colophon n. An inscription placed usually at the end of a book, giving facts about its publication. [< Gk. kolophon, finishing touch.] - The American Heritage dictionary
The User's Guide for the WN Server was written by John Franks who is also the author of the WN software. Editorial changes and cleanup of the HTML source for the User's Guide was contributed by Jean Pierre LeJacq. This colophon describes the approach and tools used to write and validate the HTML source code.
We had the following goals for the HTML source code:
WN emphasizes the adherence the Internet standards such as HTML and HTTP. Basically, we want to practice what we preach in the documentation for WN.
The User's Guide was written using HTML 3.2 instead of the more recent HTML 4.0 since the former is currently better supported in both textual and graphical browsers.
As with any language, valid HTML can be written in a way that makes it difficult to maintain, non-portable and against the basic principles HTML embodies.
For example of the latter, we consider HTML primarily as a language that describes the semantic structure and not the visual representation of documents. Consequently, only minor use of HTML tags was made for formatting (e.g. centering of a documents title). Even these minor formatting decisions could be eliminated through the use of Style Sheets. However, these are currently not well supported by many browsers so they were not employed.
As an example or more minor portability issue, we check that there is no intervening white space in the start of an anchor, "<a>", tag. Browsers are inconsistent in how the display this extra white space.
One of the great strengths of HTML is the linking of widely dispersed documents to create a seamless virtual document. We have provided extensive links to relevant standards, manual pages and sites to maximize this advantage. The User's Guide itself is extensively cross-linked. We also wanted to insure that the links were valid.
One of the unfortunate consequences of the popularity of the Internet is the low quality of much of the HTML documents. Since learning by example is so important, we wanted to provide WN users an example of well written HTML.
All of the editing and validation of the User's Guide was done using the Linux Operating System developed primarily by Linus Torvalds. We used the Debian GNU/Linux distribution developed by many volunteers on the Internet. Much of the editing was done as part of the packaging of WN for Debian.
All of the editing of the User's Guide was done using the Xemacs text editor. XEmacs stems from a collaboration of Lucid, Inc. with Sun Microsystems, Inc. and the University of Illinois with additional support having been provided by Amdahl Corporation, Altrasoft and a huge amount of volunteer effort.
Much of the power of Xemacs is based on the lisp packages that are either part of the core Xemacs distribution or add-ons. We cannot list all of the packages but I do follow with several particularly important packages for editing HTML documents.
package provides functions and various popup and pulldown menus for a
HTML mode called
hm--html-mode, a mode for writing HTML
pages. The primary author is Heiko Muenkel. It provides
also a minor mode,
hm--html-minor-mode, which can be used
together with another HTML major mode, like the
psgml-html mode which
is exactly what we did.
is a major mode for editing SGML
psgml contains a simple SGML parser and can work
with any DTD. Functions provided includes menus and commands for
inserting tags with only the contextually valid tags, identification of
structural errors, editing of attribute values in a separate window with
information about types and defaults and structure based editing. It
also provides an interface to an external SGML parser, such as SP, to rigorously validate a file.
psgml is currently maintained by Lennart Staflin.
Emacs/W3 is a full-featured web browser, written entirely in Emacs-Lisp, that supports all the bells and whistles you will find in use on the web today, including frames, tables, stylesheets, and much more. We used as a quick validation of the basic presentation of the pages.
SP is a free object-oriented
toolkit for SGML parsing and entity management developed by James Clark. It includes the
program which parses and validates the SGML documents whose document
entity is specified by the system identifiers sysid.
mode supports invoking
nsgmls and parsing its output.
We used the following sysid at the beginning of all HTML documents:
<!doctype html public "-//W3C//DTD HTML 3.2 Final//EN">
Weblint is a Perl program for syntax and minimal style checking of HTML developed by Neil Bowers. We use in conjunction to SP to prevent the use of valid HTML that is either difficult to maintain or poorly supported by current browsers.
linbot is a Python program that allows webmasters to: view the structure of a site; track down broken links; find potentially outdated HTML pages; list links pointing to external sites; view portfolio of inline images; and do all this periodically and without user intervention. Results are displayed in a set of HTML pages.