zope.structuredtext Documentation

Using Structured Text

The goal of StructuredText is to make it possible to express structured text using a relatively simple plain text format. Simple structures, like bullets or headings are indicated through conventions that are natural, for some definition of “natural”. Hierarchical structures are indicated through indentation. The use of indentation to express hierarchical structure is inspired by the Python programming language.

Use of StructuredText consists of one to three logical steps. In the first step, a text string is converted to a network of objects using the structurize() facility, as in the following example:

raw = open("mydocument.txt").read()
from zope.structuredtext.stng import structurize
st = structurize(raw)

The output of structurize() is simply a StructuredTextDocument object containing StructuredTextParagraph objects arranged in a hierarchy. Paragraphs are delimited by strings of two or more whitespace characters beginning and ending with newline characters. Hierarchy is indicated by indentation. The indentation of a paragraph is the minimum number of leading spaces in a line containing non-white-space characters after converting tab characters to spaces (assuming a tab stop every eight characters).

StructuredTextNode objects support the read-only subset of the Document Object Model (DOM) API. It should be possible to process StructuredTextNode hierarchies using XML tools such as XSLT.

The second step in using StructuredText is to apply additional structuring rules based on text content. A variety of differentText rules can be used. Typically, these are used to implement a structured text language for producing documents, but any sort of structured text language could be implemented in the second step. For example, it is possible to use StructuredText to implement structured text formats for representing structured data. The second step, which could consist of multiple processing steps, is performed by processing, or “coloring”, the hierarchy of generic StructuredTextParagraph objects into a network of more specialized objects. Typically, the objects produced should also implement the DOM API to allow processing with XML tools.

A document processor is provided to convert a StructuredTextDocument object containing only StructuredTextParagraph objects into a StructuredTextDocument object containing a richer collection of objects such as bullets, headings, emphasis, and so on using hints in the text. Hints are selected based on conventions of the sort typically seen in electronic mail or news-group postings. It should be noted, however, that these conventions are somewhat culturally dependent, fortunately, the document processor is easily customized to implement alternative rules. Here’s an example of using the DOC processor to convert the output of the previous example:

from zope.structuredtext.document import Document
doc = Document()(st)

The final step is to process the colored networks produced from the second step to produce additional outputs. The final step could be performed by Python programs, or by XML tools. A Python outputter is provided for the document processor output that produces Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) text:

from zope.structuredtext.html import HTML
html = HTML()(doc)

Customizing the document processor

The document processor is driven by two tables. The first table, named paragraph_types, is a sequence of callable objects or method names for coloring paragraphs. If a table entry is a string, then it is the name of a method of the document processor to be used. For each input paragraph, the objects in the table are called until one returns a value (not ‘None’). The value returned replaces the original input paragraph in the output. If none of the objects in the paragraph types table return a value, then a copy of the original paragraph is used. The new object returned by calling a paragraph type should implement the ReadOnlyDOM, StructuredTextColorizable, and StructuredTextSubparagraphContainer interfaces. See the zope.structuredtext.document source file for examples.

A paragraph type may return a list or tuple of replacement paragraphs, this allowing a paragraph to be split into multiple paragraphs.

The second table, text_types, is a sequence of callable objects or method names for coloring text. The callable objects in this table are used in sequence to transform the input text into new text or objects. The callable objects are passed a string and return nothing (None) or a three-element tuple consisting of:

  • a replacement object,
  • a starting position, and
  • an ending position

The text from the starting position is (logically) replaced with the replacement object. The replacement object is typically an object that implements that implements the ReadOnlyDOM and StructuredTextColorizable interfaces. The replacement object can also be a string or a list of strings or objects. Replacement is done from beginning to end and text after the replacement ending position will be passed to the character type objects for processing.


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