Documentation for the AscToPDF conversion utility
The latest version of these files is available online at http://www.jafsoft.com/doco/docindex.html
Contents of this section
Running as a Windows application
Main DialogRunning as a command line program
Conversion Options menu
Selecting the Text Command File
Command line qualifiers: /COMMARunning from the 'SendTo' menu
Command line qualifiers: /CONSOLE
Command line qualifiers: /DEBUG
Command line qualifiers: /DOS
Command line qualifiers: /HELP
Command line qualifiers: /LIST
Command line qualifiers: /LOG
Command line qualifiers: /OUTPUT
Command line qualifiers: /POLICY
Command line qualifiers: /SILENT
Command line qualifiers: /SIMPLE
Command line qualifiers: /TABBED
Command line qualifiers: /TABLE
AscToPDF can be invoked as a normal Windows application. On start-up you will be presented with the main window. This consists of a menu bar across the top of the window, and some data entry fields in the main body of the window.
|File menu||File options|
|Conversion Options menu||Options that affect the conversion|
|Settings menu||Edit the program's settings|
|Language menu||Select the language you'd like the program's user|
|interface to be in|
|View menu||View the created PDF files or the messages for the|
|Help menu||Various help files and on-line resources|
Data entry fields
The data entry fields show
Normally you need simply select the input file(s) using the Browse button, and the rest of the fields will be set to default values.
If you want to use wildcards, type the file specification in the data entry box directly.
Once you have selected your files, press the Convert button. The Status Window will briefly appear whilst the conversion proceeds.
AscToPDF has many options known as "policies" to help you improve and correct the analysis it performs, and to customise the PDF it generates. Policy files are described more fully in Using policy files.
Options on this screen include :-
- Load policies from an existing policy file
- Reset all policies to their default values
More options are available under the Conversion Options menu.
When this option is selected, the software will convert any files that match the supplied filename in either the directory specified or any of its sub-folders.
The Conversion Type specified how the input file should be regarded during the conversion. The options available include
||The input file is a plain text file, and the
software should analyse it to determine how
it is structures
||The input file is a plain text file which
contains a single table. The program will treat
the whole file as a table, and use analysis to
calculate the table layout
||The input file is a comma-delimited data file
(usually a .csv file). Each line in the file
will be treated as a row in the table, and commas
are used to separate the data for each column.
||As above, but the TAB character is used as a
||As above, but you need to specify the delimiter in
the field that appears when this option is selected.
In the delimited table types the delimiter character shouldn't appear in the data value itself. This usually means that tab-delimited files work better. In a comma-delimited file, any value that contains a comma must be placed in double quotes. Any double quotes in a quoted value should be doubled up inside the quote.
So the value
"Enter," she said
would need to be written as
"""Enter,"" she said"
in the data file.
The file menu offers the following options:-
|Convert||This will prompt you for a file to convert and will then convert the selected file(s).|
|Load policy file||Load policies from a policy file|
|Save policy file||Save the current set of policies to a policy file|
|Exit||Exit the program.|
This menu allows you access to the conversion options - also known as policies - that give you a large amount of control over the conversion process. These policies can be saved to a policy file (with a .pol extension by default) for re-use in later conversions. Policies are explained more in Using policy files
The menu options include:-
|Analysis policies||Edit those policies that affect the analysis of your|
|Configuration File locations||Specify the locations of various configuration files|
|Load policy file||Load policies from a policy file|
|Reload policies from file||Allows you to re-load the policy file, or to load|
|a different file.|
|Re-analysing the input file||Re-analyse the input file to re-calculate the analysis|
|Resetting policies to default values||Reset policies to default values.|
The Analysis Policies menu allows you to change those policies that affect the analysis of the source document.
These are discussed fully in the Analysis Policies section of this document.
The Config File Location menu allows you to specify the location of various additional configuration files. The locations you select will be stored in your policy file, so in a sense these files act as extensions of the policy file, but by being stored in separate files the same configuration files can be shared by multiple policy files.
The options on this menu allow you to select do locate following :-
This option allows you to select the Text Command File you wish to use.
This option, available from the conversion options menu, allows you to reset the analysis options by analysing the current input file. This is not normally necessary, as this will be done automatically during a conversion.
