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Text::Autoformat: Smart text reformatting with Perl

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Wed Sep 22 10:05:45 2004 Smart text reformatting with Perl
Posted by Tony Lawrence
Search Keys: news,mail,perl, newsgroup text reformatting
Referencing: http://search.cpan.org/~dconway/Text-Autoformat-1.12/lib/Text/Autoformat.pm

I've been using http://groups-beta.google.com/ for Newsgroup posting for a while now. It's convenient for me because of my nomadic life style where I have different ISP's and often different machines with varying OSes. Google only needs a browser, and they aren't overly fussy about that, either.

However, Google news posting does have some problems. Aside from the things that can't be helped except by complaining (like slightly broken Reference headers), the most annoying thing is that they don't let you set a posting width and they don't properly reformat quoted text.

Let's see why that's a problem. We'll take part of a short post by Jeff Liebermann:

I've considered tunneling into the hillside and building a cave, but
find the uphill neighbors septic tank a bit too close.  However, I
don't think that living in a tree or cave will have an impact on
fixing the missing Reference line in the header.
 

Jeff has his line width set at 70, so if I reply to his post, the text isn't quoted too badly:

> I've considered tunneling into the hillside and building a cave, but
> find the uphill neighbors septic tank a bit too close.  However, I
> don't think that living in a tree or cave will have an impact on
> fixing the missing Reference line in the header.
 

However, Google has now brought the width out two more characters, so if that is replied to again, we get:

> > I've considered tunneling into the hillside and building a cave, but
> > find the uphill neighbors septic tank a bit too close.  However, I
> > don't think that living in a tree or cave will have an impact on
> > fixing the missing Reference line in the header.
 

We're now very close to breaking Google, and in fact one more reply would do it, causing the text to exceed their line width and wrap in an ugly way:

> > > I've considered tunneling into the hillside and building a 
cave, but
> > find the uphill neighbors septic tank a bit too close.  
However, I
> > don't think that living in a tree or cave will have an 
impact on
> > fixing the missing Reference line in the header.
 

Some newsreaders automatically reflow quoted text so that the line width doesn't continue to build with each nested reply. Perhaps Google will do that someday, but in the meantime, I can use Text::Autoformat. This Perl module understands quoting levels, so it fixes things up nicely. Let's reformat this:

> > I've considered tunneling into the hillside and building a cave, but
> > find the uphill neighbors septic tank a bit too close.  However, I
> > don't think that living in a tree or cave will have an impact on
> > fixing the missing Reference line in the header.
 

to a 70 character width:

> > I've considered tunneling into the hillside and building a cave,
> > but find the uphill neighbors septic tank a bit too close.
> > However, I don't think that living in a tree or cave will have an
> > impact on fixing the missing Reference line in the header.
 

Nicely done. The perl code is just:

#!/usr/bin/perl
use Text::Autoformat qw(autoformat);
while(<>) {
  $old .= $_;
}
$newstuff = autoformat($old, {left=>0, right=>70, all=>1});
print $newstuff;
 


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