Click and save documents in HTML

Click and save documents in HTML

BY STEVE GRAVES | SPECIAL TO GCN

Wouldn't it be convenient to push a button and convert an ordinary document to Hypertext Markup Language that accurately reproduces the layout, formatting and images? Now you can.

The fun part of Web development is creating the design. The tedious and expensive part comes in repurposing hundreds or thousands of office documents for Web posting in that design.

Click to Convert from Inzone Software Ltd. quickly converts any printable Microsoft Windows file to Web-ready HTML pages'and faithfully reproduces the original layout.

Word processing programs for years have been capable of saving documents as HTML files, but they lose the layout for all but the simplest pages.

Large spreadsheets are especially troublesome because they convert into single Web pages that force the reader to scroll horizontally and vertically to see them. It isn't uncommon for developers to spend hours marking up and tweaking an already converted document to make it Web-ready.

Many agencies convert their files to Adobe Portable Document Format for posting, but the resulting pages can't be indexed by search engines and aren't readily accessible to disabled users.

Native tongue

Unlike PDF files, the documents produced by Click to Convert are standard, cross-platform HTML, viewable with Netscape Navigator 4.x, Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.x or later browser versions.
Like Adobe Systems Inc.'s Distiller, Click to Convert installs as a print driver under Windows. Document creators need no HTML knowledge to turn documents or portions of them into Web pages. They simply select Click to Convert from the printer menu and print normally.

Box Score
Click to Convert 2.0
HTML converter for printable documents


Inzone Software Ltd.;

Auckland, New Zealand

U.S. distribution and technical support through Binary Research International Inc.;

Glendale, Wis.; tel. 888-446-7898

www.clicktoconvert.com

Price: $119 for one user; multiuser
licenses available


+ Easy to use with most Windows applications

+ Accurately reproduces document layout

- Complex HTML tweaking for some layouts

- Finished jobs not automatically removed from queue

- Doesn't detect e-mail addresses without embedded 'mailto:' tag

- 3.x or earlier browsers might not display properly



Real-life requirements:

Win9x, NT, WinME or Win 2000; 100M of free storage for conversion and file swapping; RAM requirements vary depending on operating system, layout complexity and document size



The program converts any document that can be printed. It handles desktop publishing files from Quark Inc.'s QuarkXPress or Adobe PageMaker, spreadsheets from Microsoft Excel or Lotus 1-2-3, and graphical files or drawings from Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. It analyzes the printable documents and breaks them into three components: layout, text and objects'usually images. It then reproduces them using style sheets and tables to preserve the layout.
Images are converted to JPEG or PNG files. Inzone Software elected not to compress images in the GIF format because of royalty issues. The PNG, or Portable Network Graphics, format is royalty-free and produces images smaller than GIFs. The drawback is that older browsers don't support the PNG format.

There is limited control over documents produced via Click to Convert's Settings options. For example, document text that is squashed or stretched can't be reproduced in HTML. Click to Convert turns such word art into images or leaves it unaltered, depending on how much the text is stretched. The default setting is to convert to an image any text that is stretched or squashed more than 10 percent.

Long documents can be optionally converted into one long document or broken up into several smaller pages for posting. Click to Convert optionally inserts navigation buttons or numbered page links into multipage documents.

The developer can control the number of Web pages produced per document'for example, a single Web page for each printed page or a single Web page per three printed pages.

The last-used settings are automatically saved for reuse in future jobs.

Click to Convert supports batch processing of several documents at once. A minor usability issue is that the program fails to remove a job from the queue once the conversion is complete. This can slow processing of other jobs.

After the conversion, Click to Convert saves the file locally, or the user can publish it directly to the Internet or intranet server with a built-in File Transfer Protocol client. The program prompts the user for file locations each time a document is printed. Click to Convert follows the FTP account settings including user name, password and port numbers.

Not perfect

Click to Convert isn't going to put Web designers out of business anytime soon. Its coding is relatively clean and works for modern browsers, but it doesn't fully comply with World Wide Web Consortium HTML standards.

Some developers won't be happy with the lack of attributes for tables or the haphazard position of closing tags. Image attributes aren't inserted, and the developer still must tweak documents to bring them into compliance with Section 508.

Although Click to Convert preserves uniform resource locators embedded in the document, it won't convert e-mail addresses unless the mail-to portion of the tag is included.

Preserving layout can be a double-edged sword, especially for wide documents such as spreadsheets. I converted a three-panel brochure to HTML successfully, but it required too much horizontal scrolling to be usable on the Web.
Many Click to Convert users will not have the HTML skills needed to edit wide documents. Even stout-hearted developers might hesitate once they see the complex coding to preserve such layouts.

The easiest solution for wide documents is to change the original layout before converting.
To ensure that Web visitors won't need to scroll horizontally, check out the original document at 100 percent and set margins so you can see the entire width without scrolling.

Inzone ought to add a directory watchdog feature in its next release to monitor the user's document directory and run the conversion routine whenever new files are added. This could be especially useful in high-production offices to save time wasted in opening and printing each document.

Be sure to review documents produced with Click to Convert before posting to the Web. Keep in mind that the program produces documents that look as they would if printed'not necessarily as they appear on a monitor.

Many programs display documents on the monitor at 70 percent to 80 percent of printed size. HTML pages sometimes turn out larger than expected or have odd border sizes. Most glitches can be fixed by changing the paper size or view settings.
Although Click to Convert isn't a total answer for document repurposing, it certainly makes a welcome addition to a developer's toolkit.

It offers a much needed alternative to PDF and, though not foolproof, it does a much cleaner job of converting most documents than the Save As HTML option provided by office suites.

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