Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I've written a lot of HTML in the past few years, especially for course web pages. I've used two basic techniques:
  1. Hand-written HTML using a text editor. Blech.
  2. Editing HTML documents using Kompozer.
Technique #1 is just too much work. CSS has moved HTML quite a bit further towards true semantic markup, so you don't have to worry too much about presentation any more when creating content. However, there's no getting around the fact that HTML (and XML) is just ugly and painful to work with by hand.

Technique #2 is better than #1, but Kompozer (which was derived from the Mozilla editor) has its own share of quirks. It's buggy, and it generates ugly HTML (it wants to put <br> tags all over the #^!%#! place). I've been willing to live with its flaws, and it's saved me a lot of time. However, it doesn't help in automating the creation of navigational elements (e.g., breadcrumbs, sidebars).

Enter reStructuredText and rest2web. The former is a wiki-like lightweight markup language: a reST document looks more or less like plain text, but can easily be turned into HTML via a nifty python utility. The latter is a site-creation tool which uses reST and some additional lightweight metadata to create complete websites from reST files. It took a couple hours to learn my way around, but I was able to produce a very spiffy-looking site from (essentially) plain text files. Sweet!

Now I just need to create some content :-)

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