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Manual: Usage-Topics

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While much of a RidgeStar Interactive Site is about dynamic database driven information (e.g. Assignments, etc.), there are a variety of relatively static bits of information that need posting on the site. To satisfy this requirement, there are three basic strategies:

  1. Static Pages (RidgeStar manually maintains these for you)
  2. Uploaded files (typically PDF files). These can be uploaded (Feature=FileSupport) and then referenced elsewhere in a variety of ways
  3. HTML page contents (via the Topics mechanism)

The Topics mechanism is intended to permit Administrators to publish information in an HTML based format within the look and feel of the Site without requiring a direct knowledge of HTML itself (HTML familiarity is helpful, but not required). Upon Display, the Topics mechanism "converts" the specified content into the appropriate HTML language (for Version 4 and up sites, this is XHTML 1.1)

Create a new Topic

To create a new Topic, you can follow these steps:

Click to Administrator: Manage-Topics and click the AddAdd symbol
This causes the Site to allocate a new Topic in the Topics table that will contain general information about the Topic. The site should respond with a new Topics form.
Assign the desired Topic, SubTopic, Title and associated Segments
Common Topic values are FAQ, Help, Policies, etc. (but it can be almost anything). SubTopics are typically groupings within the Topic, such as Assignments, Introduction, etc.). A single Topic can be available in as many Segments as desired (just remember to check on the appropriate checkboxes).
Click Update
This commits the information you have entered to the Topics database table

Create Text Elements

Once you have defined the basic Topic, you associate one or more Text elements with the Topic that (when displayed) will present the desired content. Think of each Text element as representing a single portion of the Topic (e.g. a Paragraph, a Heading, etc.). When the Topic gets displayed, the Display processor will order the Text elements in the specified Sequence (associated with each Text element) so that you can rearrange the Topic content or insert new content at a later date.

Mechanically, from the primary Topics panel:

Click on the Key 1 in the "Related Text" portion of the Topics page
This will present you with the individual Text form
Select the Type of Text element you would like to associate with the Topic
Make sure you set the Sequence such that the Text elements are arranged, as desired, in an ascending sequence.
Set the Text element Type
Each Type utilizes the Title and Text boxes slightly differently, as follows:
  1. Paragraph uses only the Text box
  2. Heading[n] uses the Title box for the heading and the Text box for a following optional Paragraph
  3. URL accepts a Web Address for a Hyperlinked More More that will appear at the end of the Text element
  4. Image permits the inclusion of a graphic in the resulting page (which can be aligned as specified)
  5. Anchor tags permit you specify up to 4 web destinations that can be inserted via Text Format characters
Click Update or Copy
If you're editing an existing Text element that you'd like to change, click Update. If you're attempting to add a new Text element to the Topic, set the desired Sequence number and click Copy. Remember, the most successful Topics are made up of individual Text elements and not just one big Text element.
Obviously, if you would like to add more Text elements, the easiest way to go is to continue to enter the data into the Text form and click Copy. You can do this successively to build up a series of Paragraphs, etc. When you'd like to return to the Topics summary listing, you'll find a hyperlinked word at the top of the page for the Topic itself. Clicking that will return your Browser to the Topics level of editing.

The creation of more complex Topics is simply the process of adding additional Text elements to the Topic in the appropriate sequence.

Text Formatting

The Topics mechanism supports the Text FormatText Format character sequences, which can be embedded in the Title and Text boxes to achieve the desired effect(s) (e.g. Bold, a particular Color, etc.). You CAN also use this to display certain key system information associated with the User viewing the Topic (e.g. his/her First Name, etc.).

Of particular importance is the embedding of Anchor tags to relate the Anchor[n] URLs in the Text entry with the desired phrase(s). For instance, the character sequence of "[a1]Other~Page" will cause a hyperlink to be built for "Other Page" with a reference to the URL you entered in the Anchor1 field of the Text element. Utilizing this mechanism, you can create hyperlinks from one Topic to another or even external to the Topics mechanism altogether (ultimately, any web address can be put into the Anchor fields and, in turn, embedded in the Topic).

Test the Formatting of the Topic

When you believe you have arranged the Topic and Text elements you want to convey to the User, you can review what it will generally appear like by clicking on the Preview symbolpreview you'll see at the top of the individual input Forms. Of course, you can also open another Browser Tab or Window and flip from one to the other (one for editing, one for review), but that's completely up to you.

Things to consider

While there are many possible variations, the key thing to consider is how you will reference the Topic within the Site. Topics can be listed as a group, available in the Table of Contents, directly referenced in other hyperlinks, or any combination of these things.

It is quite common for collections of Topics to be grouped under specific Segments as FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) or Help. It can also be used to publish individual Chapter Policies, complex Agreements, let your imagination go.... But, make sure you indicate which Segments should have the Topic listed so that your end users can easily locate the appropriate information.
Sites with Feature=Tag activated, can also reference a Topic through the assigned Tag value. E.G. Most SelfAssign Topics have multiple Text elements and, in some situations, can be quite complex. If the SelfAssign Topic has Tag=SelfAssign associated with it, the Topic can be displayed with the URL of "display?tag=SelfAssign". This CAN be used in other URL sequences throughout the Site (internal or external to the Topics mechanism). Inclusion in an Email message would be coded as http://www.RidgeStar.com//display?tag=SelfAssign

However, the key to all this is to simply keep HTML based information organized well (meaning, set the Topic and SubTopic values carefully in the individual Topics). The actual effectiveness of the Topics mechanism is very much controlled by your organization of the Topics as a whole and the individual Text elements within each Topic.

Good luck with your efforts, but don't hesitate to experiment and find what works best for your requirements and situation.