This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

Instructions for Editors

Last modified: 2015-05-25 by rob raeside
Keywords: editors | fotw |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

Original Author: Giuseppe Bottasini
Revised by: Rob Raeside (


See also (related pages):


This document provides guidelines for editors of FLAGS OF THE WORLD (FOTW) web site in order to standardize the appearance of the web pages and reduce the effort of maintenance. Send suggestions and corrections to

If you want some advice on HTML editors, here is a compilation of comments from some of our editors. We strongly recommend you try learn the basic html code used in the web pages to ensure accurate editing.  A useful page for writing html is provided by Columbia University.

The Editorial Staff

The web pages are maintained by the FOTW editorial staff, that is, the director plus the editors. On a monthly basis, the director:
  • examines all the messages posted to FOTW mailing list
  • discards useless information (e.g. redundant header lines, control messages etc.)
  • extracts the embedded images
  • groups the messages per subject
  • e-mails subjects and related images to the editors.

For each subject received, the editor:

  • ensures s/he has an up-to-date version of the pages being edited (the most recent updates are available from the download site, but the director can provide you with a zip file of pages you need)
  • adds the new material to the pages, creating new ones if needed
  • ensures permission to use text and images taken from other Internet sites
  • polishes images, if needed and possible by the editor's means
  • zips and e-mails new and modified pages and images to the director. All material destined for the /flags/ and /images/ directory can be zipped together as individual files (without folders structure), but material for the /misc/ directory must be zipped into a separate file or identified separately.

The Editor's Job

The rest of this document guides the job of editing the pages. You have just received your allotment of material split from the mailing list by the director. The file contains one or more messages, possibly including several threads.

Each message is composed of:
- the email address of the contributor;
- the date of posting;
- some lines of text.

Images are replaced by a filename. e.g. "ru-chech.gif"

How Much Time Can I Take?

There is not a true "deadline" for this job. You can take all the time you need. But it is hoped you can return the edited page within a month (more or less).

Obtaining the Existing Pages

If you want a full copy of the website, download it from If you choose only to maintain a working copy of part of the website, contact the director who can usually make it available.

Divide et Impera

New messages can be added to the existing pages or can be filed into new pages. You can also decide to split an existing page into two or more (new) pages before adding new messages. A good rule of thumb is a page should be no longer than about six "screen pages" (at 800x600 resolution), and should not contain more than about ten images. Very long digressions should be filed into secondary pages pointed by short sentences in the main page, e.g.

See the <A HREF="blabla.html">interesting opinion of Giuseppe Bottasini about angels' sex</A>.

You are an editor, not a tape recorder, therefore you can shorten long messages and/or group them into sentences like:

Giuseppe Bottasini and Ptolemy say that Sun goes around the Earth, while most people believe the opposite.

Editors are encouraged to use text as provided to the extent it makes sense on the web page (and outside of the mailing list environment), and to remove side comments which are judgmental, irrelevant, or inappropriate in the more public web-page setting. Of course, if you detect grammatical or spelling errors, these should be corrected too.

Since the FOTW website is derived from discussion on the FOTW mailing list, it is common for aspects of the discussion to be captured on the web pages.  However, beware of including discussions that are of little relevance to the conclusion.  For example, this would be a bad example (composed by António Martins):

The flag of Ytytyt is red and blue. (António, 28 Feb 2002)

No, it's not. (Someone Else, 29 Feb 2002)
Are you sure? (António, 30 Feb 2002)
Yes I am. (Someone Else, 31 Feb 2002)
What color is it, then? (António, 32 Feb 2002)
It's yellow and green. (Someone Else, 33 Feb 2002)
What's your source? (António, 34 Feb 2002)
[aaa99]: 55-58, and [bbb88], appendix, (Someone Else, 35 Feb 2002)
Oh, I see. Silly me! (António, 36 Feb 2002)

Good editing would be something like:

According to [aaa99]: 55-58, and [bbb88], appendix, the flag of Ytytyt is yellow and green. Someone Else, 33,35 Feb 2002

