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Spell it out

Opinion
Nov 05, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Acrobot handles TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms)

Does your Web site use lots of TLAs? That stands for “Three Letter Acronyms.” And let us not forget ETLAs (“Extended Three Letter Acronyms”). If your site does you might find the services of Acrobot, the Abbreviation and Acronym Generator, useful (see links below).

Under HTML4 (and above) you’ll find there are tags called and . They are not well known because very few HTML editors support them and people often assume that an abbreviation or acronym is well-known and often don’t bother to expand it.

If you do add the or tags with the appropriate attributes then screen-readers should be able to read a full description of the abbreviation or acronym (great for visually impaired users of your site). Additionally, for people who do not know the abbreviation or acronym, hovering the mouse over the phrase will reveal the full description in a tooltip bubble. The authors of Acrobot also claim that using these tags improves indexing by the search engines.

Acrobot works by processing blocks of text to find well-known abbreviations and acronyms and wrap them in an or an tag. This means if your text contains “HTML”, it will be converted to W3C.

Here’s an example. This is unconverted text:

PHP

This is some block of text containing the odd abbreviation like HTML, for example, or XHTML to give another … And what about acronyms? Well, there’s GUI for starters.

And here’s the output of Acrobot.

PHP

This is some block of text containing the odd abbreviation like HTML, for example, or XHTML to give another … And what about acronyms? Well, there’s GUI for starters.

Acrobot’s author notes that “the most used browser – that’s Internet Explorer – unfortunately does not support the tag. It does support , however. So if you choose to generate only tags using this tool, you won’t be semantically correct, but you will undoubtedly help a great many people by revealing the hidden abbreviations. Oops, we mean acronyms. Oops, except they’re not actually acronyms …. you understand the dilemma?”

We do. So rather than abuse the tag, Acrobot can optionally wrap an block in a span with a title which will also display as a tool tip. It makes for redundant markup but doesn’t affect non-IE browser display.

Acrobot has a few bugs that you should be aware of (see link below).

You can simply use the Acrobot input form to convert text blocks or you can automate submission of text using something called “favelets” which I’ll explain in the next issue.

Overall, this is an interesting and useful tool. And it is free.

mark_gibbs

Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at http://gibbs.com/mgbio

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