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Manual Reference Pages  -  MAKEFAQ (1)

NAME - creates a FAQ HTML page or text file



SYNOPSIS [-h] [-v] [-n] [-N] [-l] [-j] [-s] [-r 1] [-c config-name] [-i input-file] [-o output-file] [-t header-file] [-b footer-file] [-d delimiter]

DESCRIPTION is a Python program that creates a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) HTML page or text file from a specially formatted text data file.


-h Display help
-n Do "nothing" - check config but skip file processing
-N Suppresses the numbering of questions.
-l List all configurations
-v Display config settings
-s Sort categories in alphabetical ordeer
-j Adds a link after each entry to jump to top of page
-i input-file
  Default is ’faq.dat’
-o output-file
  Default is ’faq.html’
-t header-file
  Default is ’faqheader.html’
-b footer-file
  Default is ’faqfooter.html’
-L locale
  Reads LANG environment variable or defaults to ’en_US’
-r 1 Revert to old, single-line data file format

Note that if the ’-r’ is used to revert to the old file format, the following option may be used to change the delimiter.

-d delimiter
  default is the pipe character (’|’)

It has no effect if the ’-r’ option is not used.

EXAMPLE -c default -i input.dat -o output.html

CONFIGURATIONS includes five configurations in the code:

default - standard files, writes to faq.html
text    - standard files, writes to faq.txt
screen  - standard files, writes to screen
DocBookXML - standard files, writes to faq-output.xml
BEAST   - uses header of ’html.1.faq’ and footer of
          ’html.2.faq’, writes to faq.html

This last config is one Dave uses for and is provided as an example of how you might set up your own configuration.


With version 2.0, there is a new format for the data file. Instead of entries being required to be on a single line separated by the pipe (’|’) symbol, the file now uses and XML-ish format with the fields separated by tags in angle brackets. For example:

  <q>When will the snow melt in Ottawa?
  <a>I have <i>no</i> idea!

Note that as in the previous file format, HTML can be used in either the question or answer field. The program simply looks for instances of <c>, <q> and <a>. Note that at the moment, it *is* case-sensitive. If you were to use <C>, it would NOT work properly.

As before, the first field, <c>, is the "category" of question, which is used for grouping questions together in the FAQ output. You can have as many or as few categories as you wish, but you must have at least *one* category. You do not have to put all questions that are in the same category together in the data file, as the program will automagically put all those questions together. Note that the categories will be output *in the order in which they first appear* in the data file, unless the ’-s’ flag is used, in which case they will be sorted alphabetically before being written out.

With this format, there are no spacing restrictions at all. You can put them all on one line:

<c>General<q>When will the snow melt in Ottawa?<a>I have <i>no</i> idea!

or you can put the tags on their own lines:

  When will the snow melt in Ottawa?
  I have <i> no</i> idea!

Or any combination of these formats. There is now *no* restriction on the length of either questions or answers.

If you wish to use different delimiters than <c>, <q> and <a>, you can either create your own "configuration" that overrides the DefaultConfig settings for ’self.cdelim’, ’self.qdelim’ and ’self.adelim’... or simply modify those variables in the DefaultConfig class definition.


Up until version 2.0, makefaq always printed two strings in English: "FAQ Revised:" and "Table of Contents". It then put the time in US format after "FAQ Revised:". While this worked for many people, those working with languages other than English wanted makefaq to automatically use the date format and wording appropriate for their language.

Thanks to the help of Guy Brand, I have added support to version 2.0 for localization of the makefaq output. In fact, it now will localize the file *by default*. It first looks to see if you have defined the LANG environment variable. If you have, the program will set your locale equal to the contents of the LANG variable. It will then use that variable to generate an appropriate time string and, in some cases, the appropriate text strings.

For instance, if you are in the US, your LANG should be set to ’en_US’. In France, it will be ’fr_FR’. In Germany, ’de_DE’. In Italy, ’it’.

If you do not have the LANG variable set, the program will default to ’en_US’, which is really the pre-2.0 behavior.

If you do not have the LANG variable set, but want to modify the locale, the easiest option is to use the ’-L’ (upper case) command-line option to set the locale to whatever you want. For example:

./ -L ’fr_FR’

It will work fine with any other command-line options.

You also can edit the file directly and change the LOCALE variable at the very top of the file. Note that this variable is ONLY consulted if LANG is *NOT* defined in your operating system environment. If LANG *is* defined, that value will be used and the LOCALE variable will not be used at all.

Once the locale is set, the appropriate time string will be generated in all cases. However, at the time I am writing this, there are only three cases where the appropriate text strings will be written out: en_US, fr_FR, and de_DE. Those are the only languages for which I have the appropriate strings.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD YOUR LANGUAGE, simply add a block of text that looks like:

    elif lc == ’de_DE’:
       cfg.RevString = ’FAQ ´┐Żberarbeitet am:’
       cfg.TOCString = ’Inhalt’

to the function "LocalizeStrings" inside of I would also ask that you send the information about your locale and text strings to me at ’’ so that I can add them to the program for others to use.


Mail me if you find any.


Dan York <>

The author acknowledges significant contributions to the code by Dave Seidel ( and he can definitely considered as the co-author of this code.



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MAKEFAQ.PY (1) 11 Nov 2002

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