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Re: plain text has its points

From: Jamal Mazrui <empower@smart.net>
Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 17:18:40 -0500 (EST)
To: Bruce Bailey <bbailey@clark.net>
cc: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.95.981207171101.8274A-100000@smarty.smart.net>
I agree that some plain text conventions would increase its value, which
is partly why I suggested that the W3C consider a process for developing a
plain text standard, perhaps building on the previous ICADD work.

I also agree that HTML would be a better accessible format if it became
more common practice to include the whole document in a single HTML page,
rather than leaving the user to figure out how many linked pages there
are, how many levels, deep, etc.  I think this impairs usability to such
an extent that the page authoring guidelines should address  the
issue (if
they don't presently -- I haven't yet studied the current version).


 On Mon,
7 Dec 1998, Bruce Bailey wrote:

> Date: Mon, 07 Dec 1998 16:55:32 -0500
> From: Bruce Bailey <bbailey@clark.net>
> To: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
> Cc: Jamal Mazrui <empower@smart.net>
> Subject: Re: plain text has its points
> IMHO, Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.net) made a mistake standardizing on
> plain text over html.  I know I gave up on their documents because of the
> frustrations I had with their posted products.  They have limited their
> market and that is a shame because theirs was such a good idea.  There is
> good reason why no newspapers and few books are printed in 12 point, 10 pitch
> courier.  Why settle on a format that will cause EVERYONE problems?  This is
> universal access?
> The problem with plain text is a frustration that any one with experience
> coverting file document formats is all too familiar with.  I naively thought
> html would resolve this controversy.  Sadly, some people still insist on PDF,
> ascii, Word, and WordPerfect.  The justifications they give have some
> validity, but they are primarily rationalizations.  These are all specialized
> formats that should only be embraced as a last resort.  It is far much easier
> to go from (for example) html to ascii than vice versa.
> If someone wants a particular html document in ascii, I would argue that the
> burden falls to him to convert it himself.
> On the other hand, there is something to be said for the option of getting
> large documents as a single html file vice a directory/folder of many
> (linked) smaller html files.  Is this any kind of convention standard?
> The main problem with ASCII, in addition to being a "lossy" file format, is
> that there is no way to differentiate between a "soft" and hard return.  The
> most logical way around this is to ONLY include returns at the end of
> paragraphs, but this violates the popular rule that line don't exceed 80
> characters.  Another work around is to use line feeds (^L) as soft returns
> and carriage returns (^M) as the end of paragraph marks, but this is not very
> common.  Without either of these two conventions, there is always ambiguity
> when importing a plain text document into a word processor (or html editor or
> braille preparation program, etc.) especially when the text contains lists,
> and for paragraphs where the last few words ends after character 65 (or so).
> Gregg Vanderheiden and Neal Ewers of Trace "settled" this issue pretty well,
> but by then html was making its first appearances...
> You can see how far they got at:
> "Toward a Standardized Format for ASCII Text Documents -- A Working Paper of
> The ICADD Subcommittee on Standardization of ASCII Text Documents"
> Does anybody remember the original date of this document?  As I recall, this
> is the only text document that Trace published that actually strictly adheres
> to these proposed standards!
> Jamal Mazrui wrote:
> > I think HTML is the second most universally accessible format after plain
> > text.  It should generally be possible to render a literary work in
> > plain text.  The format itself is not stimulating to a reader,
> > but the content should be coherent without embedded markup.
> > Project Gutenberg standardized on plain text for a reason!
> >
> > Regards,
> > Jamal
Received on Monday, 7 December 1998 17:18:52 UTC

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