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The Newsletter's new clothes

by Christian Hennecke, © January 2006

The Editor in ChiefChristian Hennecke is the Editor in Chief of the VOICE Newsletter. While being a geographer originally, he runs an IT consulting and service company.

Finally! Some may have thought that the Newsletter had gone the way of all flesh. Indeed, the revision has taken a while and we skipped some issues. This step was neccessary to be able to focus on our work, or it would have taken even longer. At this point, I would like to thank all the persons involved, especially Holger Manthey for many ideas, creating images, and his patience.

As you will see when you explore the new issue, we have changed and rearranged quite a number of items. The most prominent change is, of course, the new design, which is based on XHTML and CSS. But there is more than just a more modern appearance. We have invested time and thought to improve both readability and usability for our readers as well as handling for authors and editors alike.

As hardly anyone seemed to read the news section, we have decided to drop it completely, thus decreasing the Newsletter's size considerably. This measure allowed us to further restructure the magazine, remove a level in the navigation hierarchy, and move the feature index to the start page, including the short descriptions previously known from the editorial page.

You may also notice that the translation credits have been removed from the header. They are now part of the credits below the article which list everyone who has been involved in the preparation of an article. This change is not intended as an opportunity for certain people to "show off." In the past, the dedicated work of many editors and proof-readers has largely been unnoticed — undeservingly. This new section is going to rectify the situation and give credit where it is due.

The new styles provide better means for visual distinction between elements like, e.g., menu items, commands, or key combinations, and structuring. A detailed legend of the markup is always available, as is a short pop-up help at the right of the screen. Try clicking on Legend.
Each page provides direct access to the feature articles via a pull-down menu.
The reader can now choose from three different display sizes, with the smallest being the default. They not only affect the font size but presentation as a whole. The selected style is even retained when switching between pages and issues.
Navigation has been enabled for usage of access keys. Readers can browse the issue by using back and forward keys, go back to the table of contents, and directly jump to a feature article. Together with the table-less layout framework and the adjustable display size, this feature ensures better ease of use for people with special needs.
When printing a page, non-relavant parts like the banner are skipped and output is adjusted to save color ink.

Advanced web development methods had to be employed to implement the above features. To take advantage of these, a browser is required that supports current web standards, and has Javascript and cookies enabled. Netscape Communicator 4.61 and other outdated browsers are not supported. The INF version will continue to be available, though. It has been adjusted for the new design and footnotes for acronyms have been added.

In contrast to our readers, our authors and editors are confronted with the technical aspects of above changes. In addition, we had to revise and tighten our author guidelines. This may sound — and look — intimidating at first but will actually make things easier and more convenient for everyone. Try it out and see for yourself.

Our authors and editors will only have to get accustomed to the new styles once. Future changes to existing styles are incurred automatically.
The technical background has only to be dealt with to a certain degree, as we were able to shield authors and editors from anything that is not directly related to the article content itself. Code and styles for headers, navigation, etc. simply don't show up and won't be able to cause confusion.
Applying a style to text is as easy as using formatting templates in your favorite word processor if you use a current WYSIWYG editor like NVU (see Writing articles with NVU in this issue). A special NEPMD mode is currently being developped for those who would rather use a text editor.

Our author package provides you with everything you need to write an article: required files, an empty template, a tutorial that is a demo file at the same time, and directions to configure the HTML Tidy code checker.

So these are the VOICE Newsletter's new clothes. Try and see if they fit. We hope that you will find them worth the wait.