How this glossary works internally
First, the work done off-line, away from the Web:
Years back I was a developer on a DOS program called Q&A, an easy-to-use
database program that can store large fields of text. The glossary's
content is kept there where it can be easily edited, searched, sorted, and
so forth. There are fields in that database for term, definition, source
[of definition], context, and a couple of others. In a definition I can
put HTML codes for underlining, italics, tables, or hyperlinks,
though they do not display actual underlining or italics there. Also a
definition can have my own special codes for particular kinds of
hyperlinks, like links to other entries in the glossary, to a bibliography
or to lists generated at runtime (like the list you see if you enter
'finance' to the search box).
The records in the database can be printed out to a file econtent.dat.
That output file is the one to which the live (cgi) program refers when
it receives a query, and one could create such a file without having Q&A
involved at all. This file is in something like html, but it also has
those special codes for bibliographic references and so forth.
I have another program that reads that file and strips out my special
codes to make a straight html version of the glossary that one sees when
one presses the button labeled 'Content' from the first screen. (I have
the idea that from that I'll someday make a printed version.) (Also
that program alerts me if I made a syntax error in html which I often
do, editing it in a straight DOS environment.)
Okay that covers the work done off line, basically to make econtent.dat
and an analogous file for the bibliography. Those programs run on DOS.
Both online and offline programs are in C. People often use Perl for
this sort of thing, but I know C and have done little in Perl.
The online (cgi) program searches the econtent.dat file line by line for
definitions matching the user's request, handling on its way any
wildcards the user entered and any issues related to multiple matches to
the user request. Having found the right definition it detects any
special code signalling a special hyperlink (like a reference to another
term) and substitutes the right html for that. Then it "prints" html
out to the user, and its execution finishes. It runs for only one
second, then exits. It gets restarted when another query arrives from
the Web server.
That all may seem complicated, but there aren't very many pieces, and
each piece has one job. I thought a long time about each one and how to
approach it simply. I'm happy now to have most of the features a
one-person glossary project needs. For a large scale version of this
one would probably want a different database software to store the
content (e.g. so that many remote 'experts' could edit it online
simultaneously), and for searches to go through a serious database
program, not line-by-line. But it turns out that for 1000 definitions
or so, the line-by-line search is fast enough. I see how to upgrade this
to a large scale, multi-person, multi-glossary project in principle. If
anyone wants to get into this business with me, please let me
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