Information taken from Other Internet Sites

Most flags are not specifically copyrighted, however someone's rendition of one may be. In some messages you will find text and images taken from other Internet sites. They have often been plucked without any explicit permission of the author - before adding them to FOTW, you need to assess if we have permission to use them. If it is a single image from a web page, for example the flag of a city taken from that city's page, you should provide a hyperlink to the original web page in the form:
from <A HREF="http://my.hometown/flag.gif">http://my.hometown/flag.gif</A>

If the image(s) is(are) part of a series of images especially devoted to the flags, then you should obtain permission from the author (if known) or the web manager of the page the text or image was plucked from. If you receive no answer or a negative answer, replace the text and image by a link to the source Web page, something like:

See <A HREF=""> a good image of the Tibet flag</A>.

It is good practice to include a note saying that permission to reuse the image or material was obtained.

Copyright issues on commercial or company flags

Flags are usually made to represent a group and are not specifically copyrighted (although someone's rendition of one may be). Some flags, however, are copyrighted, even as flags, and specific permission must be sought for them. Examples include the "Earth flags", the Australian Aboriginal flag, and some company flags. The best thing to do in this situation is have the image and the ® symbol (<&reg;>) or TM-sign accompanied with an acknowledgement like "The widget-logo is a [registered] trademark of Silly Widget Limited". This text should be placed directly below the flag image in question.

Dealing with Controversial Issues

Sometimes as editor you will be called upon to make judgment on whether to include some material.  Sometimes this will concern an issue that reflects a dispute between states, and contributions from correspondents demanding you remove this or that illegal flag.  In this situation, you are advised to include a statement like:

"FOTW is fully aware of the political situation of _____. We know that the situation is far from being unanimously accepted. Nevertheless, our site is non-political and concentrates only on vexillological issues. The display of the flag is merely an acknowledgement of an averred fact: this flag exists."

Another situation might be where you are called to decide if material is worth including. We quite commonly get requests from all sorts of organizations asking (or demanding) that we include their flag (usually only seen on web pages) on our web pages.  In many cases this is an attempt to gain credibility.  Our policy is not to include such flags unless they become especially well known.  At a minimum we would require independent corroboration of the flag by another web page, and preferably with a demonstration of the flag flying .

Crediting Images

Credit each image with the person who drew it and the date it was provided to the mailing list next to the image:

image by I-am Artist, 31 February 2002

Provide as much information as you can about the source of the images. For example, indicate 'image originally drawn by Rob Raeside, modified by Jorge Candeias, adapted to FOTW standard by Mark Sensen' for a situation where Rob drew a lousy lion, Jorge made it look like a lion, and Mark did a substantial remake to turn it to face the right way and put it on the right place on the flag. If you as editor have to remove a couple of black smudges from the lion's face, you don't need to credit such changes. If in doubt how to reference the flag, ask advice from the director. Include the date the image was presented on the mailing list.

Naming New Pages

If you are creating new pages, you have to choose new filenames. The maximum limit to be used for page names is 8 characters before the extension. Use only characters in the A-Z, 0-9 and approved significant separators for page names. [Do not use Unicode characters as part of the filename.] The extension must be "html" or "htm" - it doesn't matter which - they will all be converted to html by the page-building program. All filenames (both html files and gifs or jpgs) must be lowercase. Do not use letters with diacriticals (accents) on them.

If your new page is about a country its filename should be the ISO3166 digraph of that country, e.g., for a page about Switzerland the filename should be "ch.html" because "ch" is the ISO3166 digraph for "Switzerland". See: (or your local copy) for a complete list of digraphs according to ISO3166. If you are naming a filename containing a subpage (see below) of "xy.html" page, name it "xy-zzzzz.html" where "zzzzz" is a string explaining the contents of the subpage, e.g.:

zm.html: main page about Zambia
zm-eagle.html: subpage about Zambian eagles.

If the file is of uncertain status (e.g., flags of unknown shipping companies), use xx as the digraph.

