Ben Langhinrichs

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Genii Weblog

Rich Text Comparisons (aka red-line comparison)

Mon 22 Aug 2005, 03:12 PM

by Ben Langhinrichs
The hardest thing about selling a product is often communicating its purpose to people before they know they need that purpose.  If you do it successfully, they flock to buy the product when the need for that purpose arises.  If you don't do it as successfully, you are lucky to have them happen upon your site by accident, which is a much more iffy proposition.  For example, yesterday, I received an e-mail from a potential customer:
We're looking for a way to compare 2 fields (plain or rich text) and somehow highlight the differences (by changing the font, fontstyle, using a highlighter, etc.), as opposed to just saying they're not the same.  I saw on your website that you have something called "contextual hypermatching" and wondered if that might do it, or if the Midas Rich Text LSX provided that type of functionality in some other way.  Do you have any ideas?
The good news is, this customer had the basic assumption that our product might be able to solve a problem with rich text - a darn good assumption, if I may say so myself.  The bad news is, the customer had no idea that we specifically addressed that particular functionality.  We have obviously NOT communicated this feature as well as we have communicated HTML generation or MIME e-mail generation or dynamic table generation.  People come to us for those purposes, but tend to stumble on us for rich text comparison.

I don't have any great answer as to how to change this (or I would have implemented it long ago, but I will point to a couple of blog entries that clearly describe this functionality, in case you are a reader who is scratching your head in puzzlement right now:

The rich text has changed, but how? - best place to see exactly how this works from the outside, from how it looks
Top 10 Ways to use Midas - #10 - good place to see what the code looks like

In addition, these are links to the on-line demo and the downloadable sample for Review It!, which demonstrates the feature:

Review It! on-line - This is an on-line demo which gives a simplified version of a rich text comparison
Review It! sample db - This is a downloadable sample with which you can try the feature out for yourself

Copyright © 2005 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:

363.1. Stan Rogers
(08/22/2005 01:06 PM)

If the people asking were aware of the term "redlining", they would have found postings mentioning Midas in the LDD forums (both R4&R5 and ND6). I think a part of the problem with something like this is that the people know what they want, but they don't know what to call it.

363.2. Tony Campbell-Cooke
(22/08/2005 15:37)


doing a search on 'lotus notes rich text compare' comes up with your web page:

at the top of the list. But if you browse through there, there's no mention of rich text comparison. Maybe you need to expand more on product features!


363.3. Richard Schwartz
(08/23/2005 09:12 AM)

I think the term "redline" is mostly specific to the legal industry, and has been somewhat spread beyond there by word processing vendors, but I don't think that it's the first term that most people would search for. Merriam-Webster doesn't even list it on -- not in the sense of document mark-up, that is. I would also suggest doing searches on "lotus rich text delta", "lotus rich text diff", "lotus rich text comparison", "lotus document compare", "lotus document delta", "lotus document diff" and "lotus document comparison", and doing what you can to move Genii up in the various results.

Also, I note that there are some sponsored links for some of these terms (and more if you add "notes" to the search). Don't know if that would be something you would consider.


363.4. Stan Rogers
(08/23/2005 10:55 AM)

I first ran across the term in the aviation industry in tech manuals (both civilian and military), and I know that it is also used formally as an editing term in the publishing industry from my brief, pre-desktop foray into book publishing (with actual cutting and pasting with honest-to-goodness blades and adhesive wax). But it IS a technical term (as is "delta", no matter how comfortable math geeks may be with it). Perhaps polling a few know-nothings to see how they would ask the question might help. Ordinary folks who are likely to know no jargon or who are likely to "Norm Crosby" the few words they have picked up.

363.5. Richard Schwartz
(08/23/2005 03:56 PM)

@Stan: True, "delta" is technical. So is "diff". But it seems to me that Ben should cover the bases. Terms like "compare" and "comparison" and "redline" in combination with Notes will catch the end users, but they're either only going to want something that's a pre-built utility (i.e., not Midas), or they're going to be in a position where they can turn the question over to their technical staff. To catch the searches from the technical staff, I'd be sure to generate hits on "delta" and "diff", too.

363.6. Richard Schwartz
(08/26/2005 08:48 AM)

And by the magic of Google, this post is now in the top 10 results for all of the terms I suggested, and the #1 or #2 result for several of them. :-) Whether it will do you any good or not, I have no idea.

It also occurs to me that some people might also search on strings like "lotus notesrichtextitem" or "lotus rtf" along with compare, comparison, diff, delta, differences, and of course redline. Genii Software is clearly the right place for anyone searching for those terms, too.

363.7. Richard Schwartz
(08/26/2005 08:50 AM)

@Ben: I think there's a missing "]" somewhere in the linking example below. I followed it, and the link wasn't converted, and now that I look closely I see that the brackets are unbalanced. I'm guessing that there's supposed to be a second "]" after "href".