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Re: idea for Google Summer of Code project: html-reading info

From: Per Bothner
Subject: Re: idea for Google Summer of Code project: html-reading info
Date: Fri, 12 Feb 2016 00:15:07 -0800
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:38.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/38.5.0

On 02/11/2016 11:25 PM, Gavin Smith wrote:
On 10 February 2016 at 19:42, Per Bothner <address@hidden> wrote:
I suggest the texinfo project sponsor the following proposed project
for Google Summer of Code, under the GNU umbrella.   Ideally we'd
want two mentors.  I can be one of them, but it would be good to
have someone familiar with the internals of the info program.

** Enhance GNU info documentation reader to read html files **

I don't know a huge deal about Google Summer of Code and if it can be
useful. Does it have a good track record at producing an improvement
that continues after the project is finished?

I've mentored GSoc 3 times (2 different students), an they've all produced
useful code. Some may have needed polishing, but it has at least been useful
as a prototype.

It various, but many free software projects have benefited from GSoC 
(And it's not just the specific contribution, but also to encourage fresh blood
on free software projects.)

We would like to deprecate the info format as a distribution format, while
using the texinfo source format and tool-chain.  Instead, using html as the
primary distribution format makes sense; we already have the tools to
generate html.

It would make sense if the Info format didn't already exist and the
files were already being installed as HTML. Then it would make sense
to use the contents of those HTML files for displaying on a terminal.
But doing it this way now would add little to what we've already got,
apart from the text filling issue you mentioned.

The advantage long-term is simplification:
(1) People wouldn't have to install *both* info and html files;
(2) the texinfo project wouldn't have to maintain tools to generate and use 
info files.

The goal of having a reader that can read html files would be to take
advantage of graphical displays. Creating such a thing would be a
better use of someone's time (for example, Google Summer of Code).

We already have a reader that can read html files - it's called a web browser.
We  have to clarify what we want from a "graphical documentation viewer"
*beyond* what we have.  If it the keyboard-centric UI - if so, the simplest
(and maybe best) solution is JavaScript and event handlers.

If is know where to find the installed system documentation files, a
simple shell script can file the files and then call a browser.

If you want something like the info program but with graphics (i.e.
the package including keyboard-centric UI, searching for system files,
and maybe other points), then it's slightly more difficult.  I think
the best solution is an embedded (special-purpose) web-browser,
such as DomTerm uses.  I.e. using a browses as the "GUI API" for desktop
(and smaller) computers.  There are various ways to do; I've explored
some with DomTerm.  I'm not sure what is the best approach.  I keep
coming back to using QTWebEngine (which is a Qt API for an embedded
Chromium/Blink browser), but I haven't tried it.  So far, the nicest
UI is when using FireFox/XUL, and that is both simple and fairly powerful,
but that is being deprecated and Mozilla is busy working on a new more
browser-neutral framework.

Rather than the texinfo project trying to write a garphical
documentation views, it makes sense to leverage off (and share the
effort) with the DomTerm project, IMO.
        --Per Bothner
address@hidden   http://per.bothner.com/

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