Multilingual HTML using Nisus Writer.

FAQ for Nisus Writer Classic (versions 6.5 and under)

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martin
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Multilingual HTML using Nisus Writer.

Post by martin » 2004-09-08 15:23:39

<p>(Thanks to Joe Kissell)</p> <p>Q: Can I use Nisus Writer to create multilingual documents for the World Wide Web?</p> <p>A: Well, sort of, but mostly not. This answer requires some background. As you know, HTML documents are plain text. They do not include font, size, style, or script specifications, but simply embedded text tags to tell a browser how to style the text. Thus, if you put text in a different font (say, a Cyrillic or Hebrew font), the only things that will be encoded in the text file are the actual ASCII values of the characters, which are the same as ASCII values for English/Roman characters. So even though you can use Nisus Writer to enter text in many scripts and languages, for the most part the information that tells a program how to differentiate one language from another is lost in the context of the web.</p> <p>Even assuming that this limitation can be overcome (which in fact it can under some conditions; see below) there are other problems. First, the person browsing your page MUST have access to the necessary fonts and scripts on his or her computer, otherwise the text will look like gibberish. There is nothing in HTML that can "create," say, a Japanese font for a user who doesn't have one! As you might imagine, this gets even more complicated when people viewing your web site are using PCs or UNIX machines, which have their own standards for multilingual encoding that usually differ from the Mac.</p> <p>Second, the browser software used to view your page must support multiple scripts. Currently only Netscape Navigator (to my knowledge) has this capability. So even if you have the correct scripts installed on a Mac, you may not be able to view someone else's multilingual page using another browser.</p> <p>That said, there are still some rays of hope. For one thing, as I mentioned, Netscape does support multilingual encoding methods. The (non-Romanic) languages it supports are Chinese (traditional and simplified), Japanese, Korean, and Central European languages. For each of these languages, one or more standards exist *across platforms* which allow multilingual text to appear correctly, assuming once again that the necessary fonts and scripts are installed. Japanese happens to be the easiest of these languages to support on the web. Simply type in your Japanese using the Japanese Language Kit in Nisus Writer as you normally would, and set Netscape's encoding method to shift-JIS. This requires both a trip to the preferences dialog and a menu command on a submenu of the Options menu.</p> <p>However, you will notice that users of Hebrew, Arabic, and Cyrillic are (so far) out of luck. There is reason to hope that this will change in the future, but there are no good options yet. And even for users of supported languages, you must make so many assumptions about the configuration of the machines used for browsing your site that it may not be worth the effort.</p> <p>For people in one of these situations, I recommend the following. First, type in your non-Roman text in Nisus Writer as you normally would. Then use a screen-capture utility (or command-shift-3) to save a picture of your screen as a graphic. Open it with an image editor, change the format to GIF, and make the white area transparent. Be sure the bit depth of the GIF is set as low as possible (1-bit is ideal if you can manage it). Then place this image in your HTML file where the text would otherwise go.</p> <p>Since the image is just black-and-transparent, it will load very quickly. And it will display your text correctly on any machine or system. It is, of course, more awkward to create and maintain, but the effect can be quite good.Let us hope that in the relatively near future, a better solution, perhaps based on Unicode, becomes readily available. Until then, creativity rules!</p>

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