Saturday, May 12, 2007
Have You Xiine It?
You may have noticed that I haven't had much time for blogging lately. One of the reasons is that we have been heads-down working on a new product of ours. This product is now released! It is called Xiine, and it is a digital publishing platform. From your point of view, it is a digital reader application you can use to read CoDe Magazine as well as other content such as other magazines or books.
What's so special about Xiine?
The most important feature IMO is that Xiine simply provides a much better, personalized reading experience than any other digital reader technologies, including plain HTML, PDF, and even specialized magazine reader applications. Xiine uses an extended version of WPF's document services to provide this experience.
On top of that, Xiine provides a "managed library", allowing you to organize all your reading content and annotations that go along with that in a single place. For instance, you can log into Xiine in the office and add a new book to your library. Then, you can go home and start Xiine there, and the new book will show up in your library immediately.
How do you get Xiine?
The easiest way for you to get Xiine at this point is to go to www.Xiine.com and hit the install link. Xiine is a WPF application, so it requires a small install. I am amazed though at how small the entire application is (kudos to the WPF team for making this possible!). We are roughly at 1MB. (I have seen artwork on some web pages larger than that...).
If you have a CoDe Magazine subscription, you can simply log into Xiine with your regular CoDe account and see all the issues that fall within your subscription. If you do not have a subscription, you can simply sign up for a trial subscription:
Note: Since this subscription will only cover future issues, it will be a few weeks before something shows up in Xiine. (We will probably change this a little, so a trial subscription will give you the most recent issue right away...).
Other free content is also available. Check out the links at the bottom of the www.Xiine.com homepage to add new content to your library. I really like the way this works. Any web site can simply have a link to Xiine which will either launch or install the small client application (depending on whether the user ever installed Xiine or not) and then adds the new content to the user’s library. We already take advantage of this feature on several of our sites, such as www.code-magazine.com, www.MarkusEgger.com, and www.VFPConversion.com. (Feel free to add similar links to your sites...).
Want to blog about Xiine?
At this point, “the cat is out of the bag”. Feel free to blog about this and share this information any way you want. In fact, we would really appreciate if you did that ;-).
If you are looking for Xiine logos to add to your blog (or elsewhere), feel free to use any of the logos on this site:
Of course, these logos are also great if you are one of our authors and would like to link to your content in Xiine format, which can now be done quite easily.
A quick look
To give you an idea of what Xiine looks like, here is a screen shot of my complete library in Xiine (you can click all the images in this post to zoom):
Drilling into CoDe Magazine, I can see my complete collection of CoDe Magazines:
Reading an individual article:
Note that I am free to change my reading experience. For instance, I can change the zoom level to set my preferred text size.
Xiine remembers my reading preferences for the next time too.
Here are a few more facts about what we have accomplished in this version, and where we are going next with this:
- We have succeeded in building a next generation digital publishing platform that is entirely based on .NET 3.0 (in particular WPF and WCF), that provides a much better reading experience then the web or other current reading technologies.
- The reading experience is based on WPF “flow documents”, which allows us to create a very professional layout, yet at the same time adjust to people’s preferences and hardware, such as screen size, font size, number of columns, and much more. So one of the core features of Xiine that is often overlooked is that Xiine content simply reads better than any of the other content that is out there right now (HTML, PDF,…)
- Xiine at core is made for reading digital content, but we go beyond plain text and include all types of media, from audio, to video, to 3D visualization. (More demos for such “unusual” content will be forthcoming).
- Xiine is a managed library. Unlike other digital reading systems such as Adobe Acrobat, Xiine helps users to collect and organize digital reading content. For instance, with Xiine, a user can add a book to his library in the office, then go home, log into Xiine, and the book will be right there!
- Xiine is a unified reader. It is open and the goal is for all kinds of publishers to make content available in Xiine. We are already talking to numerous publishers in the software business and even beyond. We will also make a large amount of content available completely free of charge, in particular through our “Xiine Classics” channel. And all this will happen within a single reader. (You may have seen the New York times reader and other readers, but who wants to download and install tons of different readers, just to take a peek at an article?).
- Xiine enables content annotation. And it does so not just locally, but users can synchronize annotations back to the server, so they can move to a different machine, open the same content again, and their annotations will be right there!
- Xiine provides a reliable delivery platform, allowing publishers to make sure content users subscribe to (and potentially paid for) does get delivered as promised. This is currently a very problematic issue for digital publishing companies. Xiine solves this problem.
- Xiine integrates age rating for either entire publications or issues/books, and all the way down to individual paragraphs within content.
Beyond Plain WPF
You may already be familiar with WPF document services. However, Xiine doesn’t just use WPF, it extends it. Content in Xiine is based either on FlowDocuments or XPS. However, Xiine can also handle extended flow documents (which we refer to as “FlowDocumentEx”), which has advanced features. We will provide more examples of document value-adds provided by Xiine, but here are a few simple examples:
Open a Code Focus Magazine article (or CoDe article), and click on an image to zoom in. This will create an image “hovering” above the content in 3D:
The image is fully interactive. For instance, you can zoom in, or turn the image with the mouse:
What’s best about this is that it is really easy to create such an interactive image.
Another example I really like is a feature we call “Smart Text”. Smart text can apply logic to text. An example that is immediately obvious to software developers is code snippets. Consider this example:
As you can see, the snippet uses syntax coloring. However, the author originally did NOT create this snippet colored. It simply exists as plain text. Xiine automatically senses the language used (C# in this case) and then applies syntax coloring to it. This is a feature we all know from Visual Studio, but it is a somewhat different story here. You may have noticed for instance, that there is a close-bracket at the end of the snippet that has no matching open bracket. So by itself, this snippet is invalid, although it serves the purpose of communicating an idea to the reader. Xiine often deals with pseudo-code and can still apply syntax coloring to it, even without any overall context compilers and IDEs would have.
Another feature you might like, especially if you use UMPCs, is the ability to rotate content (which is often not supported by UMPC hardware):
This may not seem like a sensible feature in a desktop environment, but it is great on UMPCs.
Of course, Xiine isn’t just for technical content. Why don’t you just lean back and relax with a copy of “War of the Worlds” from the Xiine Classics Collection? It’s on us!
In short: Lots of stuff!
Xiine fundamentally supports skinning, even though we do not use this feature in this first version. But expect Xiine to show up with different and exchangeable looks soon.
We are also working on a lot of community features. Community is extremely important to us. We are not talking too much about this yet, but expect some features you have not seen elsewhere…
Oh, and then there is the Xiine Marketplace (name to be decided upon) where people can buy new books, magazines, and other content, or download free content. The marketplace is entirely based on Silverlight, and will run just on the Xiine web site, or within the Xiine client application.
So needless to say: We are excited! And I hope you are excited too, as we are hoping for lots of suggestions from you, since we realize that we have just started this journey.
Posted @ 12:08 PM by Egger, Markus (firstname.lastname@example.org) -