[Textbook-l] The PDF generator on the toolserver has implications for quality control on a per-chapter basis

mike.lifeguard mike.lifeguard at gmail.com
Sat Nov 24 02:41:49 UTC 2007

Heloo all. First post to the mailing list(!)

I found the post about the toolserver PDF generator in the archives. Instead
of leaving a lengthy post on-wiki, I wanted to formulate something a bit
more formal. Matt touched on this, but I don't think anything came of it at
the time.

The PDF generator is a tool by Magnus, which automatically generates PDFs -
that much is self evident. But for Wikibooks, I think it has much more
potential in the realm of quality control than that (seemingly-)simple
function. Since it creates PDFs (mostly) on a per-page(=module) basis, it
can be used to keep a stable version up-to-date very easily. If you've
noticed, I uploaded a PDF version of my pet project [[First Aid]], which is
massive, and will be difficult to keep up-to-date. Although the method I
used (PDFLaTeX) allows me much more flexibility in terms of output and
customization, manual creation isn't very useful to maintain a stable but
up-to-date version.

Enter stage right the PDF generator. As (modules|chapters|books) get to a
point where they're in a state which is ready to be preserved in PDF, just
trundle off, enter the appropriate URL, and out pops wiki.pdf. It's not
perfect; there will be errors: it messes up diacritical marks (as mentioned
below), and it can't handle some/most/all? templates (take a look at
njury&project=wikibooks) though, surprisingly, it handles images quite well
(but not their captions):

All that said, the output ''is'' readable, and it's quick and easy to do.
The keyword for the quality control aspect is ''quick''. This is something
that's not hard to do, so just about any user can decide that content is
ready to have a stable version. But it's just as easy to create a new stable
version if there are changes you want to have reflected in the PDF.

I'd like to see this tool improved, of course, but I think it's at a state
where we can advertise it to users who want to create a (semi-)permanent PDF
version, and also for more-frequently-replaced stable versions.

The question becomes, then, "Do we want stable versions of one kind or
another?" Further, if we do, then are PDF versions the way we want to do it.
In my view, at least, stable versions are a must (and for Wikibooks,
essential if only for the ability to print them easily) and until such time
as a stable version feature is integrated with the MediaWiki software, this
scheme is a surprisingly-close-to-ideal method to achieve that goal.

PS: Sorry for the length, both of the post and of the title. I just finished
a paper, and we use verbose titles in neuroscience especially; I don't have
an excuse for the length of the post ;)

==Previous related posts==

> From: Magnus Manske <magnusmanske at googlemail.com>
> Date: 13 Oct 2007 09:16
> Subject: [Wikipedia-l] PDF generation on the toolserver
> To: wikipedia-l at lists.wikimedia.org
> On a note by [[User:Korrigan]], I have adapted (rather, rewritten) the
> PDF Export extension for the toolserver. You can now get a single or
> multiple Wiki(m|p)edia pages as a PDF, by entering/linking to an URL.
> As the extension, I am using HTMLDOC, so the output is as good (or as
> bad) as that package. Don't blame me.
> I shall demonstrate using our new meme overlord, [[Horse-ripping]],
> and the related article [[Zoosadism]] from en.wikipedia:
> http://tools.wikimedia.de/~magnus/pdf.php?title=Horse-ripping|Zoosadism
> Additional parameters (add them to the URL):
> &language=XX (XX being the language code; en is default)
> &project=wikibooks (default:wikipedia)
> &nogfdl (3 pages of GFDL are appended by default; add this parameter
> to prevent that)
> I haven't figured out how to make HTMLDOC generate a TOC. Maybe tomorrow.
> Cheers,
> Magnus

Not so good with the UTF-8, as demonstrated with 

Well, it found the article, but the title page was a bit mungled.


Cary Bass
Volunteer Coordinator
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
Phone: 727.231.0101
Fax: 727.258.0207
E-Mail: cbass at wikimedia.org

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