XML Goo-i-ness Inside

Microsoft pre-released their XAML-in-the-browser technology, WPF/e earlier this week. XAML inside.

XAML “smells” like the W3C’s Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG). DOM-inside-a-DOM, Declarative animation, 2D graphics. XAML maybe not SVG, but it certainly tips its hat to SVG.

Adobe today pre-released their XML-in-a-PDF technology, Mars, for Acrobat 8. Essentially, Mars as a technology is presently delivered as plugins for Adobe Reader 8 and Acrobat 8 Professional. You can save an existing ‘binary’ PDF out as a .mars file. These .mars files are like .jar or .war files: manifested, structured ZIP files. Looking inside a description of a page, you have an SVG Tiny 1.2+ (as Adobe state, SVG/FSS0 representation. The specification clearly documents that .mars takes the current concept of PDF, a document format, and extends this as XML.These technologies do not directly intersect: an XML representation of SWF rather than PDF would be closer to XAML. Having cross-platform viewer support for Microsoft’s XPS would be closer to PDF.

I was premature in saying SVG was deprecated.

New York Times Reader Trumps Adobe Reader

The recently released New York Times Reader (http://www.nytimes.com/mem/reader_regi.html) is what the Adobe PDF Reader should be today. Small, data-driven, dynamic, interactive and skinable.

Scott Hanselman states this is a precursor to WPF based RSS readers. I am going to go one further and state this is the future of dynamic publishing for large, paper-based publishers. A territory traditionally marked by Adobe as their home soil.

Adobe, the old leader in this space with PDF, has missed the ferry to New York and may be stuck on the island for a while. Even Macromedia (now married to Adobe) has missed this boat.


Times Reader will requires .Net Framework 3.0. Today this is a hassle. In the future, with Vista and wider deployments the base Framework, the comparative size of the downloads will become very noticeable.

The installer is less than 1Mb, installing an application that is 2.5Mb.

The Adobe Reader is larger (21.5Mb).


Rather than the content being bound up with the presentation, something that IT professionals constantly consider bad architecture, with the Times Reader these are kept separate.

The display resizes correctly, but within the bounds of the New York Times look-and-feel. Designing for this style of layout is not simple today: it requires the smarts of a developer to generate. I believe there is a market to wire backend services to custom publisher-centricinterfaces in a mechanism non-experienced programming designers can grok.

Maintaining the ownership of the content, even in a creative-commons mantra world, is critical. There is a significant investment in infrastructure to run a publisher, and this must be paid for. Adding value is the only way a large publisher can charge for their premium content. Whilst the Adobe Reader has mechanisms for, cough, DRM, inbuilt – it is another barren wasteland in daily publishing worlds.


The central dogma/mantra of the Adobe Reader is to retain the original designer’s intent (including fonts) Acrobat does have limited reflow and resizing ability; mainly tacked onto the Reader to permit accessibility. There is an under utilised feature of Acrobat called the Article Tool. Ever used it? It has been in there since the very early versions.

The Times Reader permits resizing of the application and correctly reflows the text; in a composition mechanism that Adobe has living in InDesign, InCopy – even PageMaker. Why can’t these be bolted into an Adobe Reader? InDesign could be turned into the frontend design tool; Coldfusion is at the backend. Maybe this is too old ground for Adobe?


Searching in the Times Reader is a pleasure, and surprises you. With dynamic searching; that is the relevant articles appear under the search box as you type is way excellent. The Topic Explorer is worth the price of entry, alone. It reminds me of Apple’s MCF/Hotsauce/Project X.

Topic Explorer


New York Times owns the interface, lock-stock-and-barrel. The experience is theirs. Being a newspaper of record, this is critical. To change the interface to match their corporate standard is something that the Adobe Reader should permit.

As Scott Hanselman states, the Times Reader is the current poster child for Microsoft’s WPF technologies. The only arrow I can aim at its heart is the Windows XP/Vista only nature of the Reader. Come on Microsoft, release a MacOS version! Having .Net on the Mac platform is probably the friendliest Unix you guys are going to get since Xenix.

It also happens to trump the old king of type and presentation: Adobe. Will Apollo save Adobe’s reputation? Let’s hope its Apollo 11, not Apollo 13.