Help designing an XML-HTML data dictionary

Subject: Help designing an XML-HTML data dictionary
From: MARIE CLEAR <MARIE -dot- CLEAR -at- morningstar -dot- com>
To: 'TECHWR-L' <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 7 Jul 2000 13:36:51 -0500

Hi guys,

I haven't been around in years, but when I bump into a puzzler, I know where
to go. . .

We're trying to design a dynamic data dictionary. It's contents, for
example, would be a data field name, data type, list of programs using it,
business description, technical description (for programmers), and a see
also list. We're assuming we'll have between 500 and 1,000 entries, and
some of the descriptions may be quite long.

We'd like to let users search for a specific data field name or to do a full
text search and get back the details. Or, perhaps they enter a program name
and the "used by" field is matched, returning all of the data points used by
that program.

However, we'd like the dictionary to go further. We would like to make the
dictionary available to the people who write the programming documentation.

If someone wants to refer to a specific data point in a programming doc (an
online programming doc), he should be able to drop in a link and have the
appropriate description field included in their docs. This way, if someone
changes a data point, we simply have to edit the text in the dictionary.
That new text is automatically propagated into the programmers docs because
it is only linked there -- instant update.

So, here's our wish list:

* easy dictionary maintenance with some type of interface allowing
data entry or edits,
* flexible searching
* easy retrieval for users
* retrieval function that distinguishes between business and technical
users (and yes, it can ask them to identify what data set they are
interested in viewing)
* easy exporting or porting, so that the whole contents of the
dictionary can be loaded into an Excel spreadsheet, for example, for paper
print copies, or a way to bundle the online flies and give them to a remote
* easy maintenance of the interfaces and customized features

At the moment we are considering putting the data into an XML format and
using HTML and ASP or Java or whatever, to build the interactivity. Still,
that will require dedicated maintenance.

An out of the box solution would be good, but most data dictionary packages
come as small bits of larger software products, such as reverse engineering
products. And, those data dictionaries are rarely flexible enough even if
they were affordable.

So, here are my questions:

Does anyone know of a flexible, relatively inexpensive data dictionary or DB
publishing tool that will give us the freedom to do what we need? Or, does
anyone know of existing XML interfaces that would make the "from scratch"
XML-HTML approach easier? Any miscellaneous suggestions at all?

Thanks very much for reading this far through my windy email -- I appreciate
Marie Clear
MarieClear -at- morningstar -dot- com

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