Storing XML/Streaming HTML

James Robertson jamesr at
Sun Dec 6 02:00:25 GMT 1998

At 01:19 5/12/1998 , you wrote:

  | I'm helping a company get a stalled intranet done and one of the major
  | things they are looking to do is make their policies and procedures manual
  | available as an online reference. I am thinking that it makes sense to mark
  | it up as XML: it is 1000 pages and contains lots of chapters and
  | subheadings. Anyway, the question is, have people gone this route yet, of
  | marking up some text in XML and then streaming it to the client
(browser) as
  | HTML? I'm planning to use one of the XML Java parsers and just fetch the
  | text and then have some way of reading styles from a CSS file and applying
  | them as I stream it out.


I will try hard to restrain myself when discussing this: I've been working
on a solution in exactly this area for the last year, and there are a lot
of issues to cover.

I am also in the process of helping to design an intranet solution for
a major client, so I am keenly aware of the issues surrounding such

First off, I would strongly encourage you to think of this as a communication
problem, not a technical problem. That is: what is the best way to communicate
vital information to the readers of the manual?

The biggest example of this: paper form information is normally not suitable
for presentation on-line, as it is designed for linear reading, not hypertext
jumping about. Also, I think you will find that creating effective methods
of navigation will be just as important as the content itself.

Therefore, a few questions for you:

* How will you author and maintain the content?

* What format is the current document, and how do you plan
  to get it into XML?

* Are you planning to do usability testing on the online
  layout and structure?

* Will you still need to produce a paper copy?

* If so, will you have to maintain one copy of the information,
  or two?

In summary, it is very easy to focus on the technical aspects
of such a project, and create an online form that no-one can,
or wants to, use.

This is particularly important in the environment you have
briefly described: they have already had one pass at a successful
intranet and failed. Simply adding a lot of extra pages of "stuff"
will not necessarily improve the situation ...

That being said, I've created a solution for a client that involved
a custom-written authoring environment for a manual consisting
of 7000+ pages (insurance underwriting material).

This then gets exported to SGML, and published into WinHelp, RTF,
and HTML.

Works like a charm, but not a trivial exercise by any means.

Hope this helps,


James Robertson
Step Two Designs Pty Ltd
SGML, XML & HTML Consultancy
jamesr at

"Beyond the Idea"
 ACN 081 019 623

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