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Geeks like me are fine with writing in Emacs, but lots of people seem to like writing in word processors, and as of this week, I think that any word processor without a “Blog This” button is just broken.

Geeks like who? Geeks like Tim Bray. Other people prefer vi over Emacs, and James Tauber thinks Eclipse will be the next contender. I prefer to write prose in a word processor, but then I’m not a geek.

Here are my thoughts on blogging from a word processor, and how this might work with Atom, which does not look promising at this stage.

I like Tim Bray’s idea of the “blog this” button, but I think we can do even better than that. As of today I think any word processor without a

  • make me an XHTML version of this content,
  • check with me how much metadata I would like to add,
  • help me provide an abstract by pulling out the first paragraph or two,
  • stick it in the corporate content store,
  • keep the original so it can be re-edited,
  • check if I want all of it — or a short bloggish summary — to appear in a blog,
  • ask if I want a PDF rendition,
  • and work out what distribution it should have,

button is just broken. Two clicks to just blog an item as is, a few more to slot it into a knowledge base where it can find others like itself on the basis of more than just the posting date. If I’m writing minutes from a meeting I probably want to store the full minutes and blog a summary but also be able to search by document type or by meeting. A good general purpose content management system can run a blog, but a blogging system is a just a web logging system. I want both.

In the OpenOffice.org application suite, about which geek Tim Bray is talking in his post, my button looks easy enough to add, given a place to store the content and run the blog and so on. OpenOffice already has a nice way of keeping all its bits and pieces including images in one place, a zip file. It also has a barely acceptable export to HTML, which can be tidied to make it into XHTML. I am looking to see if OpenOffice can be scripted to add PDF, and HTML stuff to this container so it can be thrown around as a single object.

In MS Word the problem is somewhat different. From Word 2000 onwards there is a ‘Save as Web’ feature that gives you all of your content in an accessible format, including an HTML-ish version that’s relatively easy to transform into XML, from where you can transform it easily to XHTML based on your styles. You even get web-ready versions of all your images and other component objects. But Word lacks an omnibus format that bundles them all together (yes I know about the Microsoft download that is supposed to do this but it doesn’t work for me), and a built in PDF renderer. The Ace scripting language has round-trip-functions for Word HTML that I helped design. See this presentation in PDF I gave with Timothy Arnold-Moore.

The bad news is that at this stage there is no way to do build this button and use Atom to add it to a blog without multiple posts. Tim Bray again:

A crucial decision point seems to be whether you try to package up multiple pieces in one message, or not.

If Atom doesn’t let you package multiple pieces in one message then I won’t use it for posting to a repository. I don’t understand all the technical stuff involved here — I naively thought of using a zipped bundle for multi part entries — but I don’t want to have to manage multiple calls to a repository to do what should be a single transaction, and then have to manage rollback if something goes wrong. Been there.


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