Re: HTML+

Torgeir Veimo (torgeir@ii.uib.no)
Wed, 14 Sep 1994 13:25:53 +0200


Message-Id: <8048.9409141125@brems.ii.uib.no>
To: Leslie Lamport <lamport@src.dec.com>,
Subject: Re: HTML+ 
Date: Wed, 14 Sep 1994 13:25:53 +0200
From: Torgeir Veimo <torgeir@ii.uib.no>



> 1. Make it a markup language, in which the HTML source describes the
>    logical content of the document, leaving formatting decisions to 
>    the viewer.

> 2. Make it a formatting/typesetting language that tells the viewer
>    how to display the document.

One could argue that the formatting options should be left entirely to the
browser, since different people need different rendering of the same
information due to imparabilities etc. It could also be argued that this would
allow information to be interpreted by machines, since the logical information
would be contained.  

However, a completely set of markup that would cover each bit of scientific
area would soon grow to be bigger than any programming language. What we would
like to have is an encoding that makes it possible to render the information
in different ways on different devices, say, onscreen and spoken out by
synthesizers. Other information could just specify formatting. Another problem
is that it would be very difficult to make editors that would understand every
aspect of logical encoding. Remember that it is html we're talking about, not
sgml.

What we wanted in the first place was something that could replace plain ascii
as way of encoding small documents used to exchange pieces of information on
the internet. I don't think we should expect TeX like capabilities of
browsers/editors in the next year or so at least. 

> A more ambitious plan is to design a new language in such a way that
> most of TeX's typesetting engine can be used to display the output,
> but in which the input has more of a markup flavor. A major goal of
> this plan would be to integrate the viewer and the document editor, so
> the user would have something more "WYSIWYG" when creating a document.
> This would fit in with what I call LaTeX4, a long-term successor to
> conventional TeX/LaTeX.

We can't just design an external representation for a document system unless
the document system is already (partially) implemented. This is related to the
problem of standard decision made before the implementation (the
iso-syndrome).  

I think that if LaTeX could evolve away from the language orientation that it
has today into a more independently structured document preparation system,
this would be a very good thing. If such a project could be developed partly
in hand with html, both systems could benefit from each other.

What is needed right now is implementation of texteditor components (eg. Xt
widgets) that can be integrated into existing tools, newsreaders, mail
handlers and such. (Consider how usefull it would be to have newsreaders that
understood html 3.0, with math and tables.) This is in my view one of the most
important goals and it would really make html the defacto small-scale
information exchange format of the internet, which again would probably foster
it's extension.  Any takers?

--
Torgeir @ http://www.ii.uib.no/~torgeir/