A Customized Viewer for DocumentCloud

This post is for newsrooms using DocumentCloud, the fantastic document viewer developed by journalist-programmers at ProPublica and The New York Times.

Want a custom viewer for your site's documents? You can have ours.

I built it so that once set up, this viewer will automagically fill in the title, source and "back-to-article" link based on information already associated with the document -- so one file serves all of your documents.

Here's how.

One-time Setup

You can make this work with a little knowledge of html and access to a web server. You'll need to host a single html page, called dc.html and a tiny javascript file, called jquery.url.min.js.

1. Download the html code for dc.html by right-clicking on this link (or view it here).

2. Use any text editor to edit the path to your logo image on line 101. (A logo that's 60 pixels high works well).

3. On line 101, change "www.wnyc.org" to your site's home page

4. Upload the file dc.html to a web server.

To extract the document info from the URL, the page uses a little JavaScript program called jquery.url.min.js which you can read about here and download here. Once you do:

5. Upload jquery.url.min.js to your web server (the page assumes it's in the js/ subdirectory)

6. If you need to change the location of jquery.url.min.js, edit the path on line 38 of the html code and re-upload.

Using the Viewer

To use the viewer, simply construct a link to it that combines dc.html's location and the ID of the document you want it to load. For example, the base URL for the WNYC's version of dc.html is here:


And the document I want to display is here:


I combine them into a new link by taking the base URL, adding "?doc=" and then adding the document ID -- which, here, is 11275-bill-a11354 (omitting the .html .) Like this:



Pages and Annotations

For extra trickiness, you can jump to specific page numbers and annotations by adding references to them into your link. Here you need to append "#document/p" and the page number. So for page 2, you'd use:


And for the annotation on page 3, it would be:


(You get the annotation number -- and the whole phrase after the #, actually -- by clicking on the little "link" icon next to the annotation's title.)

That's it. 

Credits and Disclaimers

The base design is built on code the Chicago Tribune News Apps Team wrote, which I modified with help from the DocumentCloud folks to dynamically take up the title, source and related-story information from the document's metadata.

Note that the version of dc.html at project.wnyc.org contains extra tracking code specific to our servers. The version here does not. It's the one you should download.

And I don't warrant in any way that this is perfect code, so please use at your own risk.

If you modify it -- especially if you improve on what's here -- please let me know and I'll share the updates here and on GitHub.