document that belongs to a particular architectural
form. I'm not sure what other software does.

>	- AFs allow (partial) mapping of one data structure (in SGML) to another.
>There are restrictions on mapping inconsistent content models, for example.
>	- among the benefits of AFs are that you can manage different 'namespaces'
>and can alias elements or attributes
>	- AFs are defined in standard SGML and parsers parse them 'without
>realising what they are' 
>	- an AF expert can do very elegant things with AFs.

One cool thing about AFs is that if you parse documents created with them
into an SGML repository, using fixed attributes to identify the forms, then
it is easy to do database searches for the information that your particular
group is interested in by searching on the attributes. This really impressed
me at the Kona mixer.

>However, all the benefits from AFs have to be realised by having an
>AF-aware processor (I differentiate parser from processor - an ESIS stream
>could be input into an AF-aware processor). My understanding is that:
>	- there are no freely available AF processors
>	- generic AF processors are beyond the ability (or at least the time) for
>a DPH to write from scratch
>Therefore AFs are only available to largish groups with time and/or
>money... This rules out the DPH.

I suspect the DPH could do some interesting things to support queries for
information contained in architectural forms. I am still a rank beginner at
AFs, but I had a real breakthrough when I got my hands on some real data,
the documents from the Kona proposal, which were created using architectural
forms. These documents can be found at
"". The
example that helped me the most was the Surgical Pathology example.


Jonathan Robie   jwrobie at
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703

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