Web publishing simplified

Government Webmasters often are faced with the task of moving agency documents in a variety of formats to World Wide Web sites. Inso Corp.'s Outside-In Server eliminates the need to code such documents for HTML before placing them on the Web by converting files on the fly as users request them.

We tested the Outside-In Server primarily with documents created using Microsoft Corp. Office applications. The product converted the files to HTML quickly and effectively — as long as we viewed them with Microsoft's Internet Explorer. With the Outside-In server administrator, you can either give all documents a common format by applying a Web page template or you can download the pages in their original formats, such as Microsoft Word. If you choose to serve the documents in the original, non-HTML version, it is up to your browser to format them correctly. If you are using Internet Explorer, it will open Microsoft Office documents within the browser if you have Office installed.

Unfortunately, this didn't work when we tried it with Netscape Communication Corp.'s Navigator, which could be a problem for government agencies that have a lot of employees using Navigator.

When using the template option, all graphical additions to documents, such as backgrounds, are ignored and replaced with the images defined in the template. This can be very valuable for an intranet server where the focus is on delivery speed and making documents look like they fit into a cohesive Web site.

Outside-In smoothly handled whatever we threw at it, including tables. Using the sample templates, the Outside-In Server easily managed TIFF images and other file formats that are not standard Web fare.

Outside-In also eliminates a frequent problem that occurs when you combine converted documents by multiple authors — the use of duplicate file names. Outside-In handles all document conversion and object and file renaming on the server.

Outside-In does have a few limitations. First, it does not support Unix servers — only Windows NT. And its backward compatibility with Web server software, such as the popular Apache Web server, is limited, so make sure you closely check the list of products supported.

Also, while the server easily converted most documents, Outside-In's filters did have problems with certain formatting in Microsoft Word. For example, bulleted sections and text before and after the bulleted area were repeatedly misaligned.

In short, Outside-In is a very useful product for small workgroup environments in which documents are shared and files are updated frequently. For documents that are going to be static for a long period of time, however, it seems more effective to permanently convert the documents to HTML.

— Budke is a principal consultant at Foundstone Inc. He can be reached at [email protected].

AT A GLANCE

Outside-In Server

Score: B

Inso Corp.

(312) 692-5100

www.outsideinserver.com

Although it is not on the GSA schedule, Outside-In is available for$8,500 to government users, plus a 12 percent maintenance fee.

Outside-In is an able, although rather high-priced, document-to-Web conversionserver that is simple to install and use.

BY Eric Budke
May 01, 2000

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