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html converter

From: Jim Allan <allan_jm@tsb1.tsbvi.edu>
Date: Mon, 08 May 2000 15:14:02 -0500
To: WAI-au <w3c-wai-au@w3.org>
Message-id: <NBBBIBAJLBJPFGFFMBMECEFDDPAA.allan_jm@tsb1.tsbvi.edu>
from http://www.zdnet.com/eweek/stories/general/0,11011,2556582,00.html
Anything Goes with Outside In Server
Inso's updated Web server plug-in converts more than 200 document types to
HTML on the fly.
By Herb Bethoney, eWEEK Labs
May 1, 2000 12:00 AM ET

Version 2.5 of Inso Corp.'s Outside In Server now supports Windows 2000 and
Cascading Style Sheets, making the Web server plug-in even more valuable
than before. It is a must upgrade and a must-have for any Windows NT/Windows
2000-based Web operation looking to make a variety of document types

PC Week Labs designated Outside In Server an Analyst's Choice because its
ability to automate the delivery of a wide variety of content to the Web is
impressive and unique. Priced at a hefty $10,000 per server, Outside In
Server is unmistakably aimed at the enterprise market and at companies
looking to build Internet and intranet information portals.

In tests, we found it easy to convert native documents into Web pages using
Outside In Server's sample templates and rules-based architecture. From its
position in front of a Web server, Outside In Server intercepts a document
request, finds the document, converts it into HTML and serves up the
converted document. Outside In Serv er uses intelligent caching: If it has
previously fetched and converted the document, it immediately serves the
page from cache.

Outside In Server converts more than 200 file formats of business documents
and other file types — far more than competing products such as InfoAccess
Inc.'s HTML Transit. Unlike HTML Transit, however, Outside In Server lacks a
batch conversion process that a manager could use to convert documents in
advance. Outside In converts documents on the fly, which slows delivery of a
page that is not already in cache.

In practice, we found that a typical document with text and some graphics
took Outside In Server less than 10 seconds to convert to HTML. When the
document contained large graphic images, such as a presentation, conversion
took about 15 seconds, which is acceptable. Of course, retrievals from cache
were very fast.

Outside In Server has a built-in, 10-minute time conversion limit to keep
extremely long and complex documents from shutting down the Web server. This
is a practical feature, but we would like the option to set a shorter time

To help decrease the initial response time for source document conversion,
we could specify the URLs of often-requested source documents or directories
that we wanted to convert automatically before a client requests them.
Documents remain in Outside In Server's cache until the server detects, in
response to a document call, that the source document has been modified or

During testing, we were impressed with how well Outside In Server, which now
supports Apache NT Web server as well as Microsoft Corp.'s and Netscape
Communications Corp.'s Web servers, maintained a document's formatting.
Unfortunately, Outside In Server's automatic conversion of documents to HTML
doesn't support the redirect URL capability in Microsoft's Internet
Information Server. Web site designers will need to work around the

Unlike previous versions, this edition of Outside In Server supports SSL
(Secure Sockets Layer), which will be a relief for companies that want to
serve sensitive documents.

Outside In Server also now supports Cascading Style Sheets to better
maintain native document formatting. We found that even documents such as
Microsoft PowerPoint presentations containing complex graphics were
formatted correctly, and word processing documents maintained their layouts.

At the heart of Outside In Server is the powerful Rules Page window that is
used to set the publishing options for source documents. Designed with a
tree format, the Rules Page allowed us to easily establish how Outside In
Server would convert documents to HTML before being served to a Web browser.
For example, a publishing rule could be defined that would convert source
documents to HTML for Macintosh clients but pass the same documents
unconverted to Windows clients.

Using classic "if, then, else" methods, we easily established a set
procedure to determine which documents would be served and how a document
will appear in a Web browser. For example, we could specify that financial
documents have their graphics displayed in gray scale and marketing
documents have their images displayed in color. We also could choose not to
have graphics displayed at all.

Outside In Server's publishing rules use HTML templates to establish the
look and feel of a converted source document. The server combines the
contents of a template file with HTML generated from the contents of a
source document using Outside In macros, or special tags, contained within
the template. The templates control the visual presentation of the resulting
Web page, while the source document provides the content.

The server ships with a healthy sample of templates, which we easily
modified in tests to ensure that converted documents closely matched the
originals. We liked the fact that each set of publishing rules can be saved
with a particular template so we could easily reuse the publishing set for
different document types. We also found the sample XML (Extensible Markup
Language) template a great help in producing XML-based documents from a
source document's HTML.

Senior Analyst Herb Bethoney can be contacted at


Executive Summary: Outside In Server 2.5
Inso has added important new features to its already-capable Web server
plug-in, including support for Cascading Style Sheets and SSL. The server is
a must-have tool for any Windows NT Web server administrator because it
saves lots of time by automatically converting source documents in a wide
variety of formats to HTML. The initial price is steep, but Outside In
Server pays for itself quickly by increasing convenience and productivity.

Short-term Business Impact: Most source documents can be published to the
Web with little ramp-up time. Complex documents will take more time to
deliver in proper formats because companies will have to develop custom

Long-term Business Impact: Outside In Server will help companies get more
value from their Web operations by enabling them to serve up documents more
easily in HTML and even XML. Based on its track record, Inso can be expected
to integrate new capabilities into its server to keep it ahead of the pack.

Easy to install and configure; powerful rules capability makes it very easy
to specify details of document conversion; supports SSL for secure document

Steep initial cost; users cannot alter time limit for document conversions;
works only with Windows NT-based Web servers.

Inso Corp.
(312) 692-5100

Jim Allan, Statewide Technical Support Specialist
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
1100 W. 45th St., Austin, Texas 78756
voice 512.206.9315    fax: 512.206.9453  http://www.tsbvi.edu/
"Be BOLD and mighty forces will come to your aid." Basil King
Received on Monday, 8 May 2000 16:14:33 UTC

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