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Converting with Separate Utilities

There are several utilities devised specifically to clean up the HTML that comes from Word. You might think that there should be something that's open source—and there is, sort of. HTMLTidy is an open source utility originally created by Dave Raggett. It cleans up HTML from several sources, not just Word files, and apparently it does a good job up through Word 2000. But this ongoing project is not yet customized to work optimally for Word 2002 or 2003, so figures on cleanup are not included here.

Word Cleaner

On the other hand, there are utilities available for free download and reasonable costliness. Do you have several batches of files to clean each week? If so, you might find Word Cleaner 2.0.4 is just what you need.

I tried their 15-day free download. This is a very full-featured utility with a reasonable user interface, if not quite as intuitive as I might like. It's designed for batch file conversion.

Like Dreamweaver, Word Cleaner offers built-in preview-in-editor and preview-in-browser functions, which are certainly handy for checking how the code comes out and for hand touchups. Word Cleaner also lets you set parameters for your cleanup and then do a ton of conversions at once. This can be a big time-saver if your conversion tasks run to bulk.

Our original Word HTML file of 71KB was knocked back to 39.6KB after the Word Cleaner conversion. Formatting was maintained for tables and links, but for some reason the same extra spacing appeared in the code with Word Cleaner as in the Dreamweaver conversion, suggesting that the two programs use similar algorithms to clean files. Further fiddling with settings allowed me to strip out font tags and the like, and knocked off another 2KB or so.

This utility will also accept .doc files and clean them. In fact, when Word Cleaner is downloaded, it puts a menu bar in Word to let you clean up Word files as you go. But the .doc file of our sample text didn't reduce as much as the HTML file (50.6KB). Similarly, the filtered HTML web file came out smaller (32.9KB) than the unfiltered.

This utility is worth checking if you need batch conversions, particularly if you need to strip out font tags because you're going to attach cascading style sheets. You'll at least want to try the free download. The application retails for $99.

Click to Convert

While we're on the topic of batch conversion, I'll mention another tool, Click to Convert 5.2, which doesn't actually clean up Word HTML files. On the other hand, it could save your sanity in one specific situation. If, like me, you've worked for a large corporation, you're familiar with the scenario wherein Someone in Management, Who Does Not Actually Reside on Planet Earth, sends around a memo late on a Wednesday to announce that everyone's Word documents must all be on the web no later than Friday.

If you have a ton of archived Word files and plenty of storage, Click to Convert will produce very readable, beautifully formatted web documents as fast as you can drag-and-drop them. But this utility doesn't save space or simplify your HTML—it complicates it. It took my text, dropped everything into frames, and published it with a dandy click-through bar at the top and a page menu on the left (see Figure 3). It also turned my single file into 14 files and broke the text into 10 pages. It does all of this with remarkable ease.

Figure 3Figure 3

Click to Convert handled the tables and the code sample without a hitch. Oddly, it hiccoughed on the link, causing the odd rendition shown in Figure 4, which was as dead as the witch after Dorothy's house landed on her.

Figure 4Figure 4

A 15-day download is free, the product currently retails for $89, and it will churn out PDFs if you prefer them. If I needed to put many long text documents online quickly for archival purposes, especially if I wasn't responsible for maintaining links on the site, I might consider this utility. It turns out such pretty text that I would think it a pity no one was reading it.

Textism

But what if you need to convert a few files at a time, perhaps two or three a day?

Coming highly recommended to me from several helpful sources was the Word HTML cleaner available at Textism. This is a spiffy little utility, available for limited use for free and unlimited use for a subscription charge.

People have told me that they use the free version by breaking up files into 20KB or less and reassembling them. Since I wanted to try our sample 71KB file, I used the subscription service for the nasty bit of work, and this cleaner performed exactly as Dean Allen, the author, suggested it would. According to his site, this utility is for basic Word documents. Special characters such as smart quotes and em dashes are converted to HTML entities to keep them portable among browsers.

When I ran my monster document through the program, text, links, and tables came across perfectly, just as promised, and a glance at the HTML showed that it was very clean indeed. What didn't come through with formatting intact was my code sample. All the formatting was stripped from it, so that it would have to be pasted back in formatted or otherwise handled manually.

But the resulting file was only 29.2KB! I ran the filtered file through, and it came out exactly the same: 29.2KB.

One thing I really loved about this application was its ease of use. You don't have to download anything. Instead, you browse to your file from the Textism web site and click a button. Presto, your cleaned HTML appears in a window for you to cut-and-paste into your own file.

Give it a try on short documents, under 20KB. If you decide to subscribe, it's €5 for a 24-hour pass and €20 for a year. You can then scrub up to 75 documents per month. If I had to clean up longer documents two or three times a week, I'd subscribe.

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