Встреча с европейскими дистрибьюторами CDS/ISIS.
ЮНЕСКО, Париж, 14 марта 1997 г.

Meeting of European Distributors of CDS/ISIS, Unesco, Paris, 14 March 1997

Зустріч європейських дистриб”ютерів CDS/ISIS в Парижі,
Юнеско, 14 березня 1997 року

Хопкинсон А.

Миддлсекский Университет, Лондон, Великобритания

Hopkinson A.

Middlesex University, London, UK

Хопкісон А.

Мідлсекський Університет, Лондон, Великобританія

Французская Ассоциация Пользователей CDS/ISIS организовала встречу с европейскими дистрибьюторами пакета 14 марта 1997 г. На встрече присутствовали 9 дистрибьюторов из Италии, Великобритании, Бельгии, Франции и Германии, а также наблюдатель из Колумбии, г-н Дель Биджио и г-н Сторти от ЮНЕСКО. Языками встречи были французский и английский. Председательствовал г-н Джордж Фестингер от Французской Ассоциации, который напомнил собравшимся, что программа посвящена более политическим, чем техническим вопросам.

The French Association of CDS/ISIS Users (L'Association Francaise des Utiliseurs de CDS/ISIS) hosted a meeting of European distributors on 14 March 1997. It was attended by nine European distributors from Italy, UK, Belgium, France and Germany, with an observer from Colombia and Mr Del Bigio and Mr Storti of UNESCO. The meeting was conducted in French and English. It was chaired by Mr Georges Festinger of the host institution who reminded the meeting that the program was more to do with matters of policy than with technical questions.

Французська Асоціація користувачів CDS/ISIS провела зустріч Європейських дистриб”ютерів. В ній брали участь представники Італії, Великобританії, Бельгії, Франції та Німеччини, а також п.Дель Біджіо та п.Сторті з ЮНЕСКО. Вирішувались більш проблеми політики, ніж технічні питання.

Distributor reports

Ms Ocampo (Colombia) explained that there were two kinds of users in Latin America: those who cannot afford a commercial system and those who can. Originally it was thought that CDS/ISIS was suitable only for small libraries, but now that it can be networked and can handle bigger databases this is no longer the case. They had been waiting several years for the Windows version: it must be released very soon to keep existing users. It is more important to get a limited range of functions (searching and printing) working properly than to keep adding new functions.

Mr. Till (Germany) said that they were issuing relatively few new licences, but mentioned the developments with Web interfacing at the University of Stuttgart (http://machno.hbi-stuttgart.de/isis/).

Mr. Gimilio (France) also said there was a problem in keeping members in the user group. About 25% had left last year because Winisis was not ready. The French group has strong links with French-speaking developing countries, providing support through the Internet.

In general, the distributors expressed great concern that a distributable version should be launched at the earliest opportunity if the package is to retain its user base before the users go off to some other Windows-based package.


Mr Storti of the Winisis development team said they had received 1,800 requests for Winisis passwords over two years - about 3 per day. However, most requesters had not sent in comments. It was suggested that this may be because UNESCO did not acknowledge the comments that were sent so people are not encouraged to send any more. He demonstrated the new features of the March 97 version which is the first version to have the level of functionality of the DOS version. In data entry, repeats can be entered in the 'old' way with % signs. Any record can be copied, even if it has not been inverted. In guided search, there is a button to clear the form. Mrs. Ocampo suggested a Windows equivalent of Eurisko for user-friendly searching and Mr Nieuwenhuysen suggested compatibility with Z39.50 which would allow any Z39.50 client to be used. Edit now includes a database definition wizard, allowing editing of dbn.PAR, the field definition table, the data entry worksheet and the field select table. Free text searching is not implemented yet but it is planned to be. There is a security problem with Profiles: if it has been set to Search only, you can change language and get the Full version back.

Mr Del Bigio is adapting the DOS Reference Manual and this should be ready with the software. It will be available as a Word file for translation. The help is contextual and good but not up-to-date.

Development Strategy

Mr Del Bigio said this had not changed since it was stated four years ago, but there had been delays. They had originally planned to use Zinc and to produce Windows, UNIX and possibly Macintosh versions together. This slowed down development more than expected.

At the same time, there were other initiatives going on. Windows development was strategic to keep the DOS users and this is still valid. It was desirable to replace ISIS Pascal, which was criticised by professionals as too restrictive. The other main criticism was that CDS/ISIS is not relational. The solution was the development of ISIS.DLL by BIREME, who had already produced C-ISIS. This would enable other centres of competence around the world who can provide programs in Visual basic, Delphi and other programming languages to contribute to the development of Winisis. There had been a danger of dividing into two ISISes - C-ISIS and Winisis (written in C++). However, at the beginning of 1995, BIREME agreed to modify their programs to make them C++ compatible: the routines in ISIS.DLL are the same as in Winisis.

Some participants thought that this was a recipe for anarchy and that very strong central control should be exerted to prevent that from happening.

With the explosion of interest in the Internet, a search engine was developed with the Italians, WAIS ISIS. This is a freeware WAIS program modified to be able to search non-ISIS data with the WAIS protocol and ISIS databases with the ISIS search engine - transparently to the user.