Any other usage of two-letters filename should be avoided. Three-letters filenames are reserved for important subjects with many subpages:

int.html  international organizations
int-icrc.html  International Committee of the Red Cross
int-rpol.html  Interpol

int-  International organizations
int@  International sporting organizations
oly  Olympic Games pages
rel  pages about religions
cbk  colouring book pages
vex  vexillological organizations
vxt  vexillological topics

The connectors can be used by themselves or with further letters to give meaning too:

xy-zzzzz.html   subpage about the state (or any other sub-national division of Zzzzz in Xy.
xy-.htmlsubpage giving a listing of the subdivisions of Xy
xy~.htmlsubpage about flags used at sea
houseflags from Xy
naval flags from Xy
xy^.htmlsubpage about military flags in Xy.
xy!.htmlsubpage about flag proposals (not adopted) or erroneous flags in Xy.
xy}.htmlsubpage about political flags in Xy (do NOT use a left brace '{' in filenames - they don't transfer by ftp
subpage about the XDR political party in Xy.
xy).htmlsubpage about the coat of arms of Xy.
subpage about the coat of arms of Zzz in Xy.
xy(.htmlsubpage containing a clickable map of Xy.
xy@fsc.htmlsubpage about sports teams flags in Xy.
xy'.htmlsubpage showing construction sheet for Xy.
xy$.html subpage showing commercial companies in Xy.

You could even use multiple connectors, e.g.:
xy)!zzz.html   subpage about proposed coat of arms for Zzz in Xy.
xy^@.html   subpage about the military sports teams in Xy.

The following filenames are used for indexes, table of contents etc. and therefore cannot be assigned by the editors:

bib.html, b.html
filenames with a left brace ({ ) do not transfer by ftp protocol and should also be avoided.

Removing Old Pages

Often it is necessary to have an old page removed from FOTW. This raises two problems: there may be pages not under your editorial control linked to it, and not all the mirrors managers are careful in removing pages reported as obsolete. If you want to have a page removed, the recommended way is to submit the page as an obsolete page, containing only the basic code (nine lines: see below) with a link to the most relevant new page and the </BODY> and </HTML> lines. For title, indicate "page moved", e.g. East African Community (page moved). For keywords, use only the term "@" (as in pages with no keywords). For text, indicate the page has been superseded by the page at the new location.

Routines for removing old pages from your copy of the website are provided for Windows and Unix users.

Adding Images

Sometimes an editor becomes privy to a collection of flag images to be added to the website. Keep in mind that FOTW mailing list policy is that all images added to the website first pass through the mailing list. If you are not a member of the mailing list, send these images (zipped, please) to the director, who will feed them into the mailing list. If you can send them yourself, remember that the mailing list has an upper limit of 25 kbytes a day.

Erroneous Images

Images of flags that are known to be in error should be included on (or directly linked from) the page that displays the correct flag of the place or period. If a visitor were looking for information about the (erroneous) flag of Xx, s/he would not realise of course that it was erroneous, so would look under xx.html. It goes without saying that the image on FOTW should be clearly labelled (above and repeated in the source below, perhaps) as erroneous, and the source(s) clearly stated.


Where spelling errors are clearly errors, and you can see them - fix them. Rarely a spelling error is deliberate on the part of the original contributor - e.g. a Welsh nationalist might refer to Prince Charles as the prince of Wales (lower case p in prince). In such cases it might be appropriate to add [sic] after the error, to recognize that it is an error in the original material.  However, simple spelling errors should be corrected.

You will run across issues of whether to use US or British spelling of some words (honor/honour, center/centre, plow/plough, etc.)  Follow the rule:

  • English-speaking countries: use local spelling (US in USA, British in Britain, Australia, etc.)
  • non-English-speaking countries (or English speaking countries that can't decide on their spelling - Canada!): editor's preference.

Note that in the html code, the term ALIGN="CENTER" must be spelled in the US style.

