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Quick HTML PLAIN intro


HTML PLAIN stands for "HTML preprocessor lacking an interesting name". Once you are familiar with running HTML pages through a program before uploading them, you will find that HTML PLAIN greatly simplifies your tasks and boosts your productivity.


The program requires Perl 5.004 or higher. The graphical front end requires Tcl/Tk 8.0 or higher, but is not necessary to run the program (though it makes some tasks much more convenient).


The programs you need to run (once the program is installed, see README) are:

  • main.tcl: A front end for all configuration tools (and also the main programs). Run the configurator (config.tcl) first in order to set up the program.
  • plainfiles: Updates the file table; run this program every time you add a new file (or delete one).
  • htmlplain: The actual preprocessor. It has to be run every time a page is updated (before uploading).

The template and variables

Templates define the look of the generated pages. By redefining existing tags or creating new ones, you can go far beyond the possibilites of style sheets (though you can of course still use them, too). A special header and footer tag ensures a consistent layout of all pages. You can read more about templates in the documentation; it is also recommended to look at the example template that comes with the program.

Variables can serve to parametrize the content of the pages, as well as other settings such as colors. For instance, you can define a variable for "project name". If you should change the project name later, you can change it in one place (the variable) instead of all documents.

Working with HTML PLAIN

First, you should create a template where the look of your page is given. Then, you write your HTML documents as usual, but omitting elements appearing in every page, such as navigation bars, footers etc. After you created all the files you need, run plainfiles. (The PATH variable needs to contain the directory where HTML PLAIN is installed.) The program htmlplain actually generates the pages you need to upload.


Most problems occur because the program cannot find the required Perl modules. Make sure that all paths are set correctly at the beginning of the programs htmlplain and plainfiles, as well as in The installation program install.tcl takes care of this, if you run it after unpacking the archive.