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CityDesk Articles With CSS

I find myself in a situation where I am frustrated with what I perceive to be a lack of an elegant integration with CityDesk's article editor and CSS.  I have an external stylesheet and the CityDesk article editor has zero awareness of the styles defined in that stylesheet.

Scenario:

1) An article is written in MS Word, with various fonts, font sizes, italic, bold, indented quote blocks, and bulleted lists.

2) Copy and Paste the text from Word into the "Normal View" in the article editor.  All the formatting is retained.  Very nice.  When I saw that CD had this feature, it was one of the things that sold me on it--people deliver articles to me in MS Word format.  From there I want to publish them in both PDF form (which is trivial from Word) and to the web.  CD looked like the tool that was going to enable me to do the latter.  Now I'm not sure sure (keep reading).

3) Switch to "HTML View".  You see <FONT> tags, <I>, <B>, etc. etc.  Yuck.  I have pointed this article at a template, that template is in turn pointed to a style sheet file, which is already loaded into CD.  Why does there appear to be no awareness of this fact in the CD editor?

What CD needs is something that allows me to map formatting in the Normal View to styles within my style sheet.  For example, give me a way to tell CD, "When you see 11 pt Verdana, use the 'span.standard' style, which you should find in the stylesheet that this article's template is using." or "When you see italics 11 pt Verdana, use the 'span.italic' style."

Without something like this, I am going to have to either edit all of this auto-generated HTML by hand to convert '<FONT style="FONT-FAMILY: 'Arial','times new roman'" color=black>' into '<span class="standard">' or I'm going to have write some scripts or a program to do this for me:

1) Paste from Word into Normal View
2) Switch to HTML View
3) Ctrl-A, copy the HTML the clipboard
4) Paste the HTML into an editor, custom program, whatever that will search for <FONT> tags and whatnot and replace them with the styles I want
5) Copy and paste the new HTML back into CityDesk
6) Hope that CityDesk does not mess with my customized HTML.

Uggh.

Am I missing something?  Is there some cool feature or technique that will help me?

I read the entry in the help file that says that CityDesk will apply style substitution to html tags, but this does not seem flexible enough.  The example in the help file says you can define an inline style such that a certain tag will be replaced with a certain style when CD publishes the site, but this does not appear to be designed for sensitivity to where in a document a tag is being used or what attribute values the tag might have in different parts of the file.  What I mean is, I don't want to globally replace all <I> tags with the same style in all instances.  In one case it might need to be 11 point Verdana italics and in another case 10 point Courier New italics.

If anyone can give me any guidance, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Dan Read

Daniel Read
Friday, May 02, 2003

Try "Paste without formatting" to paste the text from word without all the word gobbeldy-gook.

Michael H. Pryor
Friday, May 02, 2003

Daniel,

CityDesk uses the DHTML Edit control that comes integrated with IE. This is the same HTML editor you see on sites like eBay, and with other browser-interfaced content management systems.

So when you copy/paste from word you're going from Microsoft to Microsoft... and we all know how bad MS's implementation of HTML is. You're basically getting MS Word formatted text in CityDesk when you copy/paste.

I was in a similar situation as you for a while, and I believe I used a combination of Word's export to HTML, Dreamweaver's "Clean Up Word Formatting" and BkReplacEm from http://www.orbit.org . BKReplaceEm lets you run regular expressions on files. The good thing about it is it lets you keep the regular expressions from session to session so you're not repeating yourself.

So what I'm saying is, CityDesk is a CMS first and an HTML editor second. HTML editing simply isn't it's core competancy.

www.marktaw.com
Friday, May 02, 2003

Michael - I often find myself copying/pasting into notepad & then copying that and pasting that into CityDesk... It's quick and dirty and it works, but then you have to go reformat the document.

www.marktaw.com
Friday, May 02, 2003

Hello, Michael.  Thanks for your response.  I appreciate your suggestion, but using that feature would defeat my goal: I *want* the formatting from Word.  If I've got an article that is several pages long, written in MS Word, with all kinds of specific formatting throughout.  I do not want to have to go back through the entire article in the HTML view and insert styles or replace tags with styles everywhere the original text had italics, bold, font changes, font size changes, block quotes, bulleted lists, etc.

That would take me hours, and one of the main reasons I bought CityDesk was to be able to paste stuff in from Word and keep the formatting.  CityDesk appears to do a good job of keeping the formatting, but it does not appear to do this in a CSS-aware manner.

Perhaps I am asking too much.  I'd like to have my cake and eat it too.  :-)

Thanks again,
Dan


Daniel Read
Friday, May 02, 2003

Mark,

Thanks a lot for your response.  Thanks especially for the tip on BkReplacEm--that will keep me from having to write such a tool myself.

