Create an E-newsletter From Source Documents

Create an E-newsletter From Source Documents

This article describes the procedure to take the two source documents for the FHA newsletter, which are in a dialect of Microsoft Word and Portable Document Format (PDF) formats, and create the emailed “e-Newsletter”. All of the procedures described below assume you are logged into the back end as a Manager, Administrator, or Super-Admin.

Preserve the Source Documents

When you receive the source .doc and .pdf files from one of the Editors, upload it to the website into the directory /images/newsletter/. These documents are named 

nl_mar12ORIGINAL.doc for the .doc file, and
nl_mar12ORIGINAL.pdf for the .pdf file.

(Of course replace “mar12” by the applicable month and year.)

This is a permanent repository for back-issues. The editors never thought a back-issue repository was important, but I disagree.

Also make a local copy of the Word document so you can cut-and-paste from it later. 

The Word copy of the newsletter is dodgy. It may originate in a word processor other than Word, so quirks will be apparent when the file is opened in Word. Among the quirks are graphics that are pinned to a page location and text boxes that don’t flow across columns or pages, and thus do not display properly on your word processor.

Editing (or the lack thereof) quirks include article titles that are in different case styles (all upper, title case, or no convention),  and variable treatment of links. Title inconsistencies are handled automatically by CSS, which converts all <h3> markup to all uppercase. The links need to be addressed manually.

The first thing to do is to transfer each article from the original .doc file into Joomla. You will notice that there are about six sub-categories under the Newsletter category four of them correspond to the major categories of newsletter articles which, at this writing, are “Front Page”, “Around the Village”, Fearrington Cares”, and “Outside Fearrington”. It is helpful if, after logging into the back-end (Administrator) section of the website, you click Content, then Articles to display all Joomla articles, then from the Categories drop-down list, select the Newsletter subcategories one by one as you are copying content from the Word document to Joomla articles. For this procedure, don’t worry about the printed newsletters’ “sub-sub-categories” like  “The Arts”, ‘Reading”, etc.

You will be copying all articles from “Inside Fearrington”, “Outside Fearrington” and “Fearrington Cares” into the Joomla document category “News/Events” for the Website Editor to put in order on the site. Open the the Article Manager display and select the “News/Events” category. Once you see all the articles in the “News/Events” category, click the column heading “ID” on the far right side to sort the articles by ID number. Then click “ID” again to see in reverse order of ID. This will show all the articles with the most recent “News/Events” article to the oldest, for every newsletter we’ve put into the system.

Make a note of the “id” number of the top-most (most recent after you’ve sorted the list) article. You will use this “id” number later.

Note that the “alias” for each article, which is shown below the article title, is a lower-case rendition of the title, prefixed by “yyyy-mmm-“, the four-digit year and three-character month in which the article appeared. This prefix is needed because Joomla will not allow storing an article with the same alias within a category. It is also handy if you ever need to retrieve an article, knowing about when it was published. You are now ready to begin copying articles from Word into Joomla. Before you start, it is helpful to open the PDF copy of the paper newsletter in a separate window so you can refer to it while moving text into Joomla.

Copy Articles from Word into Joomla

[Note: This procedure seems to be about as efficient as I could make it – if you find a better one, please edit this as needed. It looks imposing, but when you get into the rhythm of it, you can do most articles in a minute or two.]

  1. Be sure the article you are copying into Joomla has the Category “News/Events”.
  2. Click the icon for New (article) on the article list. The new article page will open with the article list page’s category copied from the Articles List page.
  3. Edit-cut (or Ctrl-X) the entire article including the article title from the Word document and edit-paste (or Ctrl-V) it into the new-article’s “Article Text” box. (Use Cut, not Copy, so as material is moved from the Word document to Joomla, the Word document turns (nearly) empty. This ensures that you copy all the articles, and only copy them once.)
  4. Edit-Cut (Ctrl-X) the article title from the Article Text box, and edit-paste (Ctrl-V) it into the Title box and into the Alias box immediately following. Don’t worry about upper/lower case in either box.
  5. Edit the Alias box to add the “yyyy-mmm-” prefix to the alias. Again, ignore case.
  6. Move to the Article Text box and remove any extra space before the article text and after the last visible character in the article text. (Extra spaces and lines cause formatting anomalies in both the email and the online article.)
  7. If the article contains dates and times of an event, these should be boldfaced. See the paper newsletter’s PDF window to confirm what is bolded there and replicate the formatting in the Joomla article.
  8. Titles of book, other publications, and films should be italicized.
  9. For aesthetics, lists should be recast as bulleted or numbered lists so the first line of each item is outdented from the rest of the list item text.
  10. Spaces placed before each paragraph (indentation) should be removed.
  11. Links to websites and mailto: links should be “live”. That is, clicking them within an email ought to send the user to the link (open in a new window if the link is not a address), or should open the user’s email client if a “mailto” link. Mostly you will need to add these links manually, although when the original document is created with Word, the links are often correct as entered.
  12. Correct any typos that you see. There are usually a few in every newsletter.
  13. Scan the article once more and correct any remaining typographical, layout, or other problems, and correct them if so.
  14. Click the “Save and New” (or “Save and Close”) icon atop the screen, and go to the next article.

