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1. Introduction

In the document A system for encoding bird field notes, we describe a technique for using an XML document type to represent field records of wild birds. The author has used this system for some time to publish his field notes.

Initially, the author used the emacs text editor and the related nxml-emacs package to enter and maintain the XML notes files; see the documentation for nxml-emacs.

However, for most notes, that system proved to be somewhat slow and cumbersome. The current document describes a “shorthanding” system that allows rapid creation of most of the XML from a terse textual notation that greatly speeds up the entry of most of the information.

The shorthand notation is not intended to create every type of information in the XML field notes schema. This schema provides for a wide variety of types of information: notes on breeding status, vocalization, and many other kinds of specialized content. However, the great bulk of the records are pretty simple—what kind of bird, how many.

The author decided that a mixed strategy might be best: develop a terse shorthand notation that represents most of the data, and use that to create the bulk of the XML notes file; then use the full XML editor to add in anything that isn't captured in the shorthand notation.

Hence, the workflow goes like this:

  1. Transcribe the field notes into the shorthand notation as a file whose name ends with the extension “.in”. Omit the kinds of information that cannot be represented in the shorthand notation (breeding, vocalization, etc.).

  2. Use the abaraw script to process that file, creating an XML file whose name ends with “.out”.

  3. Use emacs with nxml-mode to add any information that was omitted in the shorthand notation.

At this writing, the author has been using the shorthand system for several months, and finds that it greatly reduces the time required for data entry of field notes.