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Re: i hate html (HTML 4 recommends using pixels to measure text)

From: Dan Connolly <connolly@w3.org>
Date: Thu, 19 Mar 1998 13:26:46 -0600
Message-ID: <35117176.3518@w3.org>
To: Tom Christiansen <tchrist@jhereg.perl.com>
CC: www-html-editor@w3.org
Tom Christiansen wrote:
> Ok.  If it's an acknowledged problem, what can we do to get it fixed?

Short answer: encourage folks to use stylesheets, rather
than Stupid HTML Tricks, to get their pages to lay out just so.

It's tough to put the genie back in the bottle. Once
netscape added support for <table with=pixels> without
support for <table width="10em">, the damage was done.
From now on, every information provider has to ask
"should I use ems, or should I reach 99% of my audience?"
Even if we added ems to the spec, who would be the
first information provider to use them? We'd prefer
that guy used stylesheets anyway.

If you're really interested, I encourage you to represent
your ideas at the upcoming workshop:

Shaping the Future of HTML
Monday 4th May and Tuesday 5th May 1998
      San Francisco Airport Hyatt, California.

> I noticed it's marked as disparaged, deprecated, obsolescent, or some
> such.

Actually, this problem is ackowledged by me and you and at least a few
other folks, but I don't know that W3C has really acknowledged
it as a problem institutionally.

I just scanned the spec, and I'm embarrased to say that we
don't even warn folks that using pixels is a bad idea the
way we do for colors:

The use of HTML elements and attributes for
     specifying color is deprecated. You are
     encouraged to use style sheets instead. 
     Don't use color combinations that cause problems
     for people with color blindness in its various
     If you use a background image or set the
     background color, then be sure to set the various
     text colors as well. 



The width attribute on tables has no similar admonition.

> Do you think one should be able to specify widths in en's, em's,
> characters, or some such scaling factor, or not?  I am somewhat uncertain
> on that.  I just know pixels don't go with characters.

Dave thought it out pretty carefully back in '95, but we coulnd't
convince the rest of the working group that it was worth supporting:

excerpts from

A major consideration for the HTML table model is that the
fonts and window sizes etc. in use with browsers are not
under the author's control. This makes it risky to rely on
column widths specified in terms of absolute units such as
picas or pixels.

Standard Units for Widths

Several attributes specify widths as a number followed by an
optional suffix. The units for widths are specified by the
suffix: pt denotes points, pi denotes picas, in denotes
inches, cm denotes centimeters, mm denotes millimeters,
em denotes em units (equal to the height of the default font),
and px denotes screen pixels. The default units are screen
pixels (chosen for backwards compatibility). 

Dan Connolly
telephone:+1-512-310-2971 (office)
Received on Thursday, 19 March 1998 14:26:36 UTC

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