Jim Ostell ostell at NCBI.NLM.NIH.GOV
Thu Feb 7 13:45:04 EST 1991

       Biotechnology Information Toolkit Software (BITS)

    Are you a developer of molecular biology software or databases?  NCBI has
an automatic rebroadcast email address on which it will announce releases of
software and databases.  This is for those actively interested in developing
software or databases.  It is not aimed at end users.

    To join, send your name, address, and email address to:

                 bits-request at ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

    An introduction and an announcement of our first major software tools
release follows.


    The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) was created by
an act of the U.S. Congress in November 1988 in recognition of the essential
and growing role of bio-informatics in the development of biotechnology and
medicine in the United States. The law specifically mandates that NCBI shall:
1)  Create automated systems for knowledge about molecular biology,
biochemistry, and genetics.
2)  Perform research into advanced methods of analyzing and interpreting
molecular biology data.
3)  Enable biotechnology researchers and medical care personnel to use the
systems and methods developed.
4)  Coordinate efforts to gather biotechnology information worldwide.

    As part of a broad program to meet these goals we are developing new
databases, publically available software tools for exchanging data or
accessing public databases, and are encouraging active collaboration and
contributions from the community.  We welcome the participation of academic,
commercial, and government developers and encourage the free use of our
software tools by all interested parties.

                   ASN.1 Tools Announcement

    We are announcing the availability of version 1.0 of the NCBI core tools
for building portable software, and AsnTool, a collection of routines for
handling ASN.1 data and developing ASN.1 software applications.  AsnTool is
built using the coretool routines.  This is a mature Beta release of software
intended for software developers and database builders.  This is not useful
for end users.  It is, however, a base on which to build end user

    The NCBI Core Tool routines a set of basic functions for interacting with
users, handling memory, dates, strings, I/O etc, written in C, which we have
demonstrated are portable across the following platforms:

IBM-PC '286 and '386
         Microsoft C
         Borland C
    Microsoft Windows
         Microsoft C
Macintosh II
    Think C
    MPW C
    Silicon Graphics
    IBM 3090

This release of the Core Tools does not include the portable windowing system
being developed at NCBI.

    AsnTool is a collection of functions written using the Core Tool Library,
and operating on all the above platforms.  The functions are for reading and
writing ASN.1 encoded data in both ASCII and binary forms.  It incorporates
extensive error checking.  The functions are meant to be included in user
applications.  Three demonstration programs are included showing this use.

    The process of building the core tools and AsnTool functions will also
produce an application, asntool.  This application can read and error check
ASN.1 specifications, read, write, and error check ASCII and/or binary data
files in ASN.1, and produce an #include file defining the specification for
use in applications developed using the AsnTool function library.

    A single tar compressed file containing source for all supported
platforms in available for anonymous ftp at
         cd toolbox\ncbi_tools
         bin                   (for binary transfer)
         get ncbi.tar.Z

    When uncompressed and untarred, it will produce a directory "ncbi" which
contains a number of subdirectories and a README explaining installation. 
There is a \doc directory containing manuals for coretool and asntool, which
you should read.

    Further ASN.1 specifications for sequence data and additional function
libraries will be announced on BITS.  

    Jim Ostell
    Chief, Information Engineering Branch
    National Center for Biotechnology Information


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