Your time and trouble in going through the issues are much appreciated, and
I'm starting to warm to the idea of FastTemplate.  It seems DYNAMIC BLOCK is the answer
to the itty bitty little html file problem, but I'm still not entirely happy..

a) Nested Loops
I notice the warnings about unpredictable results with nested DYNAMIC BLOCKs.  
Does that mean I can't have two levels of detail e.g. a list 
of invoices and their detail lines (if any) on the same page?

b) Extra Luggage
I have a strong preference for using as few tools as possible.  This is why
I like php so much and why I don't like Perl.  With php 99% of the functionality
is built-in to the the core and you don't have to worry about picking up
extra utilities.  I can't see the case for FastTemplate is overwhelming, given
that php is ALREADY a templating language. Apart from an extra level of 
indirection that allows for cleaner tags in the html, I can't see that it adds
that much. On the other hand it's clearly less powerful than "raw" php.

c) Implications of php4 output buffering control
I wonder if the new facilities for processing output buffers in php4 have
an impact on the best approach for templating.  Now that you have full control
over the php output buffer, doesn't that reduce the importance of templating
systems such as FastTemplate whichpre-process output before it gets to
php's output buffer? I have the feeling that if you were/are designing
a templating system from scratch for php4, you could get a lot more functionality
for less work now e.g. it would be easy to allow full embedding of php, by just 
carrying out the template parse after the first round of php processing rather
than before.

d) Dreaweaver library files/php includes
Having tried the .lbi/php include trick i.e. use Dreamweaver library files
as server includes, it does work, but not brilliantly.  Funnily enough, my
main problem was that Dreamweaver insists on library items consisting of
complete "blocks" so my header and footer each had to split in two to 
draw out the side columns from the top and bottom sections.  

e) Making variable place holders more useful to designers
The other unpleasantness I found with Dreamweaver is that "php" tags don't look 
so nice as variable names as the variable place holders.  However I think I 
may have an even more attractive alternative than a cute variable name...
{STATE}         is informative when viewing via Dreamweaver/browser
<?= $state;>    just turns into a "PHP" placeholder
<?php //?>Washington<?php; print $state;?> appears as "Washington" in 

This becomes even more attractive for text blocks e.g.
<?php /*?>
Washington is an absolutely great state
that we should all visit at least 5 times per year.
<?php*/; print $state_description;?>

The idea is that instead of a variable name the designer gets a practical
example of how the data may actually look, that simply disappears once it's
evaluated by php.

FINALLY, I really do agree with you that it would be nice to let Dreamweaver
do all the work on library items, but I don't want to get locked into always
depending on Dreamweaver to maintain the templates and their includes.  It's
much nicer in an emergency if I can just change the one include via any text
editing tool and know the site will still work properly.