Letters outside the English A-Z range

Many pages contain letters with diacriticals or accents on them, or are non-English letters. Because browsers tend to resort to their home encoding, we recommend that you use numerical codes for these letters - the commonest ones are available at Sometimes the text files from the monthly splits provided by the director have mis-codings for letters with diacriticals, so it may be necessary to go back to the original contribution on the mailing list, reset the character encoding to the appropriate language area, and copy the word from there. Most editing programs automatically convert the letters to their numerical codes.

The Job

OK, let's begin writing your new page.

The Header

The very first lines of the page (e.g., for Italy) must be:

<KEYWORDS italy,eec,italia,tricolore>
<EDITOR dgo>
<!--CUT ABOVE-->

Indentation is optional.
Shown here is the bare minimum - you can add more to make the page appear as an FOTW page on your local copy, but anything else will be stripped off when I build the pages. What is listed here contains the editorial information used by PERL scripts (written by Giuseppe Bottasini) which scan the page, add some text lines to them and update the index pages. This operation is done to all files when they are returned to the director. The details for each of those lines are given below.

The Title

Mandatory. Between <TITLE> and </TITLE> write the title of the page.
Use the TITLE line to give a brief but useful title. Ensure the country name is included. This line will become the header in large letters on the page. If a page is related to a geographic region inside a country, please quote both the country and the region in the title: remember that titles are listed in index pages so they must be quite self-explanatory and if possible unique.
E.g. the page about the Spanish regions Ceuta and Melilla should be:

"Ceuta and Melilla (Spain)"

The title line will be displayed in <H1> format.  Do not use the | character in the title - if you need a |, use &#124; .

The Subtitle

The line <SUBTITLE> is mandatory, but it is optional to include a subject here. Inside <SUBTITLE> you may put a secondary title, e.g. explanation of title, geographical local names, local spellings, and other secondary information. It will be one font size smaller than the title line. This is a good place to put the country or state name in the local language(s).  Do not use the | character in the subtitle - if you need a |, use &#124; .

The Abstract

It is necessary to include the line <ABSTRACT>. At the moment, the abstract function is not used for building the webpage. However, it may be used to place a note to the editor. It does not appear on the finished page, but the text contained in it is retained.

The Keywords

Mandatory. Inside <KEYWORDS> write a list of keywords, separated by commas. There must be at least one keyword on every page - if your page has no keywords of relevance, use an "@" (without the quotes). Keywords are case insensitive, that is every keyword is automatically put in lowercase by Perl scripts. While spaces are allowed in keywords, trailing spaces are automatically deleted by scripts. End the list with a comma (don't worry if you forget it - it is automatically inserted). Do not use any letters with diacriticals in the first four letters of a keyword. Letters with diacriticals will cause an abnormal sort in the keywords page (either at the bottom, if typed as high byte characters, or at the top, if HTML "&;" entities are used). If the first letter of a keyword is something else than a letter of the basic alphabet range (abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz), it will point to a non existent page. You have a maximum of 200 characters.  Do not use the | character in the keywords.
     More information on how to assign keywords is listed on the keyword page.

The Editor

Mandatory. Inside <EDITOR> write your monogram. A monogram is a string of three characters that is unique for each editor and contributor. Monograms are assigned by the director (usually the first letter of your given name, and the first two letters of your family name).


End of header.


This tag marks the beginning of the main body of the page. You can modify it: <BODY background="../images/fotwbckg.gif"> on your local pages to give the page the grey textured background seen on FOTW pages - this is useful if you are checking for transparency in flags with cut-outs or swallowtails.

<!--CUT ABOVE-->

This line is a marker used by the PERL scripts to build the FOTW pages. It is imperative that this line be included exactly as shown here (upper case, no spaces between the hyphens and the words). Everything written above this line will be stripped, leaving only the nine lines described here, and the page will be rebuilt based on this information.

