State of browsers/JUMBO (was Re: Cement Shoes for XML?)

Peter Murray-Rust peter at
Wed Sep 2 10:19:18 BST 1998

At 22:39 01/09/98 -0400, Simon St.Laurent wrote:
>Some of you may be interested in my latest essay, "Cement Shoes for XML?",
>which explores some reasons why client-side XML support, at least in the
>dominant browsers, may be slow in coming or perhaps worse.  Hopefully, I
>haven't said anything too rude, but it's the result of several weeks of
>frustration brought on by reading articles about how slow and/or broken the
>development efforts in the current browsers appear to be.
>Developers planning on using server-side tools to send XML to browser clients
>will probably find it most alarming. (Myself included.)

Minor correction: the essay suggests that JUMBO is a specialist browser for
chemistry - in fact it is a general element-oriented browser which can
address any domain where functionality can be provided by adding code on a
per-element basis. For example I have added a simple vector graphics module
which can be expended to support VML/PGML/FOO when those firm up (and when
I feel confident enough to start using JDK1.2/Java2D for the additional

I was surprised not to see more browsers at Montreal developers' day - my
current assessment is that the main authors are:
	- Steve Withall (XXX)
	- Scott Parnell (Raven)
	- PeterMR (JUMBO)
All of these use Swing (Java) for their rendering and all suffer from the
bugginess of Swing. [This bugginess was confirmed by several
conversations.]. For example we have found it difficult to provide proper
formatting using the Style/AttributeSet and received wisdom is that the
author has to rewrite parts of Swing to get it to work.

	As a result of the lack of browsers I have spent time investigating how
JUMBO2 might be expanded to meet 'most' needs. It seems that the following
may be valuable:
	- support for simple styles. I am developing an approach where readers can
select per-element behavior for stylesheets [i.e. bold, leading CR, display
start-tag, colour could be selected from a menu of elements.] It would
probably be relatively simple to make it into a subset of CSS. I don't
intend to do this myself because I don't have the time or passion to worry
about rendering on screen at least till Swing is better.
	- simple searching (similar to XPointer).
	- HTML-like forms/CDC/XML-data. I demo'ed this briefly at Montreal - the
forms are created by the XML input and can be written out with edited
values. This seems to me a simple, valuable thing that a browser can do to
enhance the value of XML over HTML. Thus JUMBO can apply algorithms very
easily to client-side data entry to validate before upload. I don't imagine
I'm the only person who thinks this could be a useful function.
	- vector graphics. JUMBO will have the ability to read or edit simple
vector graphics. Not completely finished, but I've done this before. This
would allow simple - if not instantaneous - collaborative graphical
working. Doesn't this excite other people??
	- structural and per-element editing. The only thing I am not going to do
is write a text editor. Editing other elements is easier, both individually
and for structure.

	I have repeatedly suggested that we develop these tools communally and
have offered JUMBO on this basis. I've had a few replies, but not as many
as I would have hoped. Is everyone paralysed by waiting for others to do
it??? It seems inconceivable that we couldn't write a useful simple browser
starting from where we are. 

	I have written a manifesto about this on (xml:geek) if
you want further motivation.


The next snapshot of JUMBO should be out this in day or two. It's not
polished - and some of the things and only part implemented - but most of
the bits are there somewhere.

Peter Murray-Rust, Director Virtual School of Molecular Sciences, domestic
net connection
VSMS, Virtual Hyperglossary

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