Ten Minute Tour

Learn by Example

This page was written in a Mallard extension format called Mallard Sites. Read the source markup for this page to learn Mallard from real-world examples.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to create a simple multiple-page Mallard document by creating a document for the fictitious Beanstalk application. This tutorial assumes you have a basic familiarity with XML or with a similar markup language like HTML.

A Mallard document is composed of multiple independent pages. Each page is kept in a separate XML file, and a processing tool aggregates them together, automatically creating links and navigational aids. There are two primary types of pages: topic pages and guide pages. Topic pages present some piece of information to the reader. This might be a tutorial, a conceptual overview, reference material, or any other type of content. Guide pages serve as the navigational glue between topics, helping readers find and explore content.

First Page

Begin making a Mallard document by writing the front page in any text editor. Generally, the front page of any document will be a guide page, as its purpose is to help users navigate to other content. In Mallard, the front page of any document is always named index.page.

index.page

<page xmlns="http://projectmallard.org/1.0/"
      type="guide"
      id="index">
<title>Beanstalk Help</title>
</page>

This simple example is a valid Mallard guide page. Taken alone, it is also a valid Mallard document.

The entire contents of the page are between the opening <page> and closing </page> tags. As with all XML formats, every element must either have opening and closing tags or use the special empty tag syntax. We'll see the empty tag below with link elements.

There are three attributes on the page element. The xmlns attribute specifies that the XML tags in this file are from the Mallard 1.0 namespace. This must be set on all Mallard pages. The id attribute provides a unique identifier that other pages can use to link to this page. You should match the id attribute to the name of the file without the .page extension.

Finally, the type attribute specifies that this is a guide page. Guide pages get special treatment in Mallard documents. They're displayed with additional links to topic pages and other guide pages, based on metadata that is provided on this page or on other pages. The linking structure for guide pages is unique to Mallard, and we will explore it further below.

View Your Document

You now have a simple document, but you can only view the raw markup in a text editor. To view formatted output, you need to process your document with a Mallard processing tool.

Mallard is just the markup language and a specification of how documents should be processed. Anybody can write tools to display a Mallard document or convert it into another format.

For the purpose of this tutorial, we'll assume you have the Gnome help viewer Yelp installed. You can view this document by calling yelp from the command line and passing it the full path to the directory containing the page files. For example, if you have placed index.page in /home/drake/mydocument/, enter this at the command line:

yelp /home/drake/mydocument/

Another Page

Unless you're creating a simple set of instructions for a friend or colleague, you probably want to have multiple pages in your document. Add another page to the document by creating a new page file:

planting.page

<page xmlns="http://projectmallard.org/1.0/"
      type="topic"
      id="planting">
<title>Planting Beans</title>
</page>

Notice that the type attribute is "guide" in index.page and "topic" in planting.page. Since index.page is a guide page, it can have links inserted automatically to other pages. In Mallard, guides don't have to specify which pages they link to. Instead, pages can specify that guides should link to them. Do this by adding a link element to planting.page:

planting.page

<page xmlns="http://projectmallard.org/1.0/"
      type="topic"
      id="planting">
<info>
  <link type="guide" xref="index"/>
</info>
<title>Planting Beans</title>
</page>

The link element specifies that this page should be linked to from the guide page index, which we created above. This element has no content, so we use the XML empty element syntax, ending the tag with />. The link element is inside a info element. The info element contains various information about a page, including links to other pages.

If you view your document again in Yelp, you'll see that the front page now has a link to this page. This is one of the unique features of Mallard. Rather than requiring pages to specify everything they link to, Mallard allows pages to insert themselves into other guide pages. This makes it possible to add pages for plugins and additional functionality without modifying the original source pages.

Another Guide

You can add additional guide pages to your document. This allows you to organize content to match what your readers are looking for. Add a guide page to link to ways you can use magic beans.

uses.page

<page xmlns="http://projectmallard.org/1.0/"
      type="guide"
      id="uses">
<info>
  <link type="guide" xref="index"/>
  <link type="topic" xref="planting"/>
</info>
<title>Bean Uses</title>
</page>

Like planting.page, this page has a guide link to index. If you view your document in Yelp again, you'll see that the front page now has two links.

This page adds a new type of link in the info element. Topic links are the inverse of guide links. When a guide page has a topic link to another page, it's as if the other page had a guide link to the guide page. Despite the name, topic links can link to topic pages or guide pages.

If you view “Planting Beans” in Yelp, you'll see it has links at the top and bottom to both “Beanstalk Help” and “Bean Uses”. Adding a page to a guide is like adding it to a section in a traditional linear document, except that pages can be linked to from multiple guides. This allows you to provide multiple ways to navigate to a page to better match how your readers are thinking.

Add Content

Currently, there's no real content in planting.page. Add content to explain to the user how to plant magic beans. The following example shows a basic paragraph and a step list.

planting.page

<page xmlns="http://projectmallard.org/1.0/"
      type="topic"
      id="planting">
<info>
  <link type="guide" xref="index"/>
</info>
<title>Planting Beans</title>
<p>By the end of this page, you will be able to plant your magic
beans and nurture them into a bean sprout.</p>
<steps>
  <item><p>Dig a hole 5cm deep.</p></item>
  <item><p>Place your magic beans in the hole.</p></item>
  <item><p>Fill the hole with clean dirt and pat it level.</p></item>
  <item><p>Water daily.</p></item>
</steps>
</page>

The p element is similar to HTML. It creates a simple paragraph. The steps element creates a list of steps to follow. Each item element is one step in the list, and must contain one or more paragraphs or other block content.

Read More and Explore

Using the information in this tutorial, you can create a simple Mallard document with any number of pages. Mallard offers more features that allow you to create richer documents with more useful links. Try adding more content and additional pages to your document.

To learn more, read more of the Mallard tutorials. Or read the Mallard language specification to see a complete list of what Mallard offers.