Raw Codes

@Body:You probably think my email program has gone wacko, inserting codes rather than applying formatting. But it hasn’t. I’m just trying the technique described in this article–marking formatting with raw codes. Why would anyone want to do that? Consider this:

@ListFirst:1.Text formatting is misleading. It may look nice, but it comes with a price–the sacrifice of structure and control to appearance. Is your heading formatted with Heading 2 paragraph style, or is it formatted directly as Arial 14-point bold? The difference may not be immediately apparent. With codes, you know.

@ListMiddle:2.Using codes forces you to resist the “easy fix” of directly applied formatting. Come on, admit it: You sometimes center a heading with CTRL + e rather than modifying the paragraph style as you should. I know I do. But if I use raw codes, I don’t even have to think about it. I just enter “@Heading 3:” and start typing away. My guilty feelings are gone (sob!).

3.Using codes is just plain easier than mucking about with styles and fonts and formats all the time. It’s a simpler way to live. Try it! You might be surprised at how much you like it. If you’re really going to make the attempt, you might want to record macros that insert your most common codes and then assign those macros to toolbar buttons or keyboard combinations.

4.Using codes for special characters means there’s no more worrying about conversion problems from platform to platform.

5.Using codes ensures greater consistency from document to document–at least it does if you keep using the same codes. Ensuring consistency of styles is more difficult. Which ones are yours? Which ones did Word sneak in when you weren’t looking? BodyTextUgly? Where did that come from?

6.Using codes makes it easy to tag your text by function and structure rather than by appearance. For example, instead of using a Heading 1 style, you can tag your text as @ChapterHead:, which actually says what your text is being used for.

7.Using codes means you can work in a simple text processor when you don’t have access to Microsoft Word.

8.Using codes makes your formatting human readable! That’s pretty remarkable, when you consider all of the hidden, proprietary formatting systems in the world.

@ListLast:9.Using codes makes it easy to translate your formatting into a variety of other formats: HTML. XML. Even Microsoft Word.

@Body:”And how,” you ask, “can I turn codes into Microsoft Word formatting?” With our RazzmaTag program, which you can learn more about here:

http://www.editorium.com/razzmatag.htm

One of the most popular academic typesetting programs, TeX, is built around the concept of working directly with codes and then applying formatting based on those codes. Other programs, too, can import coded documents, including QuarkXPress, PageMaker, and FrameMaker, and many publishers take advantage of that fact, asking their editors to work directly with codes. If you’ve never considered this possibility, now you can add it to your bag of tricks.

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RESOURCES

Allin Cottrell provides an excellent and informative rant on the whole subject of separating content from presentation. You’ll find it here:

http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/wp.html

A good place to learn more about TeX (which, by the way, is *free*) is the TeX User Group Home Page:

http://www.tug.org/

Yes, it is possible to “reveal codes” in Microsoft Word. Interested? Check out CrossEyes, from Levit & James:

http://www.levitjames.com/crosseyes/crosseyes3.htm?lid=google

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