This option will reset all policies to their default values. If a policy file has been loaded, it will be unloaded.
AscToPDF has many options known as "policies" to help you improve and correct the analysis it performs, and to customise the PDF it generates. These policies can be saved in a policy file for later re-use in future conversions. This dialog screen is primarily intended to allow you to load a previously saved policy file
Policy files are described more fully in Using policy files.
Options on this screen include :-
- Load policies from an existing policy file
- Save policy file to save options to file for later re-use
- Reset all policies to their default values
This window is displayed whenever the user wishes to save their policies to a file, usually for use in later conversions.
To save the file, simply select the policy file name, usually with a .pol extension.
This window contains a radio button with two options:
- Save only those policies that have changed
If this option is selected, then only those policies that have been loaded from an existing file and/or been edited during the current session will be saved.
This is the recommended option, as it will exclude all policies that have been set up correctly automatically.
- Save all policies
If this option is selected, that all policies are written to file. This is a good way of documenting the policies used, but is usually too restrictive to be loaded as input into conversions of other files.
The saved file is a text file designed so that it may be manually edited and reloaded. If you do so, take care not to change the key phrases at the start of each line.
The program settings menu allows you to customise the way AscToPDF executes each time it is invoked. This is kept separate from the use of policy files, which are used to customise the actual conversion process.
This menu has the following options :-
|Documentation Settings||Specify the location of your documentation on your hard drive|
|Diagnostic Settings||Set message filters and alter the error reporting level to|
|control the number and type of messages generated during|
|Drag and Drop Settings||Set the program's properties when invoked by dragging files|
|into the icon on the desktop|
|Results viewers settings||Specify the viewers to be used for viewing results|
|files, and their method of invocation|
|Use of policy file settings||Specify any default policy file to be used.|
These options allow you to specify the location of the program's documentation on your local system. This is required for the option on the Help menu to work.
By default the documentation is placed in the same directory as the program on installation, so you should only need to change this setting should you decide to move the documentation.
These options allow you to set the level of error reporting, or to suppress messages of various types from being displayed during conversion.
The types of messages include :-
||Informational messages. These convey information
telling you what was been done and why.
||Warning messages. These tell you that something
you have requested has not been done, or something
has been done which may not be correct. It's possible
you may be able to take corrective action.
|TAG ERROR messages
||Tagging errors. Only occur when you use the
preprocessor in-line tags and directives introduced
in Version 4.0
|PROGRAM ERROR messages
||Program errors. The program has detected it
has done something wrong. The conversion may still
be successful, but there is nothing you can do about
such messages except report them to the program's
author at info<at>jafsoft.com
||URL detection. When a URL is found a message
is displayed. When switched on this can be a quick way
of listing all the URLs in a file :-)
These options specify the behaviour of AscToPDF when invoked via drag and drop (i.e. by dropping a file icon on AscToPDF's icon).
Show the status screen
The status dialog, showing messages reporting how the conversion is going should be shown.
View results in browser once complete
The selected viewer (browser) for the results files should be invoked on the last file converted once conversion is complete
Start program after conversion
The program should be launched in Windows mode once the conversion is completed.
This identifies the viewers to be used whenever AscToPDF launches an application to view a results or documentation file. Viewers may be required for both HTML and PDF files.
You can elect to have results viewed automatically after each conversion. This will normally result in the named application being launched to view the last file converted.
For HTML, you can elect to use Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) to have the results displayed in a currently active browser. This can be quicker and more efficient that launching a new instance of the browser each time. You should ensure your DDE browser matches the program named as the default browser so that if not already active, the program can start a fresh instance.
When DDE is used the results will vary from browser to browser. IE for example will come to the front, whereas Netscape will not, and if it is minimised you won't see the results until you maximise the browser again.
For PDF, DDE is not currently available.
Using a default policy file
This determines which policy file, if any, is to be used by default when AscToPDF is first invoked. The actual policy file used can, of course, be changed via the policy dialogue.
The default policy file will also be used if AscToPDF is invoked via drag'n'drop. This avoids the need for creating batch files with the policy file name on the command line.
