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Main: Learning Alpha

Learning Alpha Outline

by DonavanHall

The book is structured in four parts: (I) Getting Started, (II) Alpha's Modes, (III) Extending Alpha, and (IV) Reference. This structure starts with the simplest aspects of Alpha and proceeds to the complex task of extending Alpha with Tcl.

Part I: Getting Started

Users new to Alpha will find basic descriptions of Alpha's standard features described in the first part of this book.

Chapter 1, What is Alpha?

Chapter 1, What is Alpha?, provides a description of Alpha for people who have never used it before, emphasizing Alpha's usefulness in a myriad of tasks (or modes) from basic text editing to web site management to document preparation with LaTeX to email. It supplies a quick comparison of Alpha to Emacs. After reading through this chapter people should have a basic understanding of what Alpha's capabilities are and if it is the right tool for them. Information on where to download Alpha, how to install it, and launch it, is given to get people started quickly.

        In this chapter:
                discussion of what Alpha does and of what it is capable
                        example: Alpha's built-in calculator
                text processing contrasted to word processing
                installing and launching Alpha
                memory requirements
                how Alpha works and where important files are located
                important advice about upgrading Alpha

Chapter 2, Basic Editing

Chapter 2, Basic Editing, covers the user interface, detailing some of Alpha's non-standard features, then shows how to edit files. Alpha has many editing features: key bindings (including Emacs emulation), paragraph formatting, automating indenting, how to set file attributes, do a word count, split an edit window, spell checking, etc.

        In this chapter:
                the user interface, standard and non-standard features
                        the status bar
                        dynamic menus
                the wrap menu
                the file attributes menu; discuss Mac, Unix, IBM file types
                the mode menu
                mode lines, Insert Mode Line
                line and column indicator
                the File menu
                adding the Recent files menu and setting its prefs
                setting fonts and tab sizes for a file and globally
                the Text mode is the default mode for "Untitled" docs
                opening, editing, printing, and saving a text file
                setting printer font and font size
                the Printer Choices menu; printing with other applications
                the save state: MPW, Think, None
                read only files
                showing invisibles
                File Utilities (or Finder operations from Alpha)
                the Edit menu
                key bindings; turning on Emacs bindings; Emacs
                the Text menu
                the Window menu
                arranging windows; iconifying windows

Chapter 3, Searching and Replacing

Chapter 3, Searching and Replacing, explains search and replace operations, multi-file searches, creating search patterns, etc.

        In this chapter:
                the Search menu
                find and replace in current file
                multi-file searches
                search patterns

Chapter 4, Marking and Linking

Chapter 4, Marking and Linking, introduces Alpha's marking and linking features. It explains what a mark is, how to mark a file, and how to use the Marks menu to jump to marks within the same file. It covers making hyperlinks to other files, web sites, and how to create mail-to links. It also shows how to style and color text.

        In this chapter:
                the Color menu
                set marks; using the marks menu; sorting marks
                creating hyperlinks within files, to other files, to the web
                styling and coloring text

Chapter 5, Configuring Alpha

(Shouldn't this information come sooner? Like in the second chapter? Not necessarily. The point of the early chapter is for the person who is eager to find out what Alpha does in is natural state, before the customization and configuration. This chapter begins to show the real power of Alpha's customization. This is also an argument for putting the chapter ealier.)

Chapter 5, Configuring Alpha, shows how to do rudimentary customization of Alpha, such as adding custom key bindings, turning modes on and off, and tailoring your preference settings. This discussion will council the user on what menus and features to turn on depending on how they intend to use Alpha. It also introduces Alpha's capacity to work with (talk to) other applications.

        In this chapter:
                turning on menus and features
                the prefs.tcl file
                setting preferences
                adding fonts to the default fonts list
                the UserModifications folder
                helper applications

Chapter 6, Advanced Editing

Chapter 6, Advanced Editing, covers typing shortcuts (called electric completions), macros, Document Projects, File Sets, and the creation of templates. With Document Projects and File Sets you can organize groups of related files, add menu items to the File Sets menu to quickly open files, define common header templates for files that are mode specific, place time stamps in your document to show when it was edited last, and store your own user profile so that your name, email address, and url are available to Alpha procedures that use those global variables.

        In this chapter:
                the Electric menu
                using completions
                recording and using keyboard macros
                Document Projects; creating new projects and doc templates
                the File Sets menu
                compare files with Diff mode

Part II: Alpha's Main Modes

The purpose of this part of the book is to introduce Alpha's modes and other special features. The new and current user will benefit from these general descriptions of each mode capabilities. This part will answer, in detail, the question: "What can I do with Alpha?"

