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Friday, March 02, 2007

HTML Diff Report Navigation

The final new feature to make it to the ExamDiff Pro 3.5 beta (we plan to have the full 3.5 release ready within a month) is difference navigation in HTML diff reports. In this blog entry I will describe how this feature works. (You can view a sample diff report here.)

Difference navigation requires Javascript, so first make sure that you have the Use Javascript option checked in View | Options | HTML. Now, go to Files (or Directories) | Report | View HTML Diff Report. (If you wish to save the resulting diff report, use Files (or Directories) | Report | Save HTML Diff Report instead.) A browser window should open, and you should see something like this:

Note that at the bottom right corner, there are four buttons and a diff combobox, that you can use to navigate through the differences: The << button takes you to the first difference, < to the previous difference, > to the next difference, and >> to the last difference. Alternatively, you can jump to any difference by selecting its diff number in the combobox.

Early on in the development of this feature, we used images instead of buttons, images similar to toolbar buttons found in ExamDiff Pro - we felt this gave the diff report a more "authentic" feel. However, one of our guiding principles in making diff reports is that they should be accessible for anyone to use, whether or not they have a copy of ExamDiff Pro. We could find no good solution for where to keep the images: leaving them available as a free download on our website still made sharing diff reports a bit awkward, and using Javascript to embed images directly into the file proved incompatible with many browsers. Finally, we decided to simply use HTML buttons instead of images. We felt that this is the best solution, because this way, HTML diff reports are compatible with all major browsers, and can be shared with anyone, with no additional download required.

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