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Resources for CIF developers

  • Subject: Resources for CIF developers
  • From: Brian McMahon <bm@xxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 4 May 2000 17:10:16 +0100 (BST)

Hello and welcome to everyone who has already subscribed to the
cif-developers list. Since the list is very new and invitations to
join have only recently been posted, it may take a little while before
the discussions really get going, but I shall try to seed a few topics 
in the early stages.

Since there are already a substantial number of subscribers, it is clear
that many people consider themselves in some sense "CIF developers". But
it also seems that there is not really a *community* of CIF developers,
perhaps for all sorts of reasons. I hope that this list and the web pages
that I shall work on may act as a focus for people who need to work with
CIFs and who are interested in developing good CIF software.

So I welcome your suggestions on what is needed on the CIF developers web
page, and how we can work together to make it a community resource; indeed, 
how we can foster a sense of community spirit.

The prototype page at http://www.iucr.org/iucr-top/cif/developers.html
(and mirrors) is in the new livery for the IUCr Crystallography Online
pages that will gradually be introduced in the months ahead.

The main point of entry for information about CIF will remain the IUCr CIF
home page http://www.iucr.org/iucr-top/cif, but it will also be revamped,
and some of the content that is currently there may be moved onto the
cif-developers page.

This is the current content of the cif-developers page, but it will change
to reflect the needs and wishes that you express.

(a) FAQ. Currently a barebones and incomplete FAQ about CIF. Please ask
    questions that you would like to see in the FAQ (or, better, supply
    questions and answers).

(b) Specification. An essential reference for software developers.

(c) Current dictionaries. Links to the existing dictionaries. There is a
    proposal before COMCIFS to formalise network access to dictionaries
    through a registry. I'll post details of that to this list in the next few

(d) New dictionaries. It may be useful for software developers to preview
    work in progress on new dictionaries, so I hope to expand the set of
    links to new dictionary project groups.

(e) Software directory. This currently links to the various utilities
    listed on the CIF home page. I would like to split this collection into two 
    sections: end-user software (standalone viewers, editors and perhaps
    validators); and developer software (libraries, code fragments, parsers or
    similar more specialised tools, beta software). The idea will be to make
    the end-user software more visible to individual crystallographers, and to
    collect together a larger assembly of tools for software authors.

    I encourage the members of this list to contribute any such tools to
    the new directory. You may supply: details only; links to your own
    software distribution sites; or, if you prefer, I am willing to host
    the software distribution on the Chester and mirror servers.

    I am keen to encourage the provision of freely-redistributable
    open-source software within this directory; however, you should be aware
    that commercial CIF software also exists, and the IUCr is happy to
    promote the development of such commercial software so long as it is
    entirely CIF conformant. You should therefore be sure to make clear the
    terms and conditions under which any software that you make available by
    this route may be used or redistributed within other programs.

(f) Archive of the cif-developers list. This will enable new subscribers to
    catch up on prior discussions, will provide indexes by date and by
    thread, and will contain active hyperlinks to cited URLs. The archive
    itself will be propagated to the IUCr mirrors; because of the way in
    which the IUCr web pages are managed, it may take a couple of days before
    an active discussion shows up in the archive. For that reason, you
    might like to know that the most up-to-date archive will be located at 
    the "unofficial" URL http://agate.iucr.org/iucr-top/lists/cif-developers

(g) Terms of use. This currently links to the official IUCr policy on the
    use of CIF and STAR Files. However, there has been a lot of criticism
    of the form and content of this document, and a new draft is under active
    development. I shall circulate the draft to this list in the very near
    future for your information and reaction.

So what else should we have on this page? One suggestion with which I am
entirely happy is that there should be a set of links to other data
exchange formats.

I have a great deal of interest in building up these web pages; however, at 
present I am also heavily pressed for time. If anyone else is especially
keen to take over the job of developing and maintaining the cif-developers
web site, please feel free to volunteer.

With best wishes to all,
Brian McMahon                                             tel: +44 1244 342878
Research and Development Officer                          fax: +44 1244 314888
International Union of Crystallography                  e-mail:  bm@iucr.ac.uk
5 Abbey Square, Chester CH1 2HU, England                         bm@iucr.org

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