Chapter 7, Text Markup

Chapter 7, Text Markup, describes the TeX/LaTeX, BibTeX and HTML modes. Entire manuals could be written on each one of the modes, but this chapter provides enough of an overview that the intelligent user can begin marking up LaTeX or HTML files. It shows how to set up Alpha to work with your favorite TeX processor or web browser. Also, Alpha's integration with Frontier is discussed.

        In this chapter:
                introduce TeX/LaTeX mode
                the TeX menu
                TeX helper applications: OzTeX, DirectTeX, Textures, CMacTeX
                LaTeX templates and completions
                matching braces; quotation marks; paragraphing
                LaTeX accents; LaTeX sizes
                BibTeX mode; conversion: Bib to HTML
                HTML mode
                Cascading Style Sheets
                Javascript mode
                the Frontier menu

Chapter 8, Internet Tools

Chapter 8, Internet Tools, describes the FTP, WWW, Eudora, and Internet Config menus. It shows how to edit files stored at a remote ftp location and how to use Alpha as a front end for Eudora (a popular email program).

        In this chapter:
                the FTP menu
                remote file sets
                the WWW menu
                the Eudora menu
                reading and sending email from Alpha
                accessing Eudora mailboxes
                using Internet Config with Alpha

Chapter 9, Modes for Programmers

Chapter 9, Modes for Programmers, discusses Alpha's main modes for programming, specifically C, Java, Perl, and Tcl. It shows how to use Alpha as an external editor for CodeWarrior, MPW, and Think.

        In this chapter:
                available language modes
                common language mode features
                using Alpha as an external editor for compiling programs
                C and C++ modes
                Java mode
                Perl Mode
                Tcl Mode

Part III: Extending Alpha

Scripting Alpha packages is a large enough subject for a book of its own. This part is not written for the hard core programmer, but is intended to assist the intelligent general user in adding custom features to Alpha.

Chapter 10, Scripting with Tcl

Chapter 10, Scripting with Tcl, introduces Tool Command Language, shows how to use Alpha's built-in Tcl Shell, explains the distinction between modes and additions, such as menus, extension, and features, and covers Alpha specific Tcl procedures. It also covers installing new modes, Alpha's developer utilities, and basic debugging techniques.

        In this chapter:
                introduction to Tcl; basic Tcl entities; defining procedures
                Tcl primitive functions; control structures
                useful built-in AlphaTcl commands
                the Tcl shell
                packages: modes defined
                additions: menus, extensions, and features
                install new modes; the Install Menu
                developer utilities

Chapter 11, Creating Custom Additions

Chapter 11, Creating Custom Additions, shows exactly how to add menus, extensions and features to Alpha. It also shows how to define preferences for your custom additions. This chapter serves as basic tutorial for non-programmers, providing step by step instructions for scripting additions (including code examples, specifically adding a "User Menu" and adding an "Text Insert" submenu to the global "Utils" menu).

        In this chapter:
                adding global menus; the User Menu example
                adding submenus; the Text Insert example
                defining key bindings and using key binding utilities
                adding preferences; Text Insert continued
                adding Finder operations; new folder example

Chapter 12, Creating New Modes

Chapter 12, Creating New Modes, describes how to create a new mode for Alpha. You see how to script a mode by following a tutorial that adds a new user defined text markup mode. It also shows how Alpha communicates with other applications through AppleEvents and AEGizmos.

        In this chapter:
                anatomy of a mode
                scripting a new mode; the Personal Markup Language (PML)
                automatic keyword highlighting
                using AppleEvents and AEGizmos
                customizing existing modes
                sharing your new mode
                reinstalling custom packages after upgrading Alpha

Part IV: Reference

Chapter 13, Alpha Commands

Chapter 13, Alpha Commands, provides descriptions for all Tcl procedures which are Alpha specific.

Chapter 14, Alpha Variables

Chapter 14, Alpha Variables, lists important variables.

Chapter 15, Key Bindings

Chapter 15, Key Bindings, lists key bindings for the major Alpha modes: TeX and HTML.

        Emacs bindings

Part V: Appendices

Appendix A, How to Get Alpha

Appendix A, How to Get Alpha, tells where to download Alpha, discusses the different versions of Alpha, lists all known packages available for Alpha, and where to get them. Also provides information on how to register Alpha.

Appendix B, Alpha User Support

Appendix B, Alpha User Support, covers getting help, subscribing to the various Alpha mailing lists, and reporting bugs using Alpha-Bugzilla.

Appendix C, Preview of Alpha 8

Appendix C, Preview of Alpha 8, describes the next major release of Alpha that is currently under development.

Glossary, a listing of terms used in this book together with their definitions.

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Page last modified on January 23, 2006, at 10:38 PM