Article Notes:

  • Skip the Directory Updates. Online users do not need them, and they are a pain to generate manually. If the need arises, you can always use the Directory Changes link in the top menu’s Admin drop-down to automatically generate the directory changes. At this writing, Mike Cotter uses that page to generate the piece for the newsletter.
  • Skip the Calendar grid. It will not copy-and-paste correctly.
  • Fearrington Cares articles generally need some extra formatting to try and match their original formatting in the paper edition. This includes bolding and/or italicizing subtitles and reformatting their bulleted lists.

When all articles have been copied into Joomla, close the Articles screen and go to the AcyMailing Newsleters screen.

 Create a New Newsletter from the Template – Setup

  1. Open the Acymailing Newsletters page and click New. You should see the death notices template appear in the Article Editor’s Article Text box.
  2. Click the Template button at the top right. Then click the “FHA PDF Newsletter”, and the skeleton cover email will appear in the editor box.
  3. Fill in the Title box with “FHA Newsletter – March 2012” (using the correct month and year).
  4. Edit the skeleton cover email to correct the month and year.
  5. Click Save.
  6. On the right, the “Lists” tab is open. Click the “Yes” button under Recipient for the “FHA e-Newsletter” List Name.
  7. Click the “Attachments” tab.
  8. Use the “Choose file” button to upload the newsletter from your hard drive (not from the website).
  9. In the page’s top icons row, click “Preview/send”.
  10. On the upper left of the resulting “Send/edit” page, under “Send a test to”, be sure the test is send to your email address and click “Send a Test”.
  11. Check to see that the email is as you expect, including the cover material having the correct e-NL date and the PDF attachment is attached has the correct PDF file.
  12. When the email looks OK, on the “Preview/send” page, click “Schedule”, and choose a date and time when the e-NL is to be sent, and this completes preparation of the e-NL.
  13. Re-open the Acymailing Newsletters page and note for later the “id” of the newsletter you just scheduled; that’s the number in the right column.

Upload New PDF File and Change Website Links

 Four small tasks need to be done:

  1. FTP the PDF document into the website directory /images/newsletters with the name “yyyy_mm.pdf” where (yyyy= the year of the newsletter, e.g., 2014, and mm=the month of the newsletter, e.g., 02 for February), e.g., “2014_02.pdf”.
  2. Change the Top Menu’s Newsletter link (under “News”) so it points to the new newsletter.
  3. Edit the file /fhaphp/tryENL.php and change the line beginning “$mailid=” around line 65 so the number to the right of the “=” sign is the id number of the newsletter you noted in step 13 above. Save the file and upload it to the website. This program is activated when someone clicks “Send e-Newsletter” under “News” on the top menu, and this change to the program makes it send the current newsletter when invoked.
  4. Add the new newsletter to the Newsletter Archive linked under “News” on the top menu: Open “Weblinks” under “Components” on the Administrator site. Click on the previous newsletter’s link (identified by a title of Month and Year, and with category “Newsletter Archive (PDF)”. Edit the title to be the current newsletters month and year. Clear the Alias field. Change the link address to point to the yyyy_mm.pdf file you uploaded, and click “Save as New“. DO NOT click “Save” because “Save” will overwrite the previous month’s link with the current month, and in this case you’ll have to recreate both.

Change All Newsletter-Derived Articles’ Titles

Recalling the “id” number of the most recent article in Joomla BEFORE you added any of the current articles, open the following page:

but replace nnnn by the id number of the article that precedes your current newsletter articles.

This page peruses each article with an “id” greater than nnnn and changes its case to Title Case:

“Capitalize all words in titles of publications and documents, except
a, an, the, at, by, for, in, of, on, to, up, and, as, but, it, or, and nor.”

The page also corrects some words that the program’s brute force method would make incorrect, like “AAUW”, “A.M. Book Club”, etc. It prints a list of titles it actually changed. You should peruse these to be sure the titles are still correct, and correct any that are incorrectly capitalized.

Notify the Web Content Editor (Julia Hardy, at this writing) that the newsletter has been copied into Joomla, and you’re done.


If you’ve read this entire article you could easily imagine days of drudgery. Actually, with fairly nimble fingers, and once you get into the rhythm of it, it only amounts to 3-4 hours of drudgery (more articles=more time to complete), 11 times a year, so it’s quite manageable.


Updated 1/10/2014 to reflect that the e-Newsletter is sent as a PDF attachment to a short email body from a new template.