Last year Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Interleaf Inc shot to prominence because it has some innovative technology enabling the creation of what it terms active documents. The first product to bring this technology to the market was Interleaf 5, launched last year in the US (CI No 1,526) and just surfacing over here. Interleaf 5 is the […]
Last year Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Interleaf Inc shot to prominence because it has some innovative technology enabling the creation of what it terms active documents. The first product to bring this technology to the market was Interleaf 5, launched last year in the US (CI No 1,526) and just surfacing over here. Interleaf 5 is the next generation product for Interleaf’s TPS 4 users. Aside from active documents, other functionality has been added to the core publishing package, such as support for X Window on-screen colour, scalable fonts, text zoom and so on. However, it is the active document technology that is of greatest interest. An active document can access information, evaluate and act on it. Aside from offering livelinks – which link a document to other software, so that you can open a document and, say, bring in a spreadsheet – and dynamic links – which link data in such a way that if one set of data gets updated so does the other data – Interleaf 5 also offers creative links and intelligent links. Creative links don’t just update documents but can generate new data from information while intelligent links evaluate the results of the data. For example, Interleaf 5 can link a word processing document to Lotus Development Corp 1-2-3 and then evaluate the results of what has happened to the figures and can act on those figures by, say, laying ground rules for action if figures are above or below a certain limit. To get some idea of how much ahead of the game this is, Microsoft Corp’s Object Linking and Embedding protocol is at the level of the dynamic link library, while Interleaf has already implemented creative and intelligent links in its Interleaf 5 product. Interleaf 5 also uses conditional hypertext so that information evaluated in a document using intelligent links can execute hypertext links depending on that information. For example, somebody filling in a questionnaire document would be taken to the next appropriate part of the document by the hypertext link from an evaluation of the data that has already been entered. Interleaf 5 is sold in five different packages: Passport, which is entry-level and comes without the Developer’s Toolkit and then packages for various vertical markets – such as Illustrator, and also packages that include the Developer’s Toolkit such as Engineer, Production/Academic and Developer. These packages range in price from UKP95 to UKP15,000. The developer’s toolkit is a document object-oriented environment that includes access to Interleaf’s proprietary Lisp via various programming tools. Interleaf 5 comes with document objects, including text and graphics objects that are already grouped into classes and have functionality defined for them. Working from these given objects, the developer can create new objects as well as new classes and subclasses. Non-programmers can design documents that act as user interfaces for applications using the Interleaf document editing tools. Interleaf Lisp uses the core Lisp language along with extensions specific to Interleaf’s publishing software. Furthermore, the toolkit is an optional layered application that only runs with Interleaf 5. In other words the active document technology is only accessible as part of Interleaf 5. Interleaf 5 applications can communicate with applications running on the same computer via a Lisp module called proc. Communications between applications running on a network take place courtesy of TCP/IP. With the launch of Interleaf 5, the company has also sought to reposition itself as one that offers total documentation and publishing information management systems. Pursuing this strategy it is targeting specific industries with Interleaf 5 by developing a partnership with a leading company in the designated market. For example, Interleaf worked with Boeing Co to develop a product standard data system following a prototype provided by Andersen Consulting. Now up to 6,000 workstations are running the software in Boeing keeping over 70,000 pages of parts specifications on-line. Active documents are particularly appr
opriate where there are industry standard documentation requirements, such as the CALS initiative by the US Department of Defense that forces suppliers to supply documentation in specific electronic formats.
The Air Transport Association has its own CALS requirements and it seems likely that Interleaf will dominate this market following the successful implementation at Boeing. Next targeted market is the pharmaceutical industry, where the active-documents technology is being used by companies to track and update information on clinical trials of new drugs that can installed both in the companies’ work sites and the Federal Drugs Administration. Indeed, Interleaf is hoping to pick off regulated industries one by one where software has to support standard structures, such as the computer-aided software engineering industry – Interleaf will play a role in the launch of Interactive Development Environments Inc’s next application development environment announcement. As for development work with information technology vendors, Interleaf is working closely with Apple Computer Inc and will figure in the System 7.0 launch. It is also collaborating with Xerox Corp to develop the software to drive the hot new Docutech product. – Katy Ring