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Adding style (CSS and simple JavaScript) to your pages

Adding style using CSS and JavaScript seems easy: just link the required style-sheet and javascript source from the page-head and add the appropriate attributes (class, id, onXXX) to your HTML elements. Even better, this works! So, what is wrong with it?

Well, it breaks the reusability. Why? Think of our \predicates_ul(Preds) that created an 1980-ugly unnumbered list of predicates. If we add style to the elements themselves, we end-up with ugly HTML that cannot be reused with different skins while CSS programming now needs do be done in Prolog. This harms hiring a CSS-wizard to do the nice styling in a CSS file that we, programmers, cannot do. If we put the style in a file however, we cannot just use \predicates_ul(Preds) anywhere in our code, but we also have to adjust the page header. I.e., whenever we create a page-header, we must be aware of all components we include and what style we need for them. Same story for JavaScript that can be needed by the component. This page discusses a web-application with CSS-styling.

The demo: A Simple Linked Open Data browser

NOTE: Sindice currently (Jan 17, 2013) serves RDF/XML using the invalid Content-Type: text/xml. This patch provides a work around for this issue. It will appear in SWI-Prolog 6.2.7/6.3.9.

Now that we covered the basics, it is time for a bit more sexy demo: a browser for Linked Open Data. Our program consists of four files. The file lod_crawler.pl is the main topic of this page.

  • lod_crawler.pl is the web-server implementing the crawler
  • sindice.css is the CSS style-sheet for the Sindice search-form
  • ptable.css is the CSS style-sheet for an RDF property-table
  • lod.pl is Prolog code to get data from the web-of-data.

First, our familiar declarations. The first block gets the HTML and HTTP infrastructure that we need. The library(http/html_head) is new and deals with dependencies. The second block gets the RDF and Linked Open Data (LOD) infrastructure and the third block defines the HTTP locations that we serve. We define a welcome page (/), a page to handle search requests (/search?q=Query), a page to display a result (/resource?r=URI) and because we are going to deal with a style-sheet, we define a new alias css (last block) and use it to define the HTTP location of our style-sheets. The handlers for the style-sheets use the library-predicate http_reply_file/3 to serve a static file.

:- use_module(library(http/thread_httpd)).
:- use_module(library(http/http_dispatch)).
:- use_module(library(http/html_write)).
:- use_module(library(http/http_parameters)).
:- use_module(library(http/html_head)).		% new

:- use_module(library(semweb/rdf_db)).
:- use_module(lod).

:- http_handler(root(.),	home,	  []).
:- http_handler(root(search),	search,	  []).
:- http_handler(root(resource),	resource, []).
:- http_handler(css('ptable.css'),  http_reply_file('ptable.css', []), []).
:- http_handler(css('sindice.css'), http_reply_file('sindice.css', []), []).

http:location(css, root(css), []).

Next step, we provide the main page of the server. This should all be familiar by now. Using class(Class), we just add an HTML class-attribute for the CSS-file. The DCG-rule search_form//0 contains a new element: \html_requires(css('sindice.css')), tells the HTML infrastructure that the page needs the HTML resource css('sindice.css').

server(Port) :-
        http_server(http_dispatch, [port(Port)]).

%%	home(+Request)
%	Provides the initial page of the LOD-crawler with a form
%	to search on http://sindice.com

home(_Request) :-
        reply_html_page(title('LOD Crawler'),
                        [ h1(class(title), 'LOD Crawler'),
                            [ 'Welcome to the SWI-Prolog Linked Open Data ',
                              'crawler.  To start your experience, enter a ',
                              'search term such as "Amsterdam".'

search_form -->
        { http_link_to_id(search, [], Ref) },
        html([ \html_requires(css('sindice.css')),	% new
               form([id(search), action(Ref)],
                    [ input(name(q)),
                      input([type(submit), value('Search')])

We skip most of the rest of the code, except for two fragments. The rule property_table//1 below shows another use of html_requires//1. Both search_form//1 and property_table//1 depend on CSS styling and both ensure they get the needed style-sheet without any modifications to the head in reply_html_page/2.

property_table(Grouped) -->
        html([ \html_requires(css('ptable.css')),	% new
                     [ \ptable_header
                     | \ptable_rows(Grouped)

The final fragment illustrates that reply_html_page/2 can be hooked to define the overall structure of all pages generated by this predicate. in this example, the hook adds a div holding the search-form at the top of the page, unless the page itself already contains such a form.

%%	body(+Content)//
%	Define overall style. This hook into reply_html_page/2 is called
%	to translate the 2nd argument. It is searched for in the current
%	module as well as the user-module.
%	Redefining head//1 or body//1 is a   way to redefine the overall
%	page-style of all pages served.

body(Content) -->			% contents already provides a form
        { sub_term(\search_form, Content)
        }, !,
body(Content) -->			% add header with search-form
        html([ div(class(top), \search_form)
             | Content
See also
- Sources: lod_crawler.pl lod.pl sindice.css ptable.css