You can create a system of scripts and templates to generate Web pages that share a look and feel. Starting from the basics, here's a description of how I created a script and template system for generating web pages:

  1. First, I created an HTML template for the overall look and feel for a typical page of my web. In place of titles and strings of information which may change from page to page, include parameters of the form XX-string, where string is some identifier such as TITLE, ANNOTATION, or DATE.

    For example, I created this template for personal files on my web site. Notice that it has parameters: XX-TITLE, XX-ANNOTATION, XX-CONTENT, XX-FILE, and XX-DATE.

  2. I broke up this HTML template into two files at the XX-CONTENT line, leaving this line out of both files: name one as head file and the other as foot file.

    For example, here's the johnhead.html and johnfoot.html files.

  3. I made a script to sandwich a file of content between this head and foot file.

    For example, here's the makejohn1.0 Unix script to sandwich a contents file between the header and footer file.

    I create a directories "bin" to hold my scripts, "src" to hold my header, footer, and contents files, and "gen" to hold the generated files. For every file in my directory, I don't store header or footer information, just the content in the src directory. For example, I place my hobbies.html file, without header or footer information in src.

    I ran the makejohn1.0 script with the content file hobbies.html as its parameter:

    $ makejohn1.0 hobbies.html
    makejohn on hobbies.html
    generated in ../gen/hobbies.html

    I've improved my implementation system one order of abstraction over a template method because I'm no longer tied to a fixed header and footer for each file. I can always switch headers and footers and regenerate the file. I could move the generated file from ../gen to the Web server space, or I could just generate the file with the GENLOC variable set in my script to the appropriate place.

    However, the XX- information is still in the generated file. I could replace this by hand in each generated file, but then this would be work that I'd have to repeat if I change my head or footer styles later on.

  4. The script makejohn1.1 parameterizes the XX- information. It takes three arguments: the filename, the title, and the annotation and generates the HTML file, replacing the XX- strings:

    $ makejohn1.1 hobbies.html "My Hobbies" "These are things I do when I have some spare time..."
    makejohn on hobbies.html My Hobbies These are things I do when I have some spare time...
    generated in ../gen/hobbies.html

    The result is that I have enforced a look and feel and have parameterized the variations from file to file. I create a makejohnweb script to contain the call to the makejohn1.1 script so that I can add more lines to makejohweb as I develop more content files, such as:

    makejohn1.1 resume.html "Resume" "Education and work experience"
    makejohn1.1 faq.html "FAQ" "These are questions (with answers) that I frequently receive by email..."

  5. I can create another level of abstraction by parameterizing the style of the header and footer. I create a makestyle script which has has an additional arguments for style. This script requires that I have style files prepared. For example, I create bookhead.html, bookfoot.html, and a "bare" contents file, src/hcu.html Then I can generate a "book style file":

    $ makestyle hcu.html book "HTML and CGI Unleashed" "This book helps you in all stages of Web development"
    makestyle on hcu.html book HTML and CGI Unleashed This book helps you in all stages of Web development
    generated in ../gen/hcu.html

    I can collect similar book style generation lines in a makebookweb script.

This technique can become more sophisticated and powerful as you make your scripts more elaborate and parameterize more elements of your web's style.

With some more creative changes, I could parameterize the XX- strings I include in the header and footer files. I could have "cascading styles" where a particular style borrows elements from several other styles--perhaps the head from one style, the foot from another.

Eventually, style sheets in HTML may be able to implement many of the look and feel decisions that I'm currently placing in the header and footer files and scripts. If so, I can modify my scripts to generate these style sheets and put that style information in HTML elements in the head and foot file. In fact, I could use different generation techniques to generate a text-only version of my web, a frames version, or a version with only particular HTML elements--it is simply a matter of changing my scripts or the head and foot files.

See the HTML Toolbox for software that can help you build Web pages.

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2022-02-10 · · Terms © December Communications, Inc.