Surface texts. How and why?

So, Surface Texts now mainly works.

Surface Texts is my (initial) attempt at a foreign language reader. The idea is that you :-

1. Read a text.

2. Click to translate words.

3. Learn the words using flashcards.

4. Export the words if required (into ANKI, quizlet or whatever your favourite flashcard app may be).

Number four isn’t yet complete. I’ll look at this after christmas when I know exactly what I want it to do.

There are other language readers out there. Two which spring to mind are lingq and readlang. I’m sure that there are others.

And now of course, we have Surface Texts, and I’m sure you are wondering why I have added another language reader to the rash of these sites flooding the internet.

Essentially, because I found that the other readers were overcomplicated (most of the time) for my needs. I don’t always want to listen to audio. I don’t always want to import books. I also know that while I create flashcards using these apps, I very rarely review them.

So, what then did I want?

I wanted a reader, primarily for reading web pages, which would enable me to quickly create/discard and learn flashcards. And so, I have written Surface Texts.

It is now usable, and does what I need. Over the coming months, I will add additional features (starting with export) that seem useful to me – having used it for a while. I might even add a related App.

How does it work?

It is a very simple site, making use of javascript, jquery and jquery ui. There is currently no server side coding although some of the enhancements I intend to add will use a bit of php.

localStorage is used extensively to save the imported files and saved flashcards.

How have you written this so fast? Do you have l33t coding skills?

Obviously (smirk) I have l33t coding skills 😉 Actually, you may question this statement if you look at the code – which you can do as it is all un-obfuscated javascript. But more importantly I made some design decisions meaning it was straight-forward to write.

1. I decided to use localStorage to store data. This made life much easier as there was no coding required for login, userids, associated admin and so on.

As most people tend to use the same pad or computer this shouldn’t affect most users. (Note to self. I need to improve the export to overcome this for users who flit from machine to machine.

2. It is a free site, and I haven’t needed to worry about support of all browsers. i.e. Surface texts won’t function with any browser that doesn’t support localStorage (which is an html 5.0 feature). I’m assuming that more and more browsers will be fully html compliant over time.

3. I wanted Surface Texts to be minimalist. I didn’t want a vast number of features and functionality. Any additional functionality will be hidden from the users.

PS. As I use a Mac, I’m not sure that it works on IE. If it does’t, I will fix it!



More Surface Texts and soon paws for thought.

Hi doods and doodesses.

I happened to have a few hours peace and quiet today, so I thought I would continue with Surface Texts (a free foreign language reading website).

I’ve added some (basic) flashcards (woot), so I can actually start using the site and tweaking it in a more meaningful way. Hopefully I’ll finish these on Monday, and at some point in the future (when I have more peace and quiet) I’ll jazz them up a bit.

I want to have ST working before XmAs so that I can paws for a while to ponder on how it should look and what it should do.

I say ‘paws’ as the rain has led to big muddy paw prints all over our house from best boy (our dog). He has big paws which soak up water like sponges. It astonishes me how quickly he dries them on the carpet.


And apparently it is going to rain from 6 to 11 this evening. If I didn’t have another more pressing matter to attend to, I could probably finish the flash cards tonight.

But I have to cook a roast dinner, and doing this is rather like ‘a blind man, in a dark room, looking for a black cat, that isn’t there’ if you get where I’m coming from as it were. I mean, I like cooking, but not roast dinners. All the bits. It’s too fiddly by half.

I’ll probably get by, drinking the ChRiStMaS sherry and wine.



Surface Texts

I have been working on Surface Texts, an online foreign language reader designed mainly to help me learn Italian (and Polish). The gist is that you can import texts (internet pages), click on words to have an immediate translation, and then test yourself using flashcards.

I wanted a reader that worked exactly as I needed (and was free), and being a programmer the natural thing was to make my own.

Naturally, anyone else can use it as well.

It is not yet complete, but I hope by the end of next week (providing I can retain focus) it will be useable. It works now, but without flashcards – which kind of limits its purpose. So I’m going to add these asap and then spend sometime actively using and tweeking the site to make it just as it should be.

I am an apple d00d, so I’ve ensured that it works well with an iPad. (This caused me some headaches as Safari on the iPad doesn’t work in exactly the same way as either Safari on a Mac, or other browsers. Ho. Hum).

You can see where I have got to here.

For any fellow programmers, it makes extensive use of localStarage, so any browsers or pads that lack that particular facility (and some do) won’t be able to use it. I’ve used localStarage as I didn’t want to faff too much with server side programming with this project. There will be some (export of files and so on) but not much.

Helpful comments or e-mails much appreciated.