Once again, thanks for some very interesting comments and advice,


Robert V. Zwink wrote:
> George,
> You do not need to have multiple tiny template files.  We create a website
> in Dreamweaver using builtin "library items".  This website has many pages,
> sharing the same header and footer library item.  Within the html page we
> use only two template constructs:
> and:
> <!-- BEGIN DYNAMIC BLOCK: block_name -->
> <!-- END DYNAMIC BLOCK: block_name -->
> that's it.  Nothing more.  Our naming convention consists of "filename.html"
> contains formatting and {VARIABLES}, "filename.phtml" contains template code
> to suck-in the template, replace the {VARIABLES} with information, and spit
> it back out.
> If we need to update all the headers or footers, we update the header or
> footer "library item" in Dreamweaver, and all the corresponding pages are
> updated.  The header and footer file may be single files somewhere, but
> regardless dreamweaver updates every file that needs to be updated and the
> site reflects the changes.
> We have worked on a broad range of sites, and I have worked on quite a few
> independently without dreamweaver, and this seems like the most efficient
> setup for designers that are familiar using Dreamweaver.  I personally don't
> care for Dreamweaver, but if I am designing a site on my own, I still use
> FastTemplate.  The only difference is that using FastTemplate without
> Dreamweaver benefits from a separate header and footer HTML file.
> This scenario probably is better demonstrated than explained.  Regardless it
> works well for us, and has proven advantageous.
> Here is an example of a template:
> Here is an example of the parsed output, notice the file names?
> View the source and you will see where Dreamweaver keeps notes of where
> library items should go.
> >>The
> >>problem seems to be to make sure they don't show up in the saved
> >>Dreamweaver html file as well as it's saved library item.
> The "problem" you describe is really a feature, if used properly this
> feature can pretty handy.  I don't believe that Dreamweaver's "Library
> items" are meant to be directly included into php pages.  You are supposed
> to allow Dreamweaver to update all the pages affected by the library item
> after you make a change to the library item.  Its one of the reasons to use
> Dreamweaver.  Its seems possible to write a regex to remove the library item
> and replace with a php include(), but this is really what FastTemplate was
> made to do in the first place, so you've reinvented the wheel.
> Also another reason to consider Template (IMHO) are the programmers who
> support them, Sascha Schumann wrote the article I referred you to, Andrei
> Zmievski wrote Smarty (another templating system for php).  phplib contains
> a templating system, and I'm sure there are countless others.  Templates
> seem to be adopted by experieced programmers more often than not.  I haven't
> even mentioned the advantages of CachedFastTemplate which is reason alone to
> use templates.
> If you decide to try it out, I'm happy to relay my experiences.
> Robert V. Zwink
> -----Original Message-----
> From: George Whiffen [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]]
> Sent: Wednesday, September 05, 2001 2:34 PM
> To: [EMAIL PROTECTED]; Robert V. Zwink
> Subject: Re: [PHP] php includes === Dreamweaver library items
> Robert,
> Thanks for the suggestions, but...
> a) I do want to do this and I do think I can.
> The big problem is not the templating, php is pretty damn good at that
> already.
> It's handling the header/footer html which appears on every page.
> On the one hand we only want one master copy so there's only one
> thing to fix if it's wrong, on the other hand we want the designer's
> tools (Dreamweaver in this case), to show the page they're designing
> with those headers/footers included while they work locally on their server.
> I still think this can be done with Dreamweaver's library items.  They seem
> to be
> held as separate files with little snippets of html, just as we'd
> hold them on the server, so with a little discipline or fancy ftp
> synchronisation we can make sure they are up to date.  The problem seems
> to be to make sure they don't show up in the saved Dreamweaver html file as
> well
> as it's saved library item.
> b) I looked at FastTemplate and I'm pretty sure I don't want
> to use it.
> The main difference from a pure php approache seems to be that instead
> of embedding real live php in the template (and then hiding it
> from the designers), instead you embed your own invented tags that
> you then separately translate into the results of some php via tpl
> methods.
> The disadvantage is that you seem to have to create lots
> of itty bitty little .tpl files for every part of the page which
> is either repeated or conditional and bunches of other structure
> which doesn't do anything to help productivity or maintainability.
> I would much rather include the looping/conditional php in the template
> itself,
> safely tucked away in a php tag e.g. (using the FastTemplate example)
> ************ mytemplate.html ************
> <HTML>
> <BODY>
> <?php
> // Start looping through files
