ReviewGen (description)

The old way...

The old way was pretty simple to begin with. Write an HTML document, by hand. It could be modified at will, updated to reflect new movies watched, etc etc.
Writing HTML in Metapad.
No, that isn't Notepad... it is a look-alike called Metapad that replaces Notepad. It is a lot more powerful and has less limitations (can edit files over 64K) and none of the quirks/irritations (can sanely cope with files that are not CRLF terminated, and can swap line ending styles). It is free too, and may well exist in your language.
Reviewing twenty-odd movies by hand is not so difficult really. Where it starts to get messy is when there are fifty or more reviews, which can be interlinked. Not to mention modifications in style for "favourite" movies. I would cut and paste, modify accordingly, then add the links.



There are numerous problem with this approach, that become more and more problematic as the review document grows: While it sounds like excuses for a poor memory, I like watching FilmFour's movies and I like writing these reviews. I would prefer to write the review and not spend so much time with the nuts and bolts of the document creation; for when the document reaches nearly a quarter of a megabyte in size, with over seventy reviews - these problems can become important.
After all, the problems that I have just quoted are all something that can be solved with a "custom software solution".


Enter ReviewGen

ReviewGen allows me to concentrate on the reviews. It will handle building the links, putting all the reviews in the correct order, interlinking, the right flags for the right movie, auto-sizing the pictures; effectively all of the tedium is now taken care of.
Writing a review in ReviewGen.

As you can see, HTML is still a factor in the creation of the reviews (penultimate word, first line of commentary). This is because I absolutely do not wish to write reviews using design software. I have a designer package that I used to create the Frobnicate and Amélie parts of my website - and while it looks quite nice, the generated HTML is really poor! I also prefer to use <i>talics - which has been officially deprecated in favour of <em>phasised - writing by hand I can make these decisions. Writing with software, I cannot.
In addition, I test my reviews document on MSIE, Firefox, and Opera. If it doesn't quite work, I can tweak it accordingly. This may not be possible with a designer.

In any case, specifying words in italics or sticking in a little list, that isn't a great hardship.


Other features

Some nice additional features of ReviewGen are:


The database

The database. The HTML document is generated from five tables. These are:
  • HTML style table
    This contains the embedded styles (like CSS) for the document.
  • Object style table
    This contains sections of markup for things such as "link to a favourite movie", or "title of non-favourite movie".
    The included topics and the reviews may make reference to object elements.
  • Included topics table
    This contains the contents and control data for the topics to be inserted around the reviews.
  • Reviews table
    This contains the reviews, you can see what is contained in the above screenshot.
  • Languages table
    This is for translating a language name (i.e. "Japanese") to a flag value for the links in the JavaScript (i.e. "F_JAPA"). It is also used to provide a choice list of the available languages.
This alone isn't what makes ReviewGen really powerful. What really boosts the power and flexibility of this software is the macro system.



Macros are inserted into the topics, reviews, or object styles. For example "{TITLE}" is replaced by the current movie's title. To provide a link (i.e. to the film Amélie), simply insert a link to "{LINKTO "Amélie"}".

For further details of the macro system (and more on how the system works in total), you can download and read the working specification (PDF, 8 pages, 42Kb).


So where is the download?

The software, and sources, are not normally available. The reason for this is that the software is extremely specific to my FilmFour reviews and the file layout of my computer - so much so that it can't be used for my Zone Horror reviews.

If anybody is interested in specifics - such as macro parsing, or database/table access, please email me.
I'm not trying to hide the code - it is simply that without setting your system up the same as mine and/or altering parts of the code, this source is not likely to be of much use to you... That is also why the database file is not available either. It is specific to, and laid out for, this software.
I suppose in retrospect it may have been useful to generalise it enough that it can also do my Zone Horror reviews. Maybe that'll be added in due course?


Return to the software index
Copyright © 2007 Richard Murray