Headers and footers in HTML documents - Or a lesson in banging your head against the wall

Subject: Headers and footers in HTML documents - Or a lesson in banging your head against the wall
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, "Puffer, Paula (Paula)" <Paula -dot- Puffer -at- ElPaso -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 24 May 2006 11:19:10 -0400

Paula Puffer reports: <<I've been given the task of improving our process for moving manuals from Word Documents to HTML and PDF. The current process was put in place before I got here. It was not tested to see how it actually worked. It blows up on a regular basis and it blows up differently each and every time.>>

Sympathies. On the plus side, at least you have an interesting problem to solve and will look like a genius once you solve it... <gdr>

<<The process as it stands now is make corrections in Word, merge the word files using a program called Twins File Merger and then convert the merged file using another program called Click to Convert. They picked Click to Convert because the PDF and HTML generated files looks EXACTLY like the Word documents (including the headers and footers), which is what my bosses want. The PDF is no big deal, but the HTML generated by Click to Convert is awful. Every line is assigned a class id and if you open it up in an editor like Frontpage or Dreamweaver, it's a nightmare to look at.>>

Blech. The whole purpose of HTML is to allow the layout to be flexible. Where fixed layout is important, that's why you use PDF. Different solutions for different problems! Trying to make HTML into PDF makes little or no sense.

If the class IDs are a problem, consider creating a macro of some sort to strip them out or replace them with more appropriate tags. (More details below.) Any good text editor should let you record such a macro; if you don't want to add more software to your burden, use what you already have: Word makes a great HTML editor ***if you change the file name extension to *.txt and save files in that format (text)***. Word does a poor job of saving to HTML, but changing the filename tricks it into thinking that it's working only on a text file, and Word is a powerful tool in that context. Just remember to change the filenames back to .htm or .html when you're done.

The great advantage of using Word is that you already have it, it has a decent search and replace tool (it's not grep, but it's still surprisingly powerful), and it has a powerful macro language you don't need to learn (i.e. you can record macros instead of programming them), so you can automate quite a bit of the work with a bit of thought.

<<I'd like to see the process be something like make corrections in Word and generate PDFs and HTML using Framemaker, ePublisher Pro, or some equivalent program. At this point the PDF is not an issue with them, it's the HTML. Anyone know of any programs that will convert word docs exactly as they appear into HTML?>>

The PDF shouldn't be an issue, and you shouldn't need to move to Frame. (Frame is clearly more powerful, but if the current system uses Word, stick with what you've got until you have a compelling reason to change.) Simply purchase a copy of Acrobat, and print to PDF. Problem solved for PDF.

HTML can't be made to precisely mimic a Word document because HTML documents are resizeable in browser windows, so it makes no sense to have documents that don't wrap if users resize the window. Moreover, it makes no sense to generate a separate HTML file for each page in the Word document. Sheer nonsense! Each topic should become its own HTML page, or perhaps a group of linked pages.

As noted above, Word's macro language will do enormous amounts of cleanup in HTML files. To reduce the amount of cleanup, streamline the style definitions used in the Word document. If you can map these styles one to one to equivalent styles in a CSS stylesheet, that solves much of the remaining problem. Again, a search and replace macro can clean up the HTML files you generate so that they match the stylesheet.

<<I'm working on persuading my bosses that really in the HTML documents the Header information is not needed because they want any printing that happens to come from the PDF and not the HTML and that HTML is about making the information accessible and not the presentation.>>

Headers are easy: they become the title information for each HTML file (i.e., the name that appears at the top of the browser window when you open the file). The rest of the header information is meaningless because there are no page numbers in HTML... or there shouldn't be.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - --
Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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Headers and footers in HTML documents - Or a lesson in banging your head against the wall: From: Puffer, Paula \(Paula\)

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