ANE Resources, Inc.
Open Document Interchange
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KEYpak: The Key to Effective Workgroup Collaboration
In the knowledge economy of the 1990s, any company's ability to compete rests largely with its workers' ability to swiftly find and easily exchange information. Without unimpeded information exchange and gathering of that information, workers cannot collaborate efficiently or effectively. Without effective workgroup collaboration, companies cannot sharpen their information assets into the competitive edge they need to survive in today's fast-paced marketplace.
In theory, one of the hallmarks of the modern corporation is the existence of an enterprise-wide electronic mail network. It is designed to make information exchange and workgroup collaboration effortless. In practice, however, e-mail installations alone are not enough. Given today's heterogeneous computing environments, corporations must couple electronic mail technology with a new type of document conversion technology called open or universal document interchange to provide links among the islands of incompatible word processors in use throughout the enterprise today. Without open document interchange, e-mail users can receive documents produced by other users' incompatible word processors, but cannot readily work with such documents --that's what true information exchange is all about. This rationale is also very important for the retrieval of information and being able to convert or view all information found to a format the user will be able to read and manipulate for dissemination.
Keep in mind, however, that getting the infrastructure in place for information exchange is understandably the first step toward achieving true document interchange capability. The next wall you're likely to hit will be that users complain they can't see or use shared information. With a little planning, you can head off the user unrest. In fact, the good news is a number of software vendors have made it their business to supply this missing piece of the information exchange solution. Their aim is to prevent scenarios such as in the following example.
You've been patiently, albeit nervously, waiting for the document to arrive. It finally arrives yet the information needs considerable clarification to help management make some tough product development decisions. You have less than five minutes to get it into shape. Your engineering department is using Uniplex UNIX workstations, and you use Microsoft Word for Windows, so you know you'll have to struggle with converting the document into your processor's format before you can even think about making the needed revisions. The import filter adds even more confusion reformatting the document makes you think you might as well re-type it from scratch. Any alternative you think of eats up more time and still doesn't solve your problem. The outcome is certain: You can't possibly deliver the report on time.
If this scenario strikes a familiar chord, it is because variations on the theme are played out every day in countless corporations worldwide. Never more apparent with new versions of word processing software such as the new release of Office 97, Word Version 8 makes it virtually impossible for a user of Word 6 to read a document created in Word 8. ANE recently sent out a press release announcing this new converter and most of our prospects found out that they did not have the capability to convert to the format of their choice.
A recent Association of Banyan Users International (ABUI) study showed that few are using document conversions and viewers, even though better than 50 percent of those responsible for information conversion in the company receive complaints from users about document incompatibility. This suggests that although people are beginning to recognize the problem, the solution is unclear. Incompatible word processing applications pose one of the biggest hurdles to effective workgroup collaboration.
These incompatibilities force workers to spend considerable time and effort attempting to recapture a version of a final-form document they can then edit. The time it takes to do this is a luxury few companies can afford today. Now, more than ever, an organization's personnel need the ability to quickly and easily exchange revisable documents across the enterprise or with the outside world regardless of the computer hardware, operating systems, or software applications they use. ANE offers a cost-effective solution and is the only company in the world that offers compatibility for most computing platforms, with over 200 formats.
Already, the marriage of e-mail message delivery and open document interchange technology is helping hundreds of corporations throughout the world overcome the final barriers to true information interchange. Because e-mail enabled document interchange fully automates the document conversion process, it lets users access, revise and disseminate compound documents (i.e., incorporation of text, images and graphics) without spending time on conversion and reformatting or substantial company resources on courier, overnight mail and paper costs. While it may seems a mundane chore, document interchange capability is crucial; particularly when you adhere to the adage that time is money.
The Role of E-mail
The ability to transparently exchange electronic documents throughout an enterprise clearly has the potential to dramatically improve a company's productivity. That potential, in turn, is grounded in another productivity-improving development of the 1990s: the proliferation of e-mail connections.
Industry analysts say that several factors are fueling the rapid adoption rates of e-mail, including the inherent ability of electronic mail to bridge the connectivity gap among many different computing platforms and networks. Electronic mail has become a kind of groupware, an increasingly popular buzzword for describing computer technologies that foster interpersonal collaboration, communication and productivity.
Yet, platform-to-platform and network-to-network connectivity alone does not facilitate information exchange and collaboration among corporate workers. This is particularly true when a document delivered via e-mail cannot be readily accessed or edited because the sender and receiver use incompatible word processors. True collaborations require another kind of groupware, a document interchange technology that delivers application-to-application compatibility across many different platforms.