>    while($filename = readdir($handle))
>    {
>        $filesize = filesize($filename);
> ?>
> <TR>
>  <TD><?= $filename?></TD>
>  <TD><?= $filesize?></TD>
> </TR>
> <?php
> // End of loop through files
>    }
> ?>
> </TABLE>
> </BODY>
> </HEAD>
> etc.
> ************ myphpprogram ****************
> Then the master php just has :
> //standard stuff....
> $handle = opendir(...);
> //error checking
> include(mytemplate.html)
> close($handle);
> The template can then include any number of loops and conditionals all in
> the
> same full previewable/editable html page. It's not going to be a perfect
> copy of the final page i.e. each repeating section only appears once and
> conditionals always appear, but that's impossible anyway until you actually
> execute the page on the server.
> But compared to the FastTemplate approach this is less code, less files,
> less things to go wrong, same amount of coordination with the designers,
> more educative for the designers (some might even get curious and look at
> the php!), and it does mean the designers get a whole page to work
> on/preview.
> I guess FastTemplate may improve reusability of the html formats
> by splitting the html into separate chunks.  That might matter for system
> admin/software engineering type applications where you might list the same
> kind of data in the same format more than once.  But in my world of database
> applications that almost never happens!  You just don't show the same data
> in the same format in more than one place or on more than one page.  If you
> do, it's usually an indicator that you've failed to structure your web pages
> properly i.e. you should be reusing the page, not just bits of it.
> Robert V. Zwink wrote:
> >
> > I dont' think you can do this, or that you would want to do this.  Library
> > items in Dreamweaver (as I understand it) are snippets of HTML that
> > Dreamweaver marks as updatable accross the entire site.  They are not
> > "included" into the HTML, dreamweaver keeps track of where they need to
> go,
> > then updates the entire HTML page.  The html page does not "include" the
> > library item, Dreamweaver handles updating the pages the library item
> > applies.
> >
> > If you want to make your life easier familiarize the php developer(s) with
> > FastTemplate.  Check out:
> >
> > for more information.
> >
> > I hope this helps.
> >
> > Robert Zwink
> >
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: George Whiffen [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]]
> > Sent: Wednesday, September 05, 2001 10:40 AM
> > Subject: [PHP] php includes === Dreamweaver library items
> >
> > Hi,
> >
> > Has anyone experience of using Dreamweaver library item files (.lbi)s as
> > php includes?
> >
> > We've got a standard header and footer to go across all pages on a site
> with
> > the navigation etc.  We want both the designers, (using Dreamweaver), and
> > the
> > php programmers to have access to these includes, so that the Dreamweavers
> > can
> > view the pages automatically with the headers/footers shown, and the
> > programmers
> > can still maintain the pages and includes without Dreamweaver.
> >
> > I don't fully understand how Dreamweaver library files work, so I guess my
> > questions are :
> >
> > a) Can you use a url for a Dreamweaver libary file rather than using a
> local
> > file
> > so we can all share a single master copy?
> >
> > b) Can we tell Dreamweaver to include the libary file's html when
> previewing
> > but
> > exclude it when saving, so we don't end up with the library code twice,
> once
> > embedded by
> > Dreamweaver on the save and once included by php at execution?  (I insist
> on
> > the live page
> > using the master version as I'm not prepared to trust the Dreamweavers to
> > rebuild the
> > pages when the library files change!)
> >
> > I guess I've got workarounds if the answers to these prove negative.
> >
> > For a) I can bully the Dreamweavers into keeping the master/local copies
> in
> > step,
> > and for b) I guess I can get the php to strip out the Dreamweaver copy of
> > the
> > library code at execution with a little bit of spoofing of Dreamweaver
> about
> > where
> > php starts and ends i.e. something like....
> >
> > <?php turn_into_an_include(<<<ENDLIBRARY
> > ?>
> >
> >    dreamweaver library item tags and text
> >
> > <!--
> > );
> > //--><?php
> > ?>
> >
> > where turn_into_an_include is a function which just finds the library file
> > name
> > in the passed string of library code and includes it from the appropriate
> > server
> > directory.
> >
> > Of course, this is a bit clumsy, any better suggestions?
> >
> > Many thanks,
> >
> > George
> >
> > ?>
> >
> > c) In the worst case I guess, we can live with local and master copies of
> > library
> > files and remind the Dreamweavers to always update the master when they
> make
> > changes get the php
> > code
> > to strip out the embedded library file html at execution time and replace
> it
> > with
> > an appropriate include statement of the server copy.  I've got an idea how
> > to do this by as anyone else tried this?
> >
> > --
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