Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The making of "How to enter Vietnamese inside Blogger" - Part I

I'm no fan of "The making of..." documentaries. Cuts from the film interspaced with actors' banalities about "motivation" depress me. This is clearly intentional: after a few vacuous shots of (say) Angelina Jolie - combining ego, self-satisfaction and vacuity, many viewers say "Enough. Get on with the friggin' movie for cryin' out loud." Or so I think, but strangely, other people like the stuff. For example, look at the milti-billion audience for the Academy Awards. (Don't call my mum then: she'll call you.)

Now I'm going to do one myself on How to Enter Vietnamese inside Blogger. Don't worry: my motivation isn't ego (well, in some ways it is), but embarrassment. Remember me saying "It was piss easy to enter Vietnamese inside Blogger"? It is: unfortunately, it was initially piss hard to enter tables and pictures inside the site. The result was about 2 pages of empty spaces around tables, and holes where pictures should be. After a few days of stress working it out, I was so pissed that I even considered changing to TypePad.

As you can see when you click the link. I solved the problem - or rather, both problems:

  1. Blogger adds unwanted line break tags.
  2. I couldn't work out how to adding pictures to Blogger.

Here is a description of the problem, and my solution to each.

Unwanted line breaks

The first decision I had to make in writing "HTWVIB" was "How do I get the content into Blogger?" When you decide to "Create New Post", Blogger provides you with two interfaces:

  • Compose: This is a WYSIWYG ("What You See Is What You Get") interface. You enter text, press a few buttons to add bold and italic, and hit return to insert new paragraph breaks. This is useful for simple tasks. However, there is no direct support for tables, and the mechanism for adding images appears to be broken.
  • Edit HTML: Since option 1 won't be suitable, you have to go with option 2. Fortunately, this gives you far more flexibility.

The best thing to do is use a special HTML editor to write the file outside. Afterwards, you copy everything between the "<body>...</body>" tags (but not including that or anything outside!) and paste it into the Blogger interface. How you write HTML is your own business.

When I wrote the document in straight HTML, it looked good. (I was so happy that I even printed it off and showed it to a friend: But when I inserted it in Blogger... oh, what a mess! The problem was that Blogger had decided to insert breaks and paragraphs every time it came to a new line in the HTML code. On the screen I saw 1 page of blank space before the first table, and extra space within the table cells.

Fortunately, there's a switch that controls that behavior. Turn it on, and it inserts lots of spaces and blank lines. So I had to turn it off. Folks - if you are writing hard HTML (rather relying on the "Compose feature"), do the following:

  1. Click on the "Settings" tab.
  2. Click on the "Formatting" link.
  3. Scroll down to "Convert line breaks". It states: If Yes is selected here, hard-returns entered into your blog posting form will be replaced with <BR> tags in your blog and blank lines will be replaced with <P> tags. Choose "No".

I did that, and republished the blog. The dead space dissapeared. The tables looked decent. Beautiful.

I remain a little peeved that they don't put the "Convert line breaks" switch anywhere near the composition screen, where it would be of better use. My issue with this is that it should be a local setting, and turned on and off per post - rather than an a global setting. For the time, I will keep it off.

What about adding pictures? Well, it's late tonight, and I think it is time I went to bed. However, the topic is more interesting that just FTPing the pictures to a website. In fact, I ended up trying (and discarding) the program Hello, the program Blogger promotes for image loading. But It's just too late for me to continue.