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I have been working on some proposals to get us a some interesting projects (with attendant money) for the Learning Futures Institute, where I work. To do this I have to work with other people’s templates, which is fine, but it could be so much better if I could use some of the tools we’ve developed onthe ICE project.

What happens is, when I open up one of these templates that people supply, I still have my ICE toolbar sitting there (see the demo if you don’t know what I mean). Out of habit, I reach for the shortcut keys for ICE, or hit the toolbar buttons if my hand happens to be on the mouse. So when I want to whack in a bullet list it’s Esc 8 or Esc *. I really like the ICE toolbar interface. Really. I use it all the time.

( I first thought about building it in about 1996, only took 11 years for me to get around to suggesting it to my team last year. Why take so long? Afraid of macros, once you write them then you are stuck with maintaining them. But it was worth it.)

I’m using an Ubuntu Linux machine at the moment which means the word processor is OpenOffice.org Writer, a reasonable if uninspiring word processor but the same thing applies on the Mac or Windows using Microsoft Word.

Now the ICE toolbar is pretty smart, so even though the document is not an ICE document, it goes ahead and creates a style for me, in this case li1b for List Item level 1, with a bullet. If the template designer has bothered with styles for list bullets they might be called List Bullet 1, but then again they might not. There are no standards for this stuff.

What I’m thinking is that most of these funding bodies (or even many journals) don’t really care about the styles in their documents, so long as they look right, so it would be great to be able to get the ICE toolbar to adapt a document to the ICE styles automatically, to ICEify it as it were.

In a lot of cases this would involve renaming Default or Normal to p, and Heading 1 to either h1 or h1n depending on whether it is numbered or not (I’m going to write on the subject of heading numbering soon for the ICE FAQ if you’re interested in why we did it the way we did). Actually a better way to do it would be to create new styles that are based on the existing ones and then search and replace from the old to the new.

I’m not sure how interactive the process would need to be, but the idea would be to try to disturb the supplied template as little as possible, while making it possible to take advantage of the ICE toolbar, not to mention automated conversion to HTML and PDF and even possibly the ability to embed slides, if you’re going to have to present your proposal. You could even post it to a blog and have it come out in perfect HTML, although I’m not too sure how many funding bodies would appreciate that. (And if one of the proposals I’m working on comes off you will be able to submit a completed application to a repository, for long term preservation).

I covered the manual steps involved in ICEifying a document last year, I might have to have a look-see at how hard it would be to write a simple ICEifier.

Another trick might be for it to put the styles back the way they were when you’re done.


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