The UNIX version has existed since around 1991. It is 100% compatible with the DOS version and written in Pascal. There was a problem in finding a Pascal compiler for UNIX, and it is limited to Intel processors - SCO UNIX, Linux, etc. It will not run on Sun, AIX, HP, etc. UNIX. It is quite widely used, e.g. in EasyWeb and EasyCat.

The existence of the DLL gave the idea that it might be possible to create an ISIS portable library which could be ported to various platforms. The first program was WWW ISIS. It is not a finished product but can be used for Internet applications through a CGI. It is on the BIREME FTP server.

In parallel to this, an EU-financed project ARCA started two years ago to write a client-server application implementing Z39.50 to search databases under ISIS, SABINI and Atlas. The new phase is called ARCADIA and involves four Italian partners: Intex, CNR, Tuscany Region and DBA. UNESCO has been approached because ISIS has the largest user population and they might consider distributing the client. Mr Del Bigio hoped that after the release of Winisis this year he would have more time to consider other projects.

DBA is offering some services for WAIS ISIS ('ISISNET') e.g. training and additional modules.

Ms Ocampo asked how decisions were made about new development. Mr Del Bigio said he made the final decision but he got a lot of feedback from meetings, correspondence and visits. He had recently agreed a mechanism for going beyond the 500 Mb limit on database size by using a different addressing system: the control record will indicate which system is used. As far as the DOS version went, he had concentrated on what was behind the screen, not what was on it.


There were over 8,000 FTP accesses for the beta version in 1996, including 682 from Italy, 477 from Spain and from Brazil.

In the future distribution would be via the INTERNET. Individual users would copy the latest version of the program from the UNESCO server. The distributors present at the meeting wondered where this left them but surely there will be a need for a means of distribution to those without INTERNET access, and for informing users when new versions are available. National distributors could provide their own language version of the software and manual. If UNESCO received a password request from a country with a national distributor they could pass it on to them. They could also be involved in giving assistance, distributing documentation and in setting up their own FTP sites for those end users who find access to UNESCO's file transfer (FTP) server difficult.

Users' licences do not allow them to transmit the software over networks, but this may not apply to distributors.

Mr Del Bigio said he had been asked to produce a directory of users. Publicising users could help the distributors as it encourages mutual support.

WWW interface

Mr Gimilio outlined how CDS/ISIS can be interfaced to an HTTP server. There are servers available for DOS/Windows on Intel processors and UNIX on Intel (Linux/SCO) or higher processors (Sun, SPARC, HP etc.). On the BIREME file server there is a WWW engine for DOS/Windows, Linux, and Sun Solaris. Between the two, a CGI interface is needed.

For DOS, the interface is written in batch/Visual Basic. For UNIX, it can be written in PERL and the University of Stuttgart has announced PERL under DOS. Visual Basic is desynchronised - it closes communication with the server. Abel Packer has reported the same problems with Windows NT. Mr Del Bigio said that UNESCO was using SFgate from UNIDO. The solution is PERL/CGI. All the HTML tags must be included in a special CDS/ISIS print format. He was willing to release the results to anyone who wanted to go ahead.

Mr Nieuwenhuysen said that in Belgium 'everyone' was working on PERL scripts for Web access but it was proving difficult. Even with the BIREME software it needed a lot of manpower to develop the CGI. He commented that it was nice to have free information retrieval software for microcomputers, but if you were setting up a Web service the extra cost of commercial retrieval software was not great.

Mr Gimilio said he thought the Italians had been doing the right thing - using ISIS.DLL to provide the search engine. But there is no DLL for UNIX. WWW ISIS is not the equivalent of the DLL.

Mr Del Bigio repeated the idea of the ISIS Portable Library - a library of routines applicable to all platforms. With luck, the first part might be available by the end of the year. There may be restrictions on the source code - only compiled modules may be distributed.


Ms Ocampo said she would like to have a Latin American representative on any European coordinating group. She stressed the need for Winisis to be available now for existing DOS users.

Andrew Buxton of the UK supported the need for Winisis very soon. Use in the UK is fairly low-level and as far as he know there was no work going on with Web interfaces etc. The Institute of Development Studies needs a database with Web access soon but it is unlikely to be on CDS/ISIS.

Mr Nieuwenhuysen also agreed the need for a solid Windows version now. There is a meeting of the Dutch-speaking user group in April and reports of earlier meetings are available. There is a need to accelerate ISIS development, perhaps by bringing experts together.

Mr Del Bigio admitted that there had been delays, not least due to inadequate resources and the need to put in place a more solid and wider distribution network to take the load of distribution from UNESCO. For one year he was the interim Director of the Division which had eaten into his time available for CDS/ISIS. The Windows version was almost ready: if database definition is excluded, it is fairly stable. The Internet software is not in a usable state, but there is WAIS ISIS with documentation in English. It had taken someone at UNESCO two months to set it up. The present need is to consolidate what is there, make it known, and provide documentation.


This report was compiled from a report made by Andrew Buxton of the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, the CDS/ISIS UK Distributor and on the Committee of ISIS Plus, the UK CDS/ISIS User Group, with information from Georges Festinger of the French User Association.