Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Tue 20th Nov, 2007

Wiki Documentulation

In the process of writing up the new manual for LMMS, I've been asked by the lead developer to be able to render the entire manual as one large document. This he will feed into a custom C++ program written to take MediaWiki markup and turn it into Tex markup, for on-processing into a PDF. Presumably he sees a big market for a big chunk of printed document as opposed to distributing the HTML of the manual in some appropriately browsable format, and doesn't mind reinventing the wheel - his C++ program implements a good deal of Perl's string processing capabilities in order to step through the lines byte-by-byte and do something very similar to regular expressions. Although I might be mistaken in this opinion - I don't read C++ very well.

I had originally considered writing a Perl LWP [1] program that performed a request to edit the page, with my credentials, but I figured that was a ghastly kludge and would cause some sort of modern day wiki-equivalent of upsetting the bonk/oif ratio (even though MediaWiki obviously doesn't try to track who's editing what document when). But then I discovered MediaWiki's Special:Export page and realised I could hack it together with this.

The question, however, really comes down to: how does one go about taking a manual written in something like MediaWiki and producing some more static, less infrastructure-dependent, page or set of pages that contains the documentation while still preserving its links and cross-referencing? What tools are there for converting Wiki manuals into other formats? I know that toby has written the one I mentioned above; the author of this ghastly piece of giving-Perl-a-bad-name obviously thought it was useful enough to have another in the same vein. CPAN even has a library specifically for wikitext conversion.

This requires more research.

[1] - There's something very odd about using a PHP script on phpman.info to get the manual of a Perl module. But it's the first one I found. And it's better than search.cpan.org, which requires you to know the author name in order to list the documentation of the module. I want something with a URL like http://search.cpan.org/modules/LWP.

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