Documentation for the AscToHTM Text to HTML converter

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AscToHTM is an ASCII to HTML conversion tool. It has, of course, been used to generate the HTML version of this document from the text file source file .

The HTML version of this document is presented "as is". That is, no post-production of the HTML has occurred. This should give you a flavour of what AscToHTM is capable of.

Any RTF version of this document will have been made by AscToRTF, the sister product that shares the same text analysis engine. The WinHelp file that comes with the Windows version was also converted by AscToRTF.

AscToHTM is made available for download via the Internet from the download page.

Expected uses of AscToHTM

AscToHTM can be used in a number of ways.

Placing text files quickly and easily on the web

Plain text is still a very popular data format. It is easy to generate, and easy to read. However text files when placed on the web don't look as nice as normal web pages. AscToHTM will allow you to quickly add the HTML markup required to turn a plain text page into a nice looking HTML page. Because it is an automated conversion it will save you time, and ensure you avoid typos in HTML tags that could stop the page displaying wrongly in some web browsers.

Migration of "legacy" text to HTML

Large amounts of unconverted text exist. As people plan to put this information on the Web, conversion to HTML will become necessary.

This can be a tedious and time-consuming task. AscToHTM will do much of the work for you.

AscToHTM is priced to be worth an hour of two of your time. This means that the "pay back" time is negligible (we only mention this in case you have bean-counters to convince :). If you don't think AscToHTM will save you hours, then by all means don't buy it.

Facilitate mastering of HTML pages in ASCII

The HTML created by AscToHTM may not be as pretty or as clever as that generated by a full blown HTML editor (read as "bloated").


It'll be easier to write, edit and spell-check, and it may have a hyperlinked contents list generated.

Automated conversions

AscToHTM can be used to automatically convert text documents that you receive. For this we usually suggest you run in command line mode.

Conversion of reports to HTML

Many people have legacy systems that generate printed reports that may be saved to file. AscToHTM can help extend the lifetime of such systems by turning their output to HTML. It may be you'll need some help in getting the best results from the program in such cases, since many reports consist of complex tables.

Conversion print spool files to HTML

Printer spool files are not strictly speaking plain text, but often - especially in older software systems - these files are plain text with a few printer controls added. Some users have had great success converting such files using asctohtm, and to support this we have added a limited ability to recognize and strip out Unix control characters, VT escape sequences and PCL printer codes. If you have a requirement in this area, contact the author at info<at> (replace "<at>" by "@") to discuss whether the software can be made to meet your needs.

Convert Word documents

AscToHTM DOES NOT convert Word's .doc or .rtf file formats.

AscToHTM was never intended to handle Word documents. We fully expect HTML export and import filters to appear (they have in Word '97), and we would advise anyone whose master document is in Word to search out these filters and give them a try.

That said... a lot of people seem unhappy with what's already available, and AscToHTM does a reasonable job if you save the file as text with line breaks, though obviously tables and figures will get lost (in the case of tables, because Word throws them away).

The main problem is that Word produces lousy looking text. This is one area where AscToHTM does a little better than "garbage in, garbage out"

Pre-process text for import to Word

(This is a bit cheeky, but does actually work.).

Use AscToHTM to convert text to HTML, then import this into your word processing package. Since the text analysis engine in AscToHTM out-performs that in Word in many respects (URL, table and heading detection to name but three), you can often get better results than importing from text direct..

That's because AscToHTM's analysis engine is smarter. That's not just our view (see

The same text analysis engine is used in the text-to-RTF program AscToRTF, which is more suited to this purpose.

Pre-process text for printing

Use AscToHTM to convert text to HTML, then print the file from within Netscape or whatever. The result is a much nicer looking document with fonts'n'stuff.

Add hyperlinks to fairly ordinary pages

AscToHTM has a "link dictionary" feature that can be used to add hyperlinks to any word or phrase (see the Policy manual).

This can greatly enhance an otherwise dull set of text pages.

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Valid HTML 4.0! Converted from a single text file by AscToHTM
© 1997-2004 John A Fotheringham
Converted by AscToHTM