XMetaL 1.0 - HTML with Style | 7
XMetaL is not meant to be used before extensive customization takes place. XMetaL allows system adminstrators to create customized installations of XMetaL that will install ready to handle the documents the user wants to edit.
Customization has to start with building a DTD or a set of DTDs for your documents. Following this, you can use XMetaL's customization options to set special handling of elements, so XMetaL can treat lists, images and other elements specially. You can also provide customized names and descriptions for elements and attributes in order to help users edit documents.
A CSS style sheet can be created within XMetaL to control the presentation of your documents. This style sheet can also be attached to documents automatically, so a preview on a Web browser is also possible.
Finally, customized Assets can be created to allow users to insert chunks of data into documents. Using scripting and programming languages, XMetaL's functionality can be extended infinitely. It is useful to provide menu and toolbar functions that allow users to put documents in a central repository and process them if the site where XMetaL is used implements such things.
XMetaL is a very good product overall, but there are a few things I'd like to see. First of all, XMetaL can't handle XML documents without a DTD. Although this is OK for most users of XMetaL that will be using it in an environment where document types are defined, it would be nice to be able to edit DTD-less XML documents.
Secondly, while XMetaL offers a very nice mechanism for creating CSS style sheets, it cannot edit DTDs. It would be nice if an interface for creating DTDs was also included to take the load off system administrators setting up XMetaL installations.
XMetaL unfortunately has some hard-coded elements built in, most importantly table elements. I'd like to see the program interpret any element as a table element instead of forcing you to use specific elements for tables.
XMetaL is a very good program, but it is not what you would call an "XML editor." Since it cannot handle XML documents with no DTD and does not have a complete CSS2 style engine, it is unsuitable for editing XML files meant to be published on the Web. This is not a shortcoming, as this is not XMetaL's intended function, but it does show that XML is not ready for the Web, at least as far as available software is concerned. XMetaL, plus a complete CSS2 engine, namespace support and a DTD editor would allow individual developers using XML to do many powerful things, but until a Web browser comes along that also supports these things, they would be little more than a diversion.
Concerning XMetaL's merits, as far as I know it is the only product of its kind, so there is no competition to compare it to. On that basis, XMetaL is a very good proposition for an organization that wants to use XML or SGML for document processing, or is using them already. Its extensibility means that it can be successfully integrated into any environment given time and work from system administrators. I would recommend it for anyone who wants to deploy XML or SGML as a replacement for other editors, whether those that handle XML as plain text or those that convert other formats (e.g. Microsoft Word) into XML. No matter what you want this program to do, you can extend using your own programming skills to handle any situation, and it offers a convenient and powerful base for a document processing system of any kind.
Produced by Stephanos Piperoglou
Created: October 20, 1999
Revised: October 28, 1999