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Presto! Itís (In)magic for Content Access
Posted On September 1, 2004
Since its founding in 1983, Inmagic, Inc. ( has helped libraries and other information-intensive organizations take control of their content. Its well-known products--DB/TextWorks (a Windows client launched in 1995), DB/Text WebServer (1996), and Content Server (2003), which extended Inmagic's solutions across the enterprise--have evolved to serve the information needs of organizations in sales and marketing, manufacturing, banking, government, litigation support, finance, library automation, and education. Now, the company has taken a leap forward to help clients integrate content not just within Inmagic databases but from multiple internal and external content repositories. The company announced Inmagic Presto!, a Web-based "content catalog" for accessing, sharing, and re-purposing information assets.

Built on Inmagic Content Server using the Microsoft SQL Server back end, Presto! leverages Microsoft .NET technologies to provide unified access to search and retrieve content no matter where it resides. Phillip Green, president and CEO of Inmagic, said: "Inmagic Presto! evolved from examination of our client base of over 5,000 global customers and [of] how Inmagic technology has been implemented within their organizations. The result was the equivalent of a content catalog characterized by ease of use, flexibility, and rapid deployment."

Joshua Duhl, IDC's research director of rich media, said: "Our research in the last 2 years has consistently shown that the top reason for customers to invest in content technologies is to unify access to their scattered information. Inmagic's new Presto! content catalog offering pulls together content from multiple sources to facilitate information integration, discovery, and collection."

Inmagic Presto! doesn't require that content be duplicated but instead stores extensive metadata about the content and pointers to its locations. Out of the box, Presto! supports standard properties for common content forms, such as electronic documents, assorted images, rich media, and physical objects. These can also be extended and customized.

Users can search within a specific format type, such as images, or search across format types for everything related to a particular subject by date, keyword, etc. Inmagic Presto! provides both advanced and simple search functionality, and its "index browse" capabilities allow users to browse the content indexes. Results can include thumbnail displays and are presented in a kind of shopping cart model, with a selection of items that users can choose to save, print, or e-mail. They can even request the delivery of a physical item, such as a film.

To automate the aggregation, categorization, and population of Inmagic Presto!, the software can be integrated with Inmagic GathererPLUS, an automated spidering tool that harvests content from internal file servers as well as external Web sites. GathererPLUS aggregates and categorizes this content, automatically creating the metadata that is maintained by Inmagic Presto!. The lexical and semantic capabilities built into GathererPLUS allow it to automatically extract the names of people, places, and organizations from the content that is spidered.

Inmagic introduced its Gatherer and Classifier products in June 2002, using technology licensed from TopicalNet, now Lexalytics ( Green said that recently Inmagic quietly introduced the GathererPLUS product and plans a formal introduction for the enhanced software in the fall.

The Lexalytics technology converts unstructured contentóWord files, PDF files, Web pages, etc.óinto structured XML. It reads and extracts valuable metadata from the original documents, including automatic document summaries, people, companies, and places, as well as document-, paragraph-, and entity-level sentiment or tone. This extracted metadata is added to the produced XML document and is then passed to a consuming search or database application, in this case, Inmagic Presto!.

Inmagic Presto! is delivered as an application solution, set up by Inmagic's Professional Services Group. It offers an open, extensible architecture that is scalable for small to large implementations. Green said it offers lower technological complexity, with minimal need for IT support, and lower cost for an organization. Pricing is server-based (not per-seat) and includes unlimited usage. A typical cost for a new customer would be in the range of $20,000 to $60,000. Green said, "We offer enterprise capabilities at a very good value."

I must admit that I became a bit nostalgic while looking back on Inmagic's development over the years. One of the company's founders and a leading figure in text databases and information management in libraries, Betty Eddison, was the Database Design columnist for Database magazine when I became its editor back in 1988. I was fortunate to be able to work with her on writing projects and to seek her advice for a number of years. She continues to serve as chairman emeritus of Inmagic's board of directors. While Inmagic has always been on my radar screen, I can objectively say that the company successfully evolved to embrace new technologies, accommodate changing client needs, and reach for new markets. I wish it success for its future in helping organizations take control of and gain value from their information assets.

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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