I think I will try exactly what you suggest, with the exception that I'll probably try HTML Tidy since I don't use Dreamweaver.  I believe they have a module that cleans up MS Word HTML.  All of my articles use a standard template, so there will only be so many tag-attribute strings that I will have to create regular expressions for in BkReplacEm.  It's not great, but it seems livable.

Perhaps I need to look at another avenue, though, for the format the articles are first written in.  I've been using Word because using gobcl.com's Word-to-PDF converter creates such attractive PDF files.  A significant percentage of my readers prefer to read the articles in PDF format.  If the articles were written HTML or XML in the first place, I could convert the HTML to PDF--but I just don't think the resulting PDFs would look nearly as nice.

Thanks again,
Dan

Daniel Read
Friday, May 02, 2003

You're right. Unless, of coures, you imported the HTML into Word and then printed it. Then it wouldn't look like a webpage anymore. I don't know if it would break your CSS formatting though.

I'm not familiar with the tool you use to make PDF's... I just use Adobe Acrobat. Is there nothing that will take a raw .html document and turn it into a PDF? Then you could just output a "printable" version and PDF that.

Are you creating these articles yourself, or are they being given to you by someone else?

www.marktaw.com
Friday, May 02, 2003

Have you tried the "export to compact HTML" addon for Word? It's on the MS site somewhere and produces somewhat better HTML than cut/paste.

To make PDFs from Word, I use Jaws PDF maker - it came on a magazine cover disk, so not the latest version, but  perfectly adequate. It also installs a virtual printer, so you can make PDFs from web pages.

Michael Wild
Friday, May 02, 2003

Thanks, Michael, for the suggestion on that add-on.  I might try that as well, but I wonder if it might still need cleanup, and if it did, whether Tiny HTML would have the right stuff to clean up the "compact" HTML.  I'll probably mess around with all this over the weekend, and when I ultimately get some kind of methodology worked out, I'll post it up here for the sake of posterity.

As for how I make the PDFs, I use this site here:

http://www.gobcl.com

It's free, and it works pretty well.

Also, Mark, up until this point, I have been writing the articles myself.  I write essays, book reviews, and other stuff about software development and publish them at my site developer.* (developerdotstar.com).  I'm in the process of doing two things: one, converting my entire site (about 60,000 words of content) to CityDesk and a whole new look-and-feel from another similar product that I have been using for the past two years, and two, transforming the site from a place where I publish my own work to a web-based journal where I will regularly publish the work of other authors as well as my own.  This page on my site describes what I'm working towards:

http://developerdotstar.com/call_for_authors.htm

So going forward, not only will I be publishing my own articles, but those that people send me.  Sometimes these will be in a nice format, sometimes they will just be text or html that I will have to format myself.

Thanks again for your input, Michael, Michael, and Mark.

Dan

Daniel Read
Saturday, May 03, 2003

Are you sure CityDesk is the right tool for you? If you're really going to open up the site to other authors, a completely online tool may suite your needs better.

Surely people can input plain text with the occasional vBulletin or HTML tyle bold tag. It sounds like you're setting yourself up for a lot of work when the process can be automated.

www.marktaw.com
Saturday, May 03, 2003

CityDesk may not at this point be the perfect tool for me, but from all the shopping around I've done, it's the closest thing.  There are two other features that CD has that are key for me: first, the use of templates, which allows a single change to one file that can be propogated to the entire site; and second, the fact that it publishes the entire site en masse to static HTML files.  So many products use some kind of article.asp?id=8765322 type paradigm with the site, and I really don't like having those kinds of urls.

I'm hoping that someone at CityDesk is reading this forum and is working on a new version that will have a better article editor that is more tightly integrated with CSS.  It seems that Fog Creek will have to do this soon, since what serious web developer wants to put out a site full of <FONT> tags?  (And even for those that do, the article editor in "Normal View" does not even let you choose a font!)

In the meantime, if it takes a little while to properly format and publish a new article, I can live with that.  I just don't think the ideal solution for me exists on the market right now.

Dan

Daniel Read
Saturday, May 03, 2003

Daniel, you say there are two key CD features:

-the ability to propogate a single change to the entire site.
-the ability to publish the entire site en masse to static HTML files.

With respect to the second key feature - is it really the ability to publish to static files, or the ability to link to a "normal" URL that you are looking for? (These are not quite the same, and I found myself wondering.)

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1.  gerzen@aol.com
2.  mattthew33@hotmail.com
3.  gmied1951@aol.com

j
Monday, May 05, 2003

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