Always reload policy file during conversion
This specifies that the current policy file should be reloaded every time the conversion is done. If the file is large, and you are repeatedly converting using the same policy file, then this can slow you down. On the other hand if you are editing the policy file by hand outside the program between conversions then you will want this option enabled.
From version 3.2 onwards it is possible to change the user interface to the language of your choice. This is a process being rolled out by a number of volunteers who are converting the menu, dialog, ToolTips, message and documentation text. At any given time you may still find English translations, especially in the messages displayed, and in the help and documentation files, but it is hoped that the efforts of these volunteers will make the program easier to use for non-English speakers.
At present work is under way on
||Gonzalo San Martin is undertaking the Spanish translation.
Gonzalo operates a highly popular Real Madrid fan page (in
Spanish and English) which you can visit at
Gonzalo can be contacted at G.SanMartin<at>bigfoot.com
||The Italian translation is being undertaken by
Gianluigi Pizzuto who can be contacted at gibly<at>libero.it and
has a web page at http://web.tiscalinet.it/fotone
||The Swedish translation is being undertaken by Dan Svarreby
who can be contacted at dan.svarreby<at>home.se.
||The German translations is being undertaken by Jörg Feierabend
who can be contacted at zeitenwanderer<at>t-online.de
|French||The French translation is being undertaken by Andre Martinez.|
||The Portuguese translation is being undertaken by Ana Maria
G. F. de Mello who can be contacted at anagfm<at>bigfoot.com
||The Dutch translation is being undertaken by Jurrien Dokter,
who can be contacted at info<at>axswebsolutions.nl and runs
the web site at http://www.axswebsolutions.nl/
If you would like to volunteer to help with this effort, please email translations<at>jafsoft.com or visit the web page at
From version 1.1 the program supports the use of language 'skins'
AscToPDF supports the use of "language skins", that is the ability to export, edit and re-import from text file the strings used in the program's user interface.
The "language skin" is a text file, usually with an .lng extension. This file consists of one string per line, with each line being numbered to identify the string. You can edit these strings into your own language, and then reload the modifications back into the program. If you do this, make sure you leave the numbers unchanged.
Export current language setting to file
This option allows you to export all the current language strings to an external .lng file. You may then edit this file to get the user interface strings that you want.
Load a language "skin"
If you check the "use language skin" box, then the program will load the specified file each time it runs, using the text in that file as the user interface. Changes will take effect when you press OK.
This menu contains the following options
Once you've converted a file, you can view the results in the browser of your choice. AscToPDF will detect the default browser used on your system. If you wish you can change this through the settings menu
You can view results in the selected browser by selecting the option on the view menu or by pressing the View results button on the main screen.
AscToPDF can also be configured to automatically review results when run from the command line or in drag'n'drop operation.
The help menu has the following options:-
||Brings up the contents page of this help file. Help can be
brought up anywhere in the program by pressing F1
|HTML doco (offline)
||Brings up the local copy of the HTML documentation in your
|HTML doco (online)
||Brings up the Internet copy of the HTML documentation in your
||In the evaluation version this will take you to the web page
which gives registration details. You will need to be
online for this to work
||Shows the program version and other details. Includes buttons
to take you to the home page etc on the web.
The update menu has the following option
Check for newer versions
This option will take you to the web site, where a check will be made to tell you if this is still the latest version of the software.
The status window is displayed whenever a conversion is in progress. It displays messages showing how the conversion is progressing.
Usually these are just informational messages telling you of lines on which AscToPDF hasn't performed markup because they "fail policy". For example a line with a number at the beginning won't be turned into a header unless the number is in sequence, and the line is at the correct indentation level.
You should review these messages and check they don't indicate an error in conversion.
This screen can be retrieved by pressing the "Show messages window" button on the main window.
You can run AscToPDF from the command line inside a Command Line ("DOS") window. You can also run a console version, A2PCONS.
The command line has the syntax
c:> A2PCONS <files1> [<files2> ...] [<policy file>] [/qualifiers]
if running the console version, or
c:> AscToPDF <files1> [<files2> ...] [<policy file>] [/qualifiers]
if running the Windows version (although this doesn't support all qualifiers).
