The need to create smart documents was the focus of the keynote presentation at this year’s XML USA Conference. Keynote presenters Jon Udell of InfoWorld and Shantanu Narayen of Adobe Systems discussed the importance of creating intelligent XML documents that add real world business value, while acknowledging some of the obstacles preventing widespread adoption.

According to a report from—Intelligent Documents Headline XML 2003—Jon Udell “spoke of the importance of context in everyday communication. He noted that the most prevalent forms of business communication, email and instant messaging, tended to preserve the least context. It was a shame to see highly skilled, highly paid technical professionals spend excessive amounts of time trying to disentangle convoluted email threads. A shame, too, that while Microsoft has brought XML into the Word and Excel products, Outlook does not permit XML document creation.”

“The other problem in preserving context, aside from the tools, is of course persuading people to create metadata in the first place. Udell suggested that a way of doing this might be through using style as a back door. Many people are willing to spend a long time on getting the look of a document right, but not be willing to spend that time on metadata creation. Udell suggested that by providing metadata-significant styles, authoring tools creators could encourage more preservation of context in communication through the carrot of creating beautiful documents.”