Auxiliary document data, pop-ups and range links

Ishida,Richard (Richard_Ishida.rxl@eur.xerox.com)
Sat, 12 Jul 1997 05:50:57 PDT


Date: Sat, 12 Jul 1997 05:50:57 PDT
From: Richard_Ishida.rxl@eur.xerox.com (Ishida,Richard)
To: www-html@w3.org (w3c html)
Subject: Auxiliary document data, pop-ups and range links
Message-Id: <"<AF69C63381AF667C>AF69C63381AF667C@RXL-WGCMS02.RX"@-SMF->
Cc: Richard_Ishida.rxl@eur.xerox.com (Ishida,Richard)

Proposals for:	access to ?auxiliary document data?
		provision of ?pop-up display boxes?
		the ability to specify ranges of HTML text for includes, 
			auxiliary document data, etc.
From:		Richard Ishida


DISCLAIMER
These are intial thoughts.  I would like to test the water before 
 spending more time on this, and if it is a good idea others could 
 probably take it forward more effectively.  I don?t think what I am 
 proposing can currently be achieved with HTML 4 without the use of 
 scripting - please, tell me if I?m wrong.  My feeling is that this 
 should be core HTML functionality, and not subject to the current 
 variable reliability and vendor dependent nature of scripting 
 implementations.  If this has already been proposed before, please excuse me.


EXAMPLES OF INTENDED USE:

1	I am reading a document about translation technology.  I come across 
 the term ?source matching? which is highlighted (let us say by a 
 dashed underline, but that is user definable).  I click on the 
 highlighted term and a small box pops up on top of the document I?m 
 reading containing a definition of the term.  The definition could 
 contain just a single sentence of text, or may contain several 
 paragraphs with embedded objects or images - ie. a mini HTML page).  I 
 click on the box or hit carriage return, the pop-up disappears and I 
 continue reading.  This has significant benefits over loading a 
 complete new page in that I can maintain my visual context in the 
 original document.  Because I had told my user agent to preload the 
 auxiliary data into the cache, it would also make it much faster than 
 loading an additional page.

2	I am using an