Lisp at ORPHEO

A knowledge modelling tool for design and maintenance of large hypertext documents



The above diagram shows the first main feature of ORPHEO:

  • Using ORPHEO diagrams, you can make explicit, in a clean and concise representation, a piece of knowledge that would otherwise require a long textual explanation.

The second main feature is hypertext generation and management:

  • With ORPHEO, managing the links (cross-references) of a complex hypertext document becomes an exercise in concept organisation.

The full power of ORPHEO lies in the fact that its diagrams may be used, not only to display bits of knowledge, but also to generate hypertext (HTML) pages, and their hyperlinks.

Target Users

The main objective at the present time is to assist intensive procedure and document users - typically, project managers, engineers or operators - at two levels:

Document consultation

  • searching for information disseminated through a large document.
  • learning (training manual, procedure, …).

Document design and maintenance

  • writing a new document.
  • reorganising an existing set of documents for its distribution over the corporate Intranet.

ORPHEO is a generic tool for developing object-oriented repositories of unstructured data - data that doesn’t easily fit in standard databases - such as text and graphical information. It is in principle applicable to any type of unstructured data (that may concern, for instance, expert technical knowledge as well as ordinary procedures).

Typical applications

  • Knowledge and know-how repositories: one current application aims at reorganising and structuring a large set of experience feedback reports and documentation accumulated in safety studies.
  • Quality management: the tool is being applied to selected TEE internal procedures in engineering, project management, procurement and document management.
  • Project documentation.
  • Training manuals.
  • Operation procedures.

An interesting application would be to couple the procedure consultation system to a process so as to provide the engineer or operator with a context-dependent view of the relevant procedures.


ORPHEO models help the document (or web-site) manager, as well as the end-user.

ORPHEO addresses two crucial problems in document management: the problem of hyperlink management and the problem of updates (because of redundancies and multi-authoring, it is not easy to know where to make a modification).

With ORPHEO, the structure of the hypermedia document is always generated from the graphical diagrams, as illustrated in the following figure. Such diagrams automate the management of hyperlinks, eliminate repetitions in the text, making it easy to see where changes should be made.



Diagrams also provide extensive support for reuse: reuse of already defined objects, by versioning; and reuse of presentation styles that may be attached either to an element of a page (e.g., standard title format) or to the page itself (e.g., standard headers and footers).

Document consultation also involves its own set of problems:

  • Large documents are hard to read because they are dense, content- intensive, and involve a large number of inter-related concepts.
  • It is easy to get lost when navigating through hyperlinks.
  • Keyword-based searches give too much or not enough results.

The ORPHEO approach allows the end-user to:

  • Zoom through the diagrams to see details, while keeping a view of the overall picture.
  • Grasp at once, in a diagram, what aspects of a given topic are discussed in the document.
  • Execute powerful model-based searches (made possible by the semantic modelling).
  • Make sure that all important links have been visited.

Technical aspects

  • The main software technologies used in implementing ORPHEO are semantic networks, hypertext and standard object-oriented techniques such as inheritance and versioning.
  • Browsing through ORPHEO diagrams and hypertext pages is done with a standard Web-browser such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer.
  • ORPHEO models may be distributed on various computers on the company’s internal network. They can easily be made accessible from outside, via the Internet.
  • File fragments (in any standard format - Word, Excel , …) may be attached to any object in a diagram.
  • The system currently runs under Windows 95 and Windows NT-4.

Services we offer

Around the tool itself, we have developed a methodology that provides guidelines for designing and maintaining an ORPHEO application. We offer training sessions and design support, as well as concrete solutions to problems such as:

  • Ensuring that a paper copy will be easily generated from the hypertext document.
  • Allowing conflicting information (reflecting different viewpoints on the same topic).
  • Tracking modifications to the document.
  • Managing bilingual or multilingual documents.
  • Combining features of Orpheo models and of Internet browser (email, etc.) to enhance collaborative work.


The logo shown at the top of the page is a partial reproduction of a painting by F. Picabia, "Cherchez d’abord votre Orphée", 1948.

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Last update : 22/11/2001