HTML Basics:
Convert to HTML

Title: Jan's Illustrated Computer Literacy 101
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Often people want to use an existing document on their web site. Why rewrite material that you have already massaged into an attractive and useful shape? Unfortunately, it is not quite as straight-forward as you might think to get a well-shaped web page from a paper document. They do not share the same definition of what makes a "good" page.

Where you are:
JegsWorks > Lessons > Web

Before you start...

Project 1: Browser BasicsTo subtopics

Project 2: HTML Basics
    HTML CodeTo subtopics
    About HTML
    What You Need
    Code by HandTo subtopics
    FrontPage/FPXTo subtopics
    Images in HTMLTo subtopics
    FormattingTo subtopics
    TablesTo subtopics
    Convert Arrow - Subtopic open
    icon-footprintDoc to HTML
    ExercisesTo subtopics


Design Issues for Converted Documents

Web pages have different design issues than documents prepared for print.  The shape of the space is different. The physical interface is different. The way people interact with web pages is different.

You may need to modify your converted document to make it more web-friendly by:

  • rearranging parts
  • rewriting 
  • adding navigation
  • breaking it into separate pages

Visual Field

A normal browser window shows much less text at once than a normal printed page. You should place your illustrations so that they show in the same window as the related text. It is harder for the reader to scroll around than to flip back and forth between pages of a book.

How Readers Read

People scan web pages more than they read, especially pages with lots of text or long paragraphs. This is partly because text onscreen is not yet as comfortable to read as on paper. The characters are not as crisp. Eyes get tired more easily.

Bullet lists and short paragraphs work best. (Some topics are not easy to do in short form!)


Unlike a printed page, each web page needs clear navigation to the top of the site and to other pages in the site. A single table of contents page won't do! 

Clear Purpose

The visitor to your page may have popped in directly from a search engine. Does the page make sense by itself? Can the visitor tell where this page is in your site structure? Can the visitor navigate to an overview page, to the home page, or to the beginning of the section?


Breaking a long document into separate pages may work better than a single long page. Readers don't like to scroll and scroll and scroll. Neither do they like the long download time for a long page.

Each page should make sense by itself, so you may need to re-write or add text after breaking into separate pages. 

What to Use to Convert

You usually have at least two choices for converting a document to a web page: 

  • Program that created the original- may have a Save as HTML or Save as Web Page command

  • HTML Editing software - may be able to open the file and then save as a web page

Original Program

Many programs, including Word and Excel, allow you to save documents in HTML format. The resulting web page will probably need some tweaking, however. Sometimes the changes that the conversion makes are quite startling. 

Word97 Word 97: Conversion errors

  • Data in a Word textbox will not show up in the HTML version. 

  • Backgrounds - HTML background will be white. White text therefore becomes invisible!

  • HTML source code for NZinfo.htm in Word97Tags incorrectly nested-  In the illustration, some tags are highlighted in color to show how Word97 often gets the closing tags in the wrong order. Tags must be closed in the reverse order from how they were opened. IE forgives this error and displays the page anyway. Other browsers may not!

You must proof-read your converted document very carefully to be sure that all of the parts arrived safely and in the arrangement you want. You may need to edit the source code yourself to make any corrections.

NZinfo.htm source code in Word 2000Word2000 Word 2000: When saving as a web page, Word 2000 uses a complex internal stylesheet, so it can usually make the HTML page look almost exactly like the Word document. But... it takes a lot of very messy code. This makes the converted document MUCH longer and VERY hard to edit yourself. In addition, the browser must understand stylesheets to make any sense of the page at all.

TipAll Office 2000/2002 programs: If you use Save as Web Page from an Office 2000/02 program (Word, Excel, etc), you should plan to use that program for all future edits of this document. [Open the HTML page in the program, make changes,  and then re-save as a web page.] No one wants to deal with this source code directly!

TipMicrosoft Office HTML Filter 2.0Icon: Off site: This filter allows you to export all or part of an Office document as Compact HTML (removing all the extra code that Office adds). There are advantages and disadvantages: Use Office HTML Filter to Create Web Pages that Download FasterOff site.

HTML Editing Software

Some HTML editors can open a variety of other file types directly.  They generally can only save as a web page. You will have to experiment to see whether you get the best results with the original program or with your editing software. 

Icon: FPX FPX, unfortunately, cannot actually open much besides HTML files and text files. The Open dialog actually lists file types that FPX cannot actually open! 

Problem: Complex Documents

Saving a complex document as HTML may not produce a useable document.

Example: The original tri-fold brochure, adapted for the Step-by-Step on the next page, used textboxes to create three columns. A direct Save As using the file type HTML will include only the blank mailing address section and the front flap, at the far right below. Totally useless on the Web! 

NZ brochure - insideNZ Brochure - outside

Inside and outside of the original tri-fold brochure as a Word document

Word 97 Word 97: Saving the original brochure as HTML with Word 97 results in a blank document! Word 97 ignores what's in textboxes.

Word 2000 Word 2000/02: The new Save as Web Page command in Word 2000/02 does a better job, but adds tons of hidden code to do it. The new document will be a mess in browsers that don't understand stylesheets. Even with all this, the vertical green decorative bar at the far right above comes out aligned above all the other objects.

To save as a web page without all the extra code for Word editing, use the command File | Save As and set the File Type to Web page, filtered. You will get a much smaller file with only the formatting that can be done with regular HTML, instead of stylesheet formatting.

TipWorking with complex documents: *****Simplify first! *****Copy the contents and paste to a new, simpler document. Convert this new document to HTML. It may take several steps, depending on how complex your document is. It's awkward but more workable in the long run.