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Letter: Turn a wiki page into a letter

Why would I want to use a wiki to write and print a business or personal letter?

16th century alphabet from the Vatican

On the other hand, why would I use a word processor to write a letter, when I can use a wiki? The advantages of using a wiki include the usual suspects:

  • the recipient(s) can read it anywhere on any computer
  • all letters will be laid out the same way
  • a letter can contain links to other online documents

When we create a wiki page, it is generally either free-form — it can be laid out in whatever way the author sees fit — or controlled — the author fills in a form containing a number of pre-defined fields (like the current page). However, a letter is a semi-structured document. That is, it consists of:

  • required fields, such as the name and address of sender and recipient
  • optional fields, such as the subject or cc names
  • free-form text — the body of the letter

In other words, a letter is more structured than a standard wiki page, but less structured than a form-based page. So we need a simple and easy-to-use way to tell Wikipublisher about the various parts of a letter, thereby enabling it to apply a suitable presentation style to each part. To do this, we use a special set of line markup. The letter markup builds on the familiar Q: and A: start-of-line markup, using other letters of the alphabet. The parts of a letter shows the letter parts in the order in which they are used — letters use letter markup!

Letter markup
Start line withTo defineUsage
L:Letter to recipient address (multi-line)required
R:Return address of sender (multi-line)optional
S:Subject line appears above salutationoptional
D:Dear name of recipientrequired
Y:Yours sincerely name of senderrequired
N:Name of counter-signatoryoptional
C:Carbon copy (sic) name(s) of co-recipientsoptional
F:From address (page footer alternative to R:)optional
P:Phone number (use with F: in page footer)optional

To see how the markup is used, have a look at the wiki source of a sample letter page. That page also contains a (:typeset-letter:) directive, which adds a Typeset letter button to the page. When pressed, this tells Wikipublisher to use the letter template for typesetting the page. The page includes a return address in the footer (F: and P: markup). This can be suppressed (for example so the letter can be printed onto letterhead paper), by selecting return=off under the PDF options.

At the moment, Wikipublisher does not include line markup for letter enclosures (encl.) or postscripts (PS).1 The LATEX letter template also imposes a few restrictions on the markup that can be used in a letter:

  • floats (figures and tables with captions) are not supported
  • only one level of heading is supported

1 When typesetting the page, Wikipublisher inserts a postscript containing the page name and last modified date. (↑)

Category: document type

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Page last modified on 08 February 2008 at 04:42 PM