Document Examiner features?

Rainer Joswig
Sun, 26 Jul 1998 16:13:12 +0200

At 2:40 Uhr +0200 26.07.1998, Gilbert Baumann wrote:

>    Finally I am back again. Some people stated once, that the
>Symbolics Document Examiner was in some way superior to HTML and
>common implementation of Web Browsers. So my question is: What are
>those features?
>All I know about the Document Examiner is that it looks great (I saw
>it once) and what Nielsen wrote about it [1].
>Additionally to the usual user interface of common Web browsers, I
>am about to implement:
> - The Document Examiner's "bookmark lists". Not to be confused with
>   Web browser's bookmarks list. Nielsen calls this "shopping lists",
>   which is also a bad name in the Web context, since real shopping
>   via WWW is expected to become common.
> - Local search over a whole or multiple documents.
>So what is missing to make HTML suitable for documentation?

HTML just gives you a way to declare a bit of structure,
a bit of visual properties and it gives you a way to link with
other documents. What most of the time you end up is a
multitude of static documents linked in a static way.
Look how far you can get with this - a good example is the
ANSI Common Lisp HyperSpec prepared by Kent Pitman.
You get very far, still the browsing experience is
not satisfying. All the navigation is in the HTML.
It determines your user interface, at HTML generation
time. Another extreme is a system like InfoBook
(which is a CL-HTTP application). It uses a dynamic
web server to provide a much richer way of browsing.

The Document Examiner is an application. It uses SCRIBE as the
underlying document description language and the documentation
itself is in a kind of database. So the document is built
together dynamically out of a multitude of so called
documentation records. Each record is its own entity and
has certain properties. The document is built out of
things like chapters, sections, figures, examples, ...
You can include documentation records into more than
one document and reuse them. The Document Examiner as an
application has an application frame which gives
you a user interface. You get content listings, overviews,
bookmarks, ... But the Document Examiner infrastructure
is usable in different contexts. You can for example display
documentation records from inside the editor or the listener.
The user interface has the concept of "typeout windows".
They will overlay your current window from the top.
When you are done they will go away immediately. This
gives you a temporary space for output of things like
documentation - which is very convenient (not like
in Emacs where you will get a split window and you have trouble
getting the last configuration after you are done reading the
temporary information).

So as an application the Document Examiner reassembles the
Documentation as you view. A database HTML solution *could*
do the same.

Well, and you can print the documents in a reasonable quality.
Try to print from your web browser. Does it create an index, etc.?


Rainer Joswig

Rainer Joswig, Lavielle EDV Systemberatung GmbH & Co, Lotharstrasse 2b, D22041
Hamburg, Tel: +49 40 658088, Fax: +49 40 65808-202,
Email: , WWW: