Australian online publishing company Virtual Media Technology says it is possible to publish large documents such as training manuals on intranets quickly and cheaply with the release of its IntraWeb online document management system.
Managing director Calvin Rowley says his company has been promoting the concept of online documentation for the past six years, with its Hypertext Development Kit (HDK). "We've been concentrating on the people with large documents, who typically are your corporate 1,000 companies and a few niche markets like software developers." Clients of Virtual Media now number 13,000 worldwide, including Shell Oil, the ANZ Bank and Telstra's quality assurance section.
Now VMT is looking to take that experience into the intranet market, to take advantage of that technology's rapid acceptance. "I guess in reality our objective is to automate the processes of generating the documents in an online format, and equally as important, delivering those online documents in a format and a way that users can actually use."
Rowley says, when combined with the HDK, IntraWeb provides a way for users to port their legacy documentation across the intranet in a painless way. "It means for the MIS manager that if they can get more and more valuable documentation on the intranet, then the intranet is successful," he said.
Virtual Media sells its products through both specialist and general resellers including First State Computing. Rowley says that, due to the nature of the marketplace, Virtual Media has also at times sold directly, but has preserved retail prices and will step aside in the event of conflict with its resellers. "Because it's a fairly specialised product it hasn't caused any angst with any of the resellers, and we've always been straight up and down about it."
Online documents are created in Microsoft Word, then translated into hypertext by the HDK engine, which evaluates factors such as headlines, indentations and tables when defining page layout. The whole task, including the creation of the hypertext links, is automated. The product is also self-correcting, being able to repair or alert users to the existence of broken links when documents are moved. Audio, video, animation, watermarks and scrolling text can all be embedded in documents.
The Virtual Media solution also includes a navigation tree that can be viewed via a browser, addressing what Rowley says is one of the major limitations of publishing large documents on an intranet. "What we've done is address how the user finds their way through. Traditionally you would have to create a whole lot of see-also lists and a whole lot of references. And in reality what happens is the user can only get so far down a document before they get lost and uncomfortable," he said. "So there was effectively a glass ceiling in terms of the size of documents you could put on an intranet. Now with a table of contents system it provides a nice map, so it's really easy to navigate even the largest of documents." Recommended retail pricing for the Virtual Media HDK and IntraWeb: $640.