VML, PGML, and XML Marketing

Rohit Khare (rohit@godzilla.ICS.uci.edu)
Sat, 13 Jun 1998 23:20:41 -0700

XML.com has a nifty gossip column. (Adam's writing about some other
nuggets on there as we speak...). In it we meet MSFTie Steve
Sklepowich: ("likely to go down in history as the world's first
full-time XML marketing professional")

The acerbic commentary was:

> VML, the recent vector-graphics-in-XML proposal, submitted by
> everybody in the world who didn't co-submit Adobe's PGML
> vector-graphics-in-XML proposal. He said "VML complements the
> Precision Graphics Markup Language (PGML) proposal recently
> submitted to the W3C by Adobe and other companies." We suspect, much
> as the Viet Cong used to "complement" the U.S. Marines.

It pointed at Jeff Walsh's reporting at InfoWorld,


where, indeed, Steve made the disingenuous claim "He said VML is more
concerned with authoring and exchange between applications, whereas
PGML is more centered on client delivery."

Of course, they follow through on the point. Right in the Abstract:

> It may also be used by people who need to hand-author VML content.
> However it is anticipated that most such authoring will proceed by
> copy and paste of existing VML - VML is intended to be treated in
> this way.

VML intimately reuses CSS positioning and layout for its shapes and groups,
unlike PGML's self-contained notion of a graphic with its own coordinates
and so on. The tradeoff is that you have to have a lot more knowledge of
HTML+CSS+DOM to decipher a graph... though it may be easier to hack.

(what's the binary format of VML's imagedata?)

PGML came out on April 10 (VML was May 13; this post isn't news...)
It's inspired more by PostScript and PDF. The goals section is
recommended reading, but both specs are massive in technical detail.
(UI seems that way... they pale next to the bulk of CSS2, for example!)


> PGML should encompass the PDF/PostScript imaging model to guarantee
> a 2D scalable graphics capability that satisfies the needs of both
> both casual users and graphics professionals. PGML should extend the
> PDF/PostScript imaging model to satisfy the graphics requirements of
> the Web, particularly in terms of transparency, anti-aliasing, the
> hooks for animation and dynamic behaviors.

In the meantime, both camps are setting to work on products -- and
there's yet another entrant in the sweeps, too, Web Schematics (March
31), which aims for a more "texty" model with <SPLINE> and <POLY>
markup. To say nothing of CGM, an existing ISO standards-track vector
graphics approach (and WebCGM).


> At the current time, graphics may be represented in a web document
> using CGM, GIF, PNG, VRML, etc. Why should we need yet another way
> of representing graphical content? Four reasons come to mind:
> It is not possible to search for content that is contained in
> diagrams expressed in CGM, GIF, etc. It is not possible to embed
> diagrams containing mathematics in CGM, GIF, etc. in a satisfactory
> way. In particular it is not possible to make use of MathML markup
> within these diagram formats. It is very difficult to ensure
> consistency of fonts between CGM, GIF, etc. and HTML content. The
> use of style sheets to control attributes of elements within a CGM,
> GIF, etc. is not possible.

VML will be in Office 9, which sounds like no one's waiting for W3C's
to-be-created scalable vector graphics consensus process.

Furthermore, there's intimations of Binary VML, which sounds a hell of a
lot like a step down the slippery slope of YML...

Rohit Khare
(being browbeaten into "working" instead of going for the macaroni and
cheese at the industrial cafeteria at an all-veg, all-gay dance club
in Capitol Hill... http://seattle.sidewalk.com/detail/45669 )


Proposed language creates Web vector graphics on the fly

By Jeff Walsh
InfoWorld Electric

Posted at 6:16 PM PT, May 28, 1998 Industry heavyweights this week
backed a new Vector Markup Language (VML) proposal for high-quality,
editable 2-D Web vector graphics. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
proposal was jointly submitted by Autodesk, Hewlett-Packard,
Macromedia, Microsoft, and Visio.

Microsoft already plans to incorporate VML into the next version of
Microsoft Office, Office 9, which is due later this year. Users will
be able to output Office Art graphics as editable HTML page
elements. VML will enable round-tripping of the art, by enabling the
HTML file to be opened again in the Office application with no loss in

"All the information required comes along with the graphic," said
Steve Sklepowich, product manager for platform marketing at Microsoft,
in Redmond, Wash. "The concept is that the graphic is stateless."

Microsoft would not detail whether VML support would be included in
the Office beta version due this summer.

Microsoft has previously pledged support to use the Extensible Markup
Language to enable the same functionality with Excel
spreadsheets. Microsoft also said it would roll VML into future
versions of Internet Explorer and its Windows operating system,
although it would not elaborate on when or in what versions that
support would occur.

Sklepowich said VML complements the Precision Graphics Markup Language
(PGML) proposal recently submitted to the W3C by Adobe and other
companies. He said VML is more concerned with authoring and exchange
between applications, whereas PGML is more centered on client

Macromedia, which uses vector graphics in its graphic design tools,
said there is a significant speed difference in delivering vector
content in binary as opposed to text mode. Macromedia's Flash
animation and graphics tool streams its vector-based content to
clients in binary mode.

"People will use both text and binary mode depending on what they want
to do," said Kevin Lynch, vice president of Internet and multimedia
authoring at San Francisco-based Macromedia.

Lynch said graphics represented in VML could also be used to generate
on-the-fly Web graphics by flowing live database numbers through a
template. Macromedia recently unveiled a beta of its server-based
Flash Generator that flows live data through a vector graphics
template to accomplish this task.

Hewlett-Packard said the Web is finally starting to address the print
world with print extensions in HTML 4.0, Cascading Style Sheets 2.0,
and now VML.

"We'll be able to get much better printed Web content with VML," said
Tim Campbell, Internet printing project manager at Hewlett-Packard, in
Boise, Idaho. "Instead of getting chunky bit-mapped images, we'll get
better quality with smaller file sizes."

The VML proposal can be viewed at the W3C's Web site at http://www.w3.org.

Jeff Walsh is a reporter for InfoWorld.