the PIA

Platform for Information Applications

The Platform for Information Applications (PIA) is an open source framework for rapidly developing flexible, dynamic, and easy to maintain information browser-based applications. Such applications are created without programming and can be maintained by users and office administrators.

This framework has been used to build a broad range of applications, including a "workflow" web server that handles all of the purchase authorizations, time cards, and other (ex-)paperwork at Ricoh Innovations, Inc.

The PIA does this by separating an application into a core processing engine (a shared software engine, akin to a web server) and a task-specific collection of "active" XML pages, which specify not only the content but also the behavior of the application (XML is the W3C standard, for eXtensible Markup Language). So one document, by itself, can include other documents (or pieces of them), iterate over lists, make decisions, calculate, search/substitute text, and in general do almost anything a traditional "CGI script" or document processing program would do.

Application developers can extend the basic set of HTML and PIA elements ("tags") by defining new ones in terms of the existing ones. As a result, a PIA application can be customized simply by editing a single, familiar-looking XML page... in contrast to conventional Web applications, where even a simple change (like adding an input field) might require finding and fixing Perl CGI scripts or recompiling Java classes in several directories.

We strongly encourage you to try the hackable, download-free demos/tutorials to learn how much the active-tag language can do in just a few lines... you'll be running your own PIA programs/documents minutes from now.

The PIA is Open Source, so it is freely available for use and modification by anyone. It includes a Java implementation of the core processing engine and a number of example applications. The processing engine can function simultaneously as a web server, client, proxy, and command line process.

RiSource.org coordinates contributions to the PIA software. As the core engine matures, RiSource.org will also support open source applications based on the PIA.

More detail on the system can be found in the PIA FAQ, Documentation , the Linux World 1999 Presentation, or by sending mail to PIA-dev@risource.org.

The source code, documentation, and other materials are released as Open Source and available for download from this site under the Ricoh Source Code Public License: