Son of E-Mail Droppings:
Converting E-mail Into Formatted
© 2001 Washington Apple Pi Journal
Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint
(See also "E-mail
Jon Thomason, in the accompanying article, tells you how
to create E-mail compatible text from a formatted document
created in a word processor. He originally wrote this as a
message on the Pi's bulletin board, the TCS, and then
E-mailed the message to the Journal's editorial
staff. After receiving the E-mail message, the editorial
staff was faced with an equal but opposite task: taking an
E-mail message and formatting it in a word processor prior
to sucking it up into a page layout package.
Fortunately, our unofficial motto is "Semper Gumby,"
which translates from the original Navy Latin as "Aways
flexible." Our tool for the task was Microsoft Word
2001, part of Office:mac 2001, because we'd just
installed it and because we wanted to see if our old
tried-and-true techniques (tried in older versions of
Word) still worked.
E-mail messages are ASCII (American Standard Code for
Information Exchange) text, so we didn't have to worry about
funky characters. But we did have to worry about carriage
returns at the end of every line, and extra spaces in odd
In older versions of Word, CMD-H was the keyboard
shortcut for Replace, and Word 2001 continues this
peculiar custom. It would seem that CMD-F would be more
logical, but this brings up the Find command that just finds
things; you can't replace anything. CMD-H allows you to
search for spaces &emdash; just type in the space &emdash;
or special characters. You can search for a tab by typing
caret-T (^t) or a carriage return by searching for caret-P
Here are the steps used to reformat Jon's message:
Step 2: make sure that all paragraphs are
separated by at least two carriage returns. If they
aren't (they were), add a carriage return between
- Step 1: use Word's Indent button to
indent any paragraphs that should be indented. Jon
"indented" things with spaces, but these will be removed
Step 3: position the cursor at the start of the
document. Search for three carriage returns in a row
(^p^p^p) and replace them with two (^p^p). Repeat this
exercise until Word says it made zero
Step 4: at this point all paragraphs will have
two carriage returns between them, and only two. Now
search for double carriage returns (^p^p) and replace
them with a bullet (• -- produced with Option-8).
Step 5: at this point all remaining carriage
returns will be at the ends of lines, and these need to
be removed. Search for carriage returns (^p) and replace
them with spaces.
Step 6: the text is very difficult to read at
this point, so search for bullets (•) and replace
them with two carriage returns (^p^p). You should now
have some nice looking paragraphs again.
Step 7: next we need to remove spaces at the
start of lines, such as Jon's "indented" paragraphs. You
remove spaces at the start of lines by searching for, and
replacing, spaces after carriage returns, so
search for a carriage return and space (^p ) and replace
with just a carriage return (^p). Repeat this until Word
reports zero replacements.
Step 8: finally, search for all doubled spaces
and replace them with single spaces. Repeat until Word
reports zero replacements.
This makes more sense once you try it a few times. In
addition to Jon's article, this exercise also comes in handy
when you want to reformat badly mangled E-mail jokes. While
we used Word to do such editing, most other word processors
have similar functions. About the only tricky part is
discovering how a particular word processor handles
searching for carriage returns.