If you supply no <files1> on the command line, then the windows version will be launched as normal, but the console version will prompt you for filenames. The <files1> value can be any valid filespec, including wildcards. You can supply additional <files2>, <files3>... values should you wish. For example
c:> a2hcons a*.txt b*.txt c*.txt abc.pol /out=c:\temp\
will convert all the files a*.txt, b*.txt and c*.txt in the current folder using the policy file abc.pol and place all the output files in the folder c:\temp\.
If you supply one or more valid <files> value these files will be converted.
For the Windows version, depending on the Settings you've selected, the Status Window will be displayed during the conversion, the program will display once finished, and a viewer may be launched to view the results.
Note, generally we advise using the console version for command line operations
If you want to use a policy file, add this to the argument list. The policy file must have a .pol extension, and only the first policy file listed will be used.
Recognised qualifiers include
|/COMMA||Input file is a comma-delimited table|
|/CONSOLE||Direct the output to the console stdout stream|
|/DOS||Generate DOS 8.3 filenames|
|/HELP||Generates a HELP message|
|/LOG=filename||Generate a log file.|
|/LIST=filename||Generate a list file.|
|/OUTPUT=filespec||Specify the output filename(s)|
|/POLICY=filename||Generate a .pol policy file from the analysis of the source file|
|/SILENT||Suppress all console messages|
|/SIMPLE||Treat the source file as "simple", i.e. don't look for complex constructs|
|/TABBED||Input file is a tab-delimited table|
|/TABLE||Input file is a plain text table|
Qualifiers must begin with the slash (/) character but may be of mixed case and may be shortened provided they remain unique. So /H will get you help, whereas you can't use /S since that could be /SILENT or /SIMPLE
Specifies that the source file is a comma-delimited table. In this case each line will become a row in a table, and each value separated by a comma will become a cell in the table.
Specifies that the output should be direct to the output stream. This should normally be used with command line qualifiers: /SILENT to suppress all status messages.
This option could be useful if you wanted to pipe the output into some other application.
This qualifier will cause the program to generate diagnostics files.
If specified the output filenames will be in the 8.3 format
On the console version this generates a help message detailing usage.
These qualifiers cause AscToPDF to generate some diagnostic files, which have extensions
|.LIS1||an analysis before policy is set|
|.LIS||an analysis after policy is set|
The list files can assist in understanding how AscToPDF has interpreted your file. The .stats file is neither pretty, nor easy to read, but can in extreme cases assist in diagnosing faults should you wish to report them.
If Command line qualifiers: /LIST is used, only the list files are created.
This qualifier will cause the status messages created by the program to be copied into a log file. This log file will include messages suppressed from the user interface.
You can specify a filename as /LOG="<name>", the default filename, if omitted, will be AscToPDF.log
The /OUTPUT=filename qualifier specifies where the output file(s) should be placed. It can include wildcards, with the input file being used to replace any parts of the filename not specified.
Thus "/OUT=c:\temp\*.sav" will result in a file with the same name, but with a .sav extension, and in the "c:\temp\" directory folder.
If omitted, the output file will be given the same name as the input file but with a .pdf extension.
This qualifier will cause the program to generate a .pol file for each file converted. This file will represent the "best guess" policy file generated by the program through analysis of your file.
This qualifier suppresses all error messages from being displayed to the console. Mainly relevant in the console version of the program, rather than the Windows version.
This qualifier indicates that you want the source file treated as a "simple" file, and that AscToPDF shouldn't look for more complex constructs such as headings etc.
This is equivalent to the Keep it simple policy
Specifies that the source file is a tab-delimited table. In this case each line will become a row in a table, and each value separated by a tab will become a cell in the table.
Specifies that the source file is a plain text table. In this the program will do its best to analyse the table structure, and reproduce it.
AscToPDF can make a useful addition to your "Send to" menu (available when you right-click on a file in explorer).
To add AscToPDF to this menu, simply add a shortcut to your SendTo shortcuts folder. Under Windows 9x this is
under Windows XP this is
/Documents and Settings/<Your_User_Name>/SendTo
If you want to use a standard policy file (e.g. with a particular colour scheme), then create a simple .bat file with the command
AscToPDF %1 standard.pol
a single text file by
© 2006 John A Fotheringham