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This recipe is written for the Manakin (XMLUI) interface supplied with Dspace >= 1.5.0. Compatibility with < 1.5.0 is not guaranteed.

This recipe will turn plain carriage returns/newlines in metadata text into proper HTML paragraph breaks when a simple item record is displayed. The nature of <p/> means that multiple carriage returns in a row will be rendered as a single paragraph break by the browser.

Create a new template, like:

 <xsl:template name="break">
    <xsl:param name="text" select="."/>
    <xsl:choose>
    <xsl:when test="contains($text, '&#xa;')">
       <xsl:value-of select="substring-before($text, '&#xa;')"/>
       <p/>
       <xsl:call-template name="break">
           <xsl:with-param name="text" select="substring-after($text,
 '&#xa;')"/>
       </xsl:call-template>
    </xsl:when>
    <xsl:otherwise>
         <xsl:value-of select="$text"/>
    </xsl:otherwise>
    </xsl:choose>
 </xsl:template>

Find or override the template that handles item display, eg.

<xsl:template match="dim:dim" mode="itemSummaryView-DIM">

If you want to render line breaks only for a specific metadata field (dc.description.abstract in this example), make sure you only call the template when that metadata is matched:

<xsl:if test="dim:field[atelement='description' and atqualifier='abstract']">

Then loop through each match and call the 'break' template:

 <xsl:for-each select="dim:field[@element='description' and @qualifier='abstract']">
   <xsl:call-template name="break">
     <xsl:with-param name="text" select="./node()"/>
   </xsl:call-template>
   <xsl:if test="count(following-sibling::dim:field[@element='description' and @qualifier='abstract']) != 0">
     <hr class="metadata-seperator"/>
   </xsl:if>
 </xsl:for-each>

Most of this code is already available in dri2xhtml/structural.xsl, it just needs the 'break' template added and the usual value-of select replaced by the call-template/with-param.

Note: Because this method uses <p/> tags to generate paragraph breaks, the first paragraph of the abstract will be differently formatted to the rest if a <p/> is not inserted before the first call to 'break'.