The Main Body of the Page

This is the part that you as editor will build. Start immediately after the <!--CUT ABOVE--> line. It takes the general form:

<!--CUT ABOVE-->
The main picture: include the name of the person who made the image. If known, include here the date of adoption of the flag and any of the FIAV flag information symbols.
The list of contents (items on this page)
The list of related subjects (items on other pages)
One or more subpages

The Main Picture

Usually a page has a main picture (e.g. the national flag). Put it immediately under the <!--CUT ABOVE--> line, as follows:
<A HREF="../images/i/it.gif">
<IMG SRC="../images/i/it.gif" ALT="[Italian flag]" BORDER=0 HEIGHT=216 WIDTH=324> </A> by <i>Giuseppe Bottasini</i>, 1 January 2001

Notes about the image formatting

  • The picture file is quoted twice: inside <IMG SRC...> to be shown as an embedded image and between <A HREF>..</A> as a pointed file.
  • The visitor can therefore view it directly as part of the page AND extract it from the page by clicking on it.
  • The ALT option gives a text that text-only web browsers (like LYNX) can display. Other browsers often display this text as well, in addition to the image and in a browser-dependent way, e.g. when the mouse is stalled over the image.
  • The directory structure ../images/i/it.gif instructs the browser to go up two levels (the "..") in the directory structure and seek the file called it.gif in the directory called "images/i/".
  • Use only characters in the A-Z, 0-9 and approved significant separators for image file names. [Do not use Unicode characters as part of the filename.] It is recommended that editors use 8.3 length filenames where feasible. However in a country where it is convenient to subdivide by nation-state-county-city-person, you may use 14.3 characters for filenames in the Images and Misc folders.  (Note: 8.3 filenames must be used for html files.) Go beyond 8.3 only when necessary. If a page or image can be mnemonically described in the current format, then attempt to do so using ISO 3166-2, national coding practices (provided these are unlikely to change and cause major realignments of the country's pages every few years) or your own methodology.
  • The BORDER=0 is used to avoid a (blue) border around the images.
  • The HEIGHT and WIDTH tags set the size of the image to a standard of 216 pixels high. You will need to determine the width of each image by loading it in a graphic editor. It is recommended that you use both tags for HEIGHT and WIDTH, especially in pages with several images. [If you do not have access to a graphics program and cannot determine the width of the images, omit the WIDTH= tag.] Note most images are provided in a 216 pixel high format already, but including these tags is still advisable as it permits faster page loading as the images will then fill in after the text is loaded. Some images are deliberately slightly more or less than 216 pixels, and should be left that way, with a HEIGHT=215 (for example) tag. A flag with 5 horizontal stripes appears crisper at a height of 215 pixels (5 x 43). Forcing it to HEIGHT=216 will result in a slight blurring of the image.
  • Ensure the name of the person who submitted the image and the date of submission are listed.  If a flag is obtained from another website, and submitted unchanged, then indicate the source as "located by Rob Raeside, 1 July 2004".
  • Occasionally an image will look out of place if forced to 216 pixels height. An example might be a commissioning pennant or a small flag in a series.  When a narrow flag is part of a group, the image should be sized to reflect the relative sizes. Extra-long images like long pennants should be sized so that they appear entirely (or almost entirely) on an 800-pixel screen.

MISC folder contents

What goes in the MISC folder?

  • graphical symbols used throughout FOTW-ws (like dots-in-grid)
  • graphical "alphabet" symbols for non-Latin titles
  • geographic maps
  • colour-in sheets, flag icons and similar
  • non-image files, non-html text (legislation and similar), zipped archives, palettes and other drawing-aid files
What then goes in the IMAGES folders?
  • images, obviously
  • FOTW-standard flag images (gifs)
  • non-standard flag images, when standard ones are not available (gif or jpg format)
  • detailed images of flag or parts of flags (including coats of arms)
  • construction sheets
  • coats of arms, roundels and other emblems

