Nice HTML editing for WWW home pages... not so Nice.
I always cringed when I saw the TV commercial with Orson Welles, bloated but smiling, saying, "We will sell not wine before its time." How could he have sunk so low?
I wish some software companies would have taken that vintner's advice and not sunken so low as to release unfinished business. Nice Technologies is one of them.
Nice Technologies makes an editor for SGML (called SGML TagWizard 1.3) that is supposed to run as a template on US versions of Microsoft Word 6.0. Last December Norman Havens posted the information on P&A. I was intrigued, needing direction at writing an HTML document for my new Internet World Wide Web home page.
The WWW (or 3W) is the fastest-growing sector of the Internet (or Net). It uses a common standard of ASCII characters coded to display a GUI (Graphic User Interface) when you explore the Net using a Web browser such as Mosaic, or its commercial offspring, Netscape (free for individual users). This standard, HyperText Markup Language (HTML) uses simple coding such as <H1>This is a Heading</H1> to make a large-type heading and other formatting features common to simple word-processors. It looks like my old WordPerfect 5.1 documents when you push the "reveal codes" key. Unlike the old WordPerfect, it also handles graphics, sound, animation and video.
The neat thing is that the actual file stored on the host computer is in ASCII, and therefore almost universal in cross-platform capability. This means that a Mac, Sun, or PC can all access the same information if they use the browser appropriate to their platform. The hypertext feature built into the coding of the source document makes it possible to link to another part of the same document, or to another document across the world, using what is called a Universal Resource Locator (URL). HTML is a subset (DTD) of Standard General Markup Language (SGML) which is an ISO standard, and used by government agencies and large companies.
Besides putting up my picture and semi-cogent thoughts on a personal file that anyone can access through the internet (as many individuals have done), I want to put my introductory writing class on line, world-wide. That way, I can update the document daily, if need be, to work out the bugs and provide what the students need. The students access my Course Home page through the LAN installed at the computer lab at school during class, and dial in from home when the lab is closed. My course document tells them what they have to do each week, and how to do it. Additionally, I can add sites that provide information outside of the university where I work.
Purdue University, for example, answers grammar questions for my students. They don't realize at first that they are netting to the US, because the browser looks the same whether it is a local file or one that uses a URL, such as Purdue.
I called up the company in France, and a Nice gentleman answered in flawless English. Yes, I could make a WWW document in Word 6.0 and export it to an HTML document.
Fine. I ponied up the $179 plus $15 shipping. I received two floppies a week later.
One floppy was the program itself, a collection of macros and templates that added a new button bar to the screen.
It uses fields in Word to mark the document. As you add tags, it checks your work to make sure that each tag is closed with an appropriate end-tag. It works Nice-ly.
Really. After playing around for awhile and getting a document that I could read with my Netscape program (that's right, folk, you can set Netscape to read files on your own hard disk), I had a question or two. Time to consult the manual.
The manual came on the other floppy. Whoever wrote it should spend endless years in purgatory rewriting the thing. Whoever wrote it must have just gotten a new screen capture program, and used at least one screen capture on each page. That's why 54 pages came to five megs. Unfortunately, it was formatted you could only see the entire line width on a 17" monitor. Reduce the magnification and you can't read the graphics (screen captures). Can't change the font to a smaller one because they used a dozen different ones. (Word Wish list: a macro that reduces each font 2 points, respectively). I was left with 3/4 of a line displayed on my screen, having to scroll sideways. After a call to France, I readjusted the margins, which whacked out the pagination.
He suggested printing the document out. For $179, I should have gotten one printed out. He apologized, noting that the file was way too large to work efficiently, and they were working on splitting it up an putting it under a master document, a nice feature in Word that allows you to assemble chapters of books, for example.
Meanwhile, the template took up so much memory that printing the thing took just over eight hours, and this with a 486-66 (16 megs RAM) and a postscript printer with 3 megs of RAM. C'est la vie.
I find out they have another office in California. This is good, because after creating a half a dozen pages, I want to link them together. The command goes <A: href="filename">anchor text</A>, with the anchor text being what you click on to go to the other document.
Problem is, this has to be done by the NICE program, and can't be done manually (Word's fields get messed up). I can set the <A>nchor, but they neglected to put in the reference to the other document. Call to California.
The tech guy came out of a meeting because I said I was calling from Tokyo at 2:30 am. He commiserated with me, explaining I would be getting a free upgrade from my 1.3 to 1.6 in a month. I have to have my course on line by April Fool's day. He pointed me to a place where I could ftp version 1.5 (webcom.com, directory /pub/nicetech/Downloads, filename webwiz.zip and webwzdoc.zip OR netcom.com, directory /pub/ni/nicetech, same files). He said I could convert my 1.3 files that I had made with a conversion program included.
After the ftp, I unzipped a much smaller version (this was ONLY for HTML, my old one was for SGML, but not completely compliant, as noted in the 8-hour documents), but one that had much better documentation.
Unfortunately, there was no conversion program, so I can't comment on how the new version works. I did see that version 1.5 is licensed FREE to educators.
I like the idea of editing HTML documents in Word 6.0 (version 1.5 now supports many other European languages).
Word is familiar to me, and this way I can keep master copies of all my files in one place, importing and exporting to and from HTML documents. My guess is that version 7.0 of Word will have this feature as standard.
Until then, TagWizard does provide on-line checking of your HTML documents and does make writing them easier and quicker. When they get it right, I'll let you know.
Nice HTML editing for WWW home pages... not so Nice.
by Kevin Ryan
2121 41st Avenue, Suite 303
Capitola, CA 95010
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