Contenders in the Document-Interchange Arena
Three technologies are widely heralded as the answer to this requirement today and all of them fall short for these reasons:
Word Processor Import Filters: Incorporated into most of the leading word processor packages for desktop computers, these automatic document conversion utilities permit, for example, a WordPerfect user to read and edit documents produced in Microsoft Word. Although import filters' format translation capabilities are adequate for some users, the converted documents still require reformatting due to loss of features such as frames and extensive styles. In some cases, users have to completely rework or reformat the documents. In the case of Word 8 in Office 97 there is no compatibility between various versions, therefore leaving the users with a need for a conversion tool. Further, import filters fail to provide links with legacy system-based processors applications operating in host mainframe and minicomputer environments. Word processor import filters do not deliver an enterprise-wide document interchange solution.
Portable Documents: Pioneered by Adobe, the developer of the Postscript Page Description language, Portable Document Format or PDF technology permits high-quality, on-screen imaging as well as printing of documents across heterogeneous desktop computing environments. What PDF does not permit is editing. PDF technology converts what was originally a revisable document into a non-revisable or final-form document. If a recipient wishes to edit a PDF file, he or she must copy/paste the unformatted text into a new file, and then reformat the document. Portable document technology's real market niche is the publishing arena. Here it is well suited to on-line publication of static data such as manuals and books. Collaborative document interchange, however, remains well outside the scope of PDF.
Traditional conversion utilities: These utilities long provided the only means for computer users to read and edit documents produced in incompatible formats. While they represent a proven technology, they score low marks for ease of use. Most users continue to struggle with initiating and running such applications, making them a less than optimal approach to document interchange.
Fortunately for today's businesses, electronic mail-enabled document interchange technology such as that provided by ANE Resources, Inc. picks up where these other strategies leave off. Unlike conversion utilities, ANE's e-mail integrated KEYpak®, operates in a way that is virtually transparent to the end user. At the LAN server and WAN gateway levels, the e-mail system automatically activates the necessary KEYpak conversion before routing the document to the intended recipient.
Unlike portable documents, KEYpak converted documents are fully revisable. They also deliver high document fidelity with minimal or no loss of the original document's format features even complex document features such as frames, tables and styles. Time previously spent on reformatting is saved for more productive pursuits.
And finally unlike word processor import filters, KEYpak software delivers document compatibility across all of an organization's platforms. The result is a true enterprise-wide document interchange solution.
The Formula for Success
The ability to deliver such a solution depends on three factors. First, vendors of document interchange solutions must be willing to enter into a broad range of strategic partnerships. ANE, for example, has spent years to form relationships with leading e-mail system vendors, word processing suppliers, and major legacy system vendors. This spectrum of partnerships underlies the company's ability to support document interchange across the enterprise in a multi-platform environment stimulated by the Internet explosion of users.
The second factor for success in this market is the vendor's software architecture. Virtually all document-conversion architectures comprise three basic components: front-end source document interpreters, an intermediate file format, and back-end converters that translate an intermediate file into a specific format used by a target word processor. What sets ANE's KEYpak Open Document eXchange (ODX) architecture apart from many competing architectures is the range of features such as modularity, extensibility, and support of standards supported by its intermediate file format. ANE culled these features from the spectrum of document processing formats in use throughout the industry today. KEYpak also comes equipped with a set of APIs for seamless integration.
The third and possibly most significant factor is placing a high priority on responding to customer needs. That focus represents the key to meeting end-user requirements quickly and delivering effective document-interchange solutions that evolve with the marketplace to provide an enterprise-wide solution with upgrades and version enhancements. ANE prides itself on keeping the customer base satisfied, which has led to much repeat business from the Blue Chip existing customer base for many years.
Other Uses for KEYpak-- Converters and Filters for Text Search and Retrieval.
An enterprise-wide solution requires that all users have access to all types of data located on all different types of computers. All kinds of data can be distributed across client servers with information access that is independent of document format, location, operating system and network. Using the KEYpak legacy converters and ODX filters eliminates the bottleneck of document retrieval, independent of the platform. ANE has made it easy with various APIs to integrate the largest array of filters and converters in the industry to convert most any type of document.
KEYpak converters and filters have become the main ingredients for text search engines which are required to convert huge amounts of data, which is either stored in a large databases located on site, or databases found throughout the Internet. KEYpak converters and filters are not only used to convert today's word processing formats, but supplies a host of legacy filters which can be converted to HTML, ASCII or your choice of over 200 formats. The filters and converters can be used on many computing platforms such as Windows, UNIX, VAX, LAN, and IBM mainframes, all filtering to a common format. The converters can be connected seamlessly through the various KEYpak APIs, depending on the computing platform.
The number of users that are entering into the marriage of electronic mail, search of text and retrieval and open document interchange software on multi-platforms is climbing. The increasing numbers of companies worldwide are reaping the benefits of this combination with greatly enhanced communication and collaboration among workers. As electronic mail-enabled document interchange continues to evolve and the growing ranks of e-mail users across the enterprise avail themselves of its capabilities to the Internet, incompatibilities will become a thing of the past and a new era of swift, easy information exchange will arrive. That day is here, thanks in part to technology from ANE Resources, Inc..