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Re: retention of summary attribute for TABLE element

From: James Graham <jg307@cam.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2007 09:32:38 +0100
Message-ID: <466D08A6.6030502@cam.ac.uk>
To: "Gregory J. Rosmaita" <oedipus@hicom.net>, HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>

Gregory J. Rosmaita wrote:
> what justified this decision?

I don't actually know the reasons for not including summary but I would 
guess they were related to the fact that @summary is tying up important 
metadata in an invisible attribute. Invisible data is more likely to be 
missing or incorrect than visible data; according to [1] @summary is 
present on about 2.5% of tables, I would expect it to be unhelpful on 
many of those (though clearly some actual research would be needed here. 
[2] has some results, mostly from CMS templates).

>  a summary makes it possible for someone 
> processing the TABLE non-visually or in small highly magnified chunks 
> to get an over-view of the TABLE, for what is a TABLE, other than a 
> visual means of displaying related data sets, and what the sighted 
> user sees at a glance -- the spatial relationships between cells, 
> rows, and column -- but, in the absence of a summary, the aural user 
> must investigate the table carefully and fully, just in order to 
> ascertain whether or not it is the correct table, how many rows by how 
> many columns to expect, etc.

OK, this sounds like a use case for a feature providing an overview of a 
table's contents. In general I think it's better to work from use cases 
+ backward compatibility requirements rather than HTML4 directly. It 
seems like some of the problems could be solved automatically e.g. 
saying how many rows and columns are in the table. Is this not the case? 
If this can be done, the remaining problem sounds like it could be 
solved either through <caption> or another mechanism for associating 
text that is, by default, displayed in visual UAs with the table. Of 
course I also believe that the behavior of @summary should be specced 
for UAs.

[1] http://code.google.com/webstats/2005-12/tables.html
[2] 
http://www.google.com/codesearch?q=%3Ctable+summary%3D%22&hl=en&btnG=Search+Code
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Received on Monday, 11 June 2007 08:37:08 UTC

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