List of Contents

Below the main flag section is a listing of the contents of the page. As the contents may spread over into other pages, this list often becomes a series of links to those pages. Four general categories of links can be identified (not all of these are contents of this page):
  1. Links to internal anchors in the page
  2. Links to sub pages
  3. Links to other related FOTW pages
  4. Links to (pages on) other sites (it should be clear from the text that this goes to a different site.)
Categories 1 and 2 are usually bundled into a first list below the main flag, as part of the "List of Contents"; category 4 is usually separated out into a separate list of related subjects. Category 3 can be included with either list, depending on how closely related the page is. If the editor wishes to provide a link to pages externally from FOTW that opens up a new browser, such links must be noted on the FOTW with a comment that "clicking here will open a new browser session"

Under the main picture, write the list of contents which embody the subject of the page and its related subpages:

<li><A HREF="#exp">Explanation of the flag</A></li>
<li><A HREF="#his">History of the flag</A></li>
<li><A HREF="au-ab.html">Aboriginal flag</A></li>
<li><A HREF="au-new.html">Proposals for a new flag</A> </li>

This will result in:

The first two items are discussed lower in the page (note the internal anchor "#"). The remaining three items are discussed on other pages. All links in this area should be inside FOTW.

The List of Related Subjects

Under the list of contents, make a list of other pages treating subjects related to the subject of the page:

<i>See also</i>:
<LI><A HREF="nz.html">New Zealand</A> page for the meaning of the Southern Cross in Oceanian flags</LI>
<LI> <A HREF="">"Flags of Australia"</A> that provides images, information and brief histories of all current Australian national, state, territory and indigenous flags.</LI>

This will result in:

See also:

  • New Zealand page for the meaning of the Southern Cross in Oceanian flags
  • "Flags of Australia" that provides images, information and brief histories of all current Australian national, state, territory and indigenous flags.

In the example, the first item is a link to another page of our site, the other ones point outside the FOTW. If the subject of the page is a region (e.g., Queensland) put here a link to the country which the region belongs to (e.g., Australia). Put here links to specialized WWW flags pages (e.g. Ausflag) and/or links to general information about the country. Be conservative in the number of links outside of FOTW - external links are liable to change without warning.

A fairly simple set of pages for many countries (especially post-colonial countries) might be:
current flags
political flags
province flags
military flags
pre-colonial flags
colonial flags
postcolonial flags

Contributors' Names

In order to standardise the appearance of the pages on FOTW, please follow the format for all text contributions:

<P>A great long story about the history of the flag of Rodinia.
<i>Rob Raeside</i>, 20 May 1999

(It is acceptable to use <I>...</I> too.)

For artists' credits, see the section on crediting images above. As a general rule, try to indicate who drew any significant part of it. For simple situations (one artist), use the format:

<A HREF="../images/h/ht-jack.gif"> <IMG SRC="../images/h/ht-jack.gif" BORDER=0 ALT="[Jack]"></A> image by <i>Paige Herring</i>, 25 May 1999 </P>

Note that the artist's name is on the same line as the flag, and is referred to exactly the same way as text contributors, with the addition of the word "by". If more than one person was involved in drawing the flag, give similar reference to all significant artists. See section above on "Crediting Images" for more details.

Index Maps

António Martins has responsibility for adding and updating the clickable maps to FOTW. If a country has a clickable map on another page, a link on the front page is required. Generally these pages are listed as geo-zz.html or zz(.html (clickable map of Zzz). Full details about map pages are available on the maps instructions page.

Linking to Bibliography

Many links to the bibliography are in the form of [zna00] - the link to Znamierowski (2000).  It recommended that editors use a system like that used in scientific journals where the reference is directly linked using the author and date: Znamierowski (2000).  For more details on the bibliography and links to it, see the page maintained by António Martins.

The End of a Page

Every page should end with the lines:


In pre-existing pages you may also see the string: <script src="" type="text/javascript"></script><script type="text/javascript">_uacct="UA-613479-1";urchinTracker();</script></body> before the </body> tag. This is part of the tracking system on FOTW, using Google Analytics. You may delete this line, or leave it intact.  This can be removed - the director will remove it also.