The philosophy of Anastasia: why did we make it the way it is?

Anastasia is a next-generation SGML/XML publication tool. It is designed for the publication of large, highly-complex SGML/XML documents and document collections.

The philosophy behind Anastasia is simple. You should be able to extract any section of any SGML/XML document and publish it any way you like. Regardless of where you are in a document, you should be able to move to any other part of the document; to retrieve any other part of it; to publish it any way you like. You have put a great deal of effort into making your SGML/XML. You need a tool which permits you to gain maximum value from that SGML/XML. Anastasia is that tool.

You could think of Anastasia as a supercharged SGML/XML translation system, which you can use to translate the source SGML/XML into any format you want. Anastasia is completely aware of the SGML/XML structure of your document, and allows you to perform (if you wish) the most complex transformations on it. Further, it is optimized for speed: in microseconds, Anastasia can carry out demanding searches and then use its awareness of the document structure to control exactly how search results should be presented.

Anastasia differs from most (perhaps, all) other SGML/XML systems in that it does not just see the document as a set of elements arranged hierarchically, 'from the top down'. It also sees a document as a series of events, arranged one after another. Thus, Anastasia is not bound by an 'element' model. Rather, it can begin processing at any arbitrary point, and carry on to any other arbitrary point, with complete awareness of the document structure and sequence at each point it traverses. As a result, Anastasia can create complex effects such as "Key Word in Context" displays, with appropriate formatting of embedded encoding, which other systems find difficult or impossible.

The web version of Anastasia is designed to allow you to make exactly the HTML you want from your SGML/XML. Further, you can publish identically on CD-ROM (both Windows and Macintosh systems), on intranet, and over the internet, from the one set of scripts. The web version also gives you complete access to all the tools of the http protocol: the GET and POST methods, forms, host and user information, and more. You can use this information to personalize the pages sent back by Anastasia to the reader even, to let the reader decide exactly how the pages should be formatted. Both CD-ROM and web versions give you access to Anastasia's own built-in, fully SGML/XML aware search engine.

You control how Anastasia formats your SGML/XML through style files, written in the widely-supported and easy to use Tcl (Tool Control Language) system. Because Tcl is a full programming language in its own right, you have many additional tools: you can set up loops, if/then/else and switch/case statements, do string searches and replacements, have global and local variables, look up values in other files and include other files, and much more.

You can gain some idea of what Anastasia can do from the demonstration of the Hengwrt Chaucer on this site. You can see Anastasia running over the web in the Hockliffe catalogue, in the LAURES online catalogue, and in the Münster Greek New Testament site.

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