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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

New Purple Include Release: Include Pieces of Web Pages Like You Would Images

Hi everyone; I'm back from my sabbatical and rearing to go. The first thing I wanted to hack on was to take the cool Purple Include work that Jonathan, Eugene, and I hacked together last month to a new version. I'm proud to announce another release of Purple Include, version 1.9 -- as you will see below, this is a major refactoring that simplifies working with the library and now works across all major browsers.

Purple Include is a client-side JavaScript library that allows you to do client-side transclusions.

What the heck does that mean?

It means that you can include and display fragments of one HTML page in another without copying and pasting any content. For example, you could quote the second paragraph from another person's blog entry by embedding something like:

<div href="[2])"></div>

in your blog page. The expression following the explanation point in the URL is an XPath expression.

If the page you want to transclude has a fragment identifier or a purple number, you can transclude that directly:

<div href=""></div>

In fact, all you have to do is add an 'href' attribute to any of the following types of HTML tags in order to have that URL transcluded right into the page when the page loads:

<p href=""></p>

<blockquote href="[2])"></blockquote>

<div href="includeme.html#foobar"></div>

<span href="../../relativefile.html#foobar"></span>

<q href=""></q>

Here's the great thing about this new release -- there's nothing to install! We do some magic (see the Release Notes below to see how) to make it so that you have absolutely no server to install. I host everything on my webserver now, at, even the inclusion service and JavaScript, so all you have to do is add the following JavaScript to the top of your page:

<script src=""></script>

Plus, Purple Include now works across Safari, Internet Explorer, and Firefox (Opera probably too -- I just haven't tested). The client-side JavaScript is now just about 9K.

See the example page for examples and usage. Also see the README file. You can view the JavaScript file as well if you want.

This is all beta stuff, so as usual, if you see bugs, tell me -- or even better, fix it ;)

RELEASE NOTES for August 15th, 2007 Purple Include 1.9

This is a pretty radical refactoring of the Purple Include code. The big highlights in this version:

* Now works cross-browser: Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari (Opera should work but has not been tested)

* There are no server-side requirements anymore. Instead, the inclusion service is hosted on my web site at and we do a trick in the JavaScript (the JSONP/Script tag trick) in order to do transclusions through a third-party web site. All you have to do is drop the JavaScript into your page and start using it.

* We no longer have an <hx:include> tag; instead, you can simply add an 'href' attribute to many different HTML types and have that type transclude it's contents:

<p href="[@id='table_of_contents']")</p>

This works for the following tags: P, BLOCKQUOTE, Q, PRE, DIV, SPAN

* The client-side script has gotten vastly smaller and simpler -- the script is now only about 9K.

* We now use the notation #xpath(//p) around an XPath expression rather than using an exclamation point, such as #xpath!//p. This is in keeping with the pseudo-standard that has developed around this practice, such as #xpointer() -- it also opens up the possibility of chaining together expressions in the future, such as #xpath(//expression1)xpath(//expression2), which would return the results of both expressions.

* The little roller image, roller.gif, used to be a pain in the butt to configure because it was always relative to the page you are using transclusions on, which therefore required you to specify a relative path or something using a META tag. To cut down on configuration, I now just host this image on my web server -- you can set it to your own path using the META tag 'purple.include.rollerURL' but we default it inside the code to my webserver. This means that all you have to do now to use Purple Include is have the JavaScript file -- that's it.

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