Issue 53, 25 November 2001
In this issue...
A new website, a new look, and a reorganisation
Valid HTML? Valid CSS? What are they?
Can colour-blind users see your site?
Do you prefer to receive plain-text or HTML newsletters?
Word add-in programs from The Editorium
Creating an exclude dictionary in Word 2000
Reducing the size of PDF files
Managing edits for online help
Question time: Grammar checker plug-in for FrameMaker?
Feedback on Magellan (a PDF-to-HTML converter)
Books available from Jean Hollis Weber
Taming Microsoft Word
Editing Online Help
The Eyrie has moved to a new web hosting company, which offers more than twice as much space for less than half the cost of its previous home.
While I was making that change, I decided to get a new domain name. Now is a good time to change your bookmarks (favorites) to the new address, http://www.jeanweber.com/
I've also done a major reorganisation of the material and the navigation structure. I hope it will now be easier for people to find items of interest through the contents lists, as well as finding specific topics through the comprehensive site index or using the search function. (I'm still working on the index and reorganisation, so the location of things may keep changing for awhile. I hope this doesn't cause anyone major inconvenience.)
Last but not least, I've created a new look and done a lot of tweaking to ensure all pages pass the tests for valid HTML4.0 (transitional) and valid CSS, while still being readable and usable on all browsers, with or without graphics or CSS support. This has been a challenging and fascinating (not to mention occasionally frustrating) experience, but I think I'm reached my goal of a visually appealing, fast-loading and usable design.
I'll be interested to hear your comments (positive or negative) on any aspect of the new website.
The old site will remain where it is for a few months while I set up redirections, organise a new place to keep the mailing list, and do various other housekeeping chores. However, I do not intend to do any updates or maintenance to the old site, and sometime before July 2002 it will be gone completely.
If you're wondering what I meant by "valid HTML" and "valid CSS" in the previous item, you might like to visit http://validator.w3.org/
This site checks HTML documents for conformance to W3C HTML and XHTML recommendations and other HTML standards. It also provides links to a range of related information, including some plain-English descriptions of its work and of HTML, XHTML, and other standards - and some highly technical papers.
A related topic is accessibility, covered extensively in the Web Accessibility Initiative's (WAI) pages, starting with http://www.w3.org/WAI/
When many people hear "accessible," they think "... to the blind," but many more issues are involved, including slow Internet access (some of outback Australia is restricted to 9,600 bps, for example, and upgrading software or hardware isn't going to help them until the telecommunications infrastructure is improved), difficulty in using a mouse, and a range of other human and technology problems.
As you might guess, my bout of website redesign has involved me in studying a range of design and usability issues from a very practical, rather than theoretical, point of view -- finding ways to put W3 and WAI recommendations into practice.
This article, which was mentioned on the Australian Technical Writers' List, describes and demonstrates a variety of types of colour blindness, and suggests ways to avoid choosing colour combinations that might be a problem for some of your audience: http://msdn.microsoft.com/voices/hess10092000.asp
In the same part of the MSDN (Microsoft Developers' Network) site are other interesting and informative articles about website usability issues.
Several people have asked why I don't send out this newsletter in HTML. The answer is simple: many people (including me) strongly prefer plain text. To cater for those who prefer HTML, my solution so far has been to include a link to the online HTML version in the e-mailed plain text version.
When I change mailing-list providers early next year, I might be able to offer a choice of formats - if enough people want a choice. To get an idea of how many people are interested, I have put a mini-poll on this page: http://www.jeanweber.com/news/index.htm
At this stage, your vote is completely anonymous. If I decide to offer two versions of the newsletter, I'll tell you how to change to the new format. The default will remain plain text.
In issue 36 (13 May 2000) I mentioned The Editorium, a website that provides Microsoft Word add-in programs for editors, writers, typesetters, and other publishing professionals. http://www.editorium.com
Depending on the type of editing work you're doing with Word, some of these programs may save you hours of effort and thus quickly pay for themselves.
- Editor's ToolKit
- Includes the ability to show and stet revisions, transpose words, transpose characters, change case, insert dashes and bullets, mark spec levels, change text to true title case, and much more.
- Cleans up common typographical problems in electronic manuscripts, including multiple spaces, multiple returns, spaces around dashes, improperly typed ellipses, ells used as ones, directly applied font formatting (while retaining character formatting such as italic), and so on.
- Strips embedded, automatically-numbered notes as numbered text to the end of a document (while retaining italics and other formatting), converts text notes into embedded, automatically-numbered ones, and provides a variety of other tools for working with notes.
