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Help on Structured Text

Introduction

Structured Text, being a highly Cool Thing, is a tool that Should Be Known To All. It is excellent for quickly prototyping Web pages for our favorite playground: Zope.

However I find myself unable to always remember all of the functionality of the structured text document, ergo the raison d'etre for this HOWTO.

This is almost just a copy and paste of documentation I found in the source code. When I first put this document together I was unaware that I didn't know how to actually include structured text into my DTML methods and documents. For those of you facing similar quandries I have included a short example at the end of this document on how to include structured text in DTML documents. Don't worry- it is really quite simple once you know the magical incantantions. Enjoy!

Suggestions of any sort are always appreciated.

Structured Text Manipulation

Parse a structured text string into a form that can be used with structured formats, like html.

Structured text is text that uses indentation and simple symbology to indicate the structure of a document.

A structured string consists of a sequence of paragraphs separated by one or more blank lines. Each paragraph has a level which is defined as the minimum indentation of the paragraph. A paragraph is a sub-paragraph of another paragraph if the other paragraph is the last preceding paragraph that has a lower level.

Special symbology is used to indicate special constructs:

  • A single-line paragraph whose immediately succeeding paragraphs are lower level is treated as a header.
  • A paragraph that begins with a '-', *, or o is treated as an unordered list (bullet) element.
  • A paragraph that begins with a sequence of digits followed by a white-space character is treated as an ordered list element.
  • A paragraph that begins with a sequence of sequences, where each sequence is a sequence of digits or a sequence of letters followed by a period, is treated as an ordered list element.
  • A paragraph with a first line that contains some text, followed by some white-space and -- is treated as a descriptive list element. The leading text is treated as the element title.
  • Sub-paragraphs of a paragraph that ends in the word example or the word examples, or :: is treated as example code and is output as is.
  • Text enclosed single quotes (with white-space to the left of the first quote and whitespace or puctuation to the right of the second quote) is treated as example code.
  • Text surrounded by * characters (with white-space to the left of the first * and whitespace or puctuation to the right of the second *) is emphasized.
  • Text surrounded by ** characters (with white-space to the left of the first ** and whitespace or puctuation to the right of the second **) is made strong.
  • Text surrounded by _ underscore characters (with whitespace to the left and whitespace or punctuation to the right) is made underlined.
  • Text enclosed by double quotes followed by a colon, a URL, and concluded by punctuation plus white space, or just white space, is treated as a hyper link. For example:

    "Zope":http://www.zope.org/ is ...

    Is interpreted as <a href="http://www.zope.org/">Zope&lt/a> is .... Note: This works for relative as well as absolute URLs.

  • Text enclosed by double quotes followed by a comma, one or more spaces, an absolute URL and concluded by punctuation plus white space, or just white space, is treated as a hyper link. For example:

    mail me.

    Is interpreted as "<a href="mailto:amos@digicool.com">mail me</a>."

  • Text enclosed in brackets which consists only of letters, digits, underscores and dashes is treated as hyper links within the document. For example:

    As demonstrated by Smith [a12] this technique is quite effective. [r1]

    Is interpreted as ... by Smith &lt;a href="#a12"&gt;[12]&lt;/a&gt; this .... Together with the next rule this allows easy coding of references or end notes.

  • Text enclosed in brackets which is preceded by the start of a line, two periods and a space is treated as a named link. For example:

    .. [a12] "Effective Techniques" Smith, Joe

    Is interpreted as &lt;a name="a12"&gt;[12]&lt;/a&gt; "Effective Techniques" .... [r2] Together with the previous rule this allows easy coding of references or end notes.

[r1] According to the HTML 4.0 specification identifiers must start with a letter so using references like [12] is a bit of a no-no, though it does work (at least in all the browsers I've tried). The StructuredText Python module should probably be updated to do something nice like prepend ref whenver it sees only numbers in a link.

[r2] The use of name here is deprecated, id should be used instead. Not there is much you as the document author can do about this since it's StructuredText that is generating the HTML (and it probably should be modified to do the right thing) but at least when somebody comes to nitpick you can say "Yes, I know. Everybody knows about this, now go away and let me get some work done before I have to show just how strong my Kung Fu really is."

Including Structured Text in DTML

I had the hardest time actually getting my structured text to render into HTML until I learned the following incantation:

  <dtml-var stx_doc_name fmt=structured-text>

Without the fmt=structured-text part you will just get the raw text, (something like this ) most likely not what you want.

Other Resources

It is well worth your time to check out Tres Seaver's Structured Text Document product. Conveniently provided is a ZClass one can use to wrap one's STX content. Get it, use it, and be happy.

There are a few minor caveats to its use that should have absolutely no bearing on 99% of what one would want to use this product for. Nonetheless, do check the release notes for those details before you use the product (but you were going to do that regardless of what I said, right?).