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Government Printing Office Overhauls Online Document System

The XML-based Federal Digital System replaces the outdated GPO Access for retrieval of official federal government publications.

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The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) is phasing out a nearly 17-year-old online document-access system in favor of a next-generation system for providing online access to official federal government publications.

The Federal Digital System (FDsys) will replace GPO Access, launched in June 1994 as a way to provide people with online access to federal documents. The two systems have been running concurrently but by the end of the month, GPO Access will be an archive-only system, according to the GPO Web site.

The GPO is responsible for disseminating and distributing information from all three branches of government -- executive, judicial, and legislative. In 1993, Congress expanded the office's mission to provide electronic access to federal electronic information through the passage of the U.S. GPO Electronic Information Access Enhancement Act.

A fundamental difference between GPO Access and FDsys is that the new system was built on open standards -- not merely as a siloed electronic repository, but as a backend system that directs agency workflow to organize publications to be cataloged, proofed, printed, and reused, according to comments made by Kate Zwaard, the GPO's lead program planner for digital preservation.

Zwaard described the system last November in a talk at the Library of Congress, a webcast of which is available online.

Specifically, FDsys features improved search capability with more ways to refine and narrow searches to allow people to access information more quickly, according to the GPO. It also allows people to browse documents by collection, Congressional committee, and date.

People also can access metadata about documents and publications because FDsys uses XML formats to present them, according to the GPO. Because of this, people can either download documents as a single file or download content and its metadata packaged together.

The federal government updated the official journal of the federal government, the Federal Register, to XML in 2009. The Federal Register is one of a host of publications available through FDsys.

Other notable documents available on the system include the Congressional Record, the U.S. Budget, and the president's public papers.

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