A Leeds University researcher has used World-Wide Web technology to simplify multimedia publishing on the popular Microsoft Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 platforms.
Peter Ward, director of the university's information management programme, worked for nine months with software engineer Roger Brown to create Paris, a browser for documents written in HTML, the language of the Web. The software is based on university research but was developed as a commercial venture by a company called Cleverware.
At a mere 3 kilobytes, Paris is a much smaller program than complex Web browsers such as Netscape Navigator 2.0. But then, Paris is not designed to roam the Internet.
It is designed to be bundled with masses of text, sound and video on a CD-Rom, or with smaller amounts of multimedia content on a floppy disk.
Paris also looks different. Most Web browsers display documents as long pages with a single column of text. Paris automatically breaks documents into pages, and formats each page in a multi-column layout similar to a magazine or reference book. The size of the page and the number of columns adapts automatically when the Paris window is made larger or smaller. Pictures, sound and video can be embedded in documents.
Paris does not attempt to match the creative freedom that is available with packages such as Authorware or Macromedia Director. It is designed to give handsome-looking results in return for modest effort with widely-available HTML authoring tools. "It is dead easy to make up a document in HTML," says Dr Ward. "It is simple enough for students to create their own multimedia productions."
Multimedia CD-Roms using the Paris software require no complicated installation or configuration procedures. Starting up a Paris CD is particularly easy for users of Windows 95, according to Dr Ward.
"No installation, no hard disk, no virus, no manual. All you have done is put the CD-Rom into the CD drive."
Paris Standard will be released on December 1. An upgraded version called Paris Gold is planned for 1996.