- Converts edited Word documents into XPressTag files that can be imported into QuarkXPress while retaining style names and character formatting such as italic and bold. It fixes bad hyphenation and other typographical problems, and provides cross-platform character conversion from PC to Mac or Mac to PC. It converts Word index entries into QuarkXPress index entries, allowing editors to index in Word.
- Editor's ToolKit Plus
- Iintegrates all four of the above programs, giving you the tools to take a publication from raw manuscript to finished files ready for typesetting.
You can try each of these programs free for 45 days and purchase a license from their website.
The Editorium publishes a weekly newsletter, Editorium Update, with useful and interesting tips and discussions about editorial issues and Microsoft Word. To subscribe, send a blank email message to firstname.lastname@example.org
I have no association with The Editorium, and I do not get any payment if you buy any of these program. This is not a recommendation; I'm just passing on the information. If anyone reading this newsletter has used any of these programs and would like to comment on them, please e-mail me.
In issue 51 (2 September 2001), I described how to create an exclude dictionary for Word. This is a handy tool for editors; you can use it to find correctly spelled words that are not the right ones for the situation or not your preferred spelling.
In that article, I told you what filename to give the exclude dictionary and where to store it, for Word 97. Here is the same information for Word 2000.
In Microsoft Windows 95 or 98, save your dictionary in either the C:\Windows_folder\Application Data\Microsoft\Proof folder or the C:\Windows_folder\Profiles\User_name\Application Data\ Microsoft\Proof folder (depending on where the other dictionary files are stored). In Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, save your dictionary in the C:\Windows_folder\Profiles\User_name folder.
Give the exclude dictionary the same name as the main language dictionary it's associated with, but use the extension .exc. In Word 2000, the English dictionary is called Mssp3en.lex, so you would name the associated exclude dictionary Mssp3en.exc.
Shlomo Perets has a 2-part series of "best practices" articles on PlanetPDF, providing tips on how to reduce the file size of PDFs produced by Adobe Acrobat. The series starts here: http://www.planetpdf.com/mainpage.asp?webpageid=1519&pe
The Technical Writers' site, TECHWR-L, has a detailed article titled "Managing edits for an online help monster" by Sean Hower.
His company produces a complex series of help files, using a team of writers and editors. They need to conduct a thorough editing cycle, including precise guidelines to ensure consistency and a strict file structure to maintain version control.
Sean's article describes the structure of their editing cycle and editing process. http://www.raycomm.com/techwhirl/magazine/writing/managinghelpreviews.html
While you're there, you might enjoy checking the many other interesting and informative articles.
Joan Thomas JThomas@transcentive.com asks, "Have you ever come across a 'plugin' for FrameMaker that can do a grammar check similar to that in Word?"
I haven't been paying close attention to FrameMaker's features or any plug-ins for the program (since I rarely use it), so I'm hoping someone else can help Joan find the tool she needs.
Last issue I mentioned BCL Computers' PDF-to-HTML converter, Magellan (not to be confused with other products of the same name, sold by different companies, for different purposes).
Lallie Hayes writes, "You asked for feedback on Magellan. We considered Magellan when we were looking for conversion tools for our PDF-to-HTML intranet documents. Our primary objection was that, unlike Acrobat, Magellan converted each physical page to a separate file. So whenever you navigated from page 1 to page 2, for example, your browser had to do another download. Second, if you ever lost one of the files, you lost the integrity of your document. Third, printing would be a nightmare.
"We elected to use Acrobat and have been pleased with the results."
ISBN 0 9578419 2 2
Published February 2001
A quick reference for writers, editors, and others who need to use some of Word's more advanced features. This book is an expanded and updated version of Chapters 3 and 4 in my first book, Electronic Editing. Taming Microsoft Word is quick to read, yet packed with essential information.
A full contents list and information on downloading the PDF file and paying for it are available here: http://www.jeanweber.com/books/tameword.htm
ISBN 0 9578419 0 6
Published October 2000
For students, writers, and editors who are developing online help for computer software, and for their managers and clients.
Supplements tool-specific instruction by presenting the basics of help content development, regardless of the operating system running the application, the type of help being produced, or the tools used to produce it.
More information here: http://www.jeanweber.com/books/olhbk.htm
ISBN 0 646 38037 0
Published October 1999
A quick start guide for editing students, experienced editors making the switch from paper to online, and anyone who needs to write or edit electronically.
More information here: http://www.jeanweber.com/books/e-edit.htm
© Copyright 2001, Jean Hollis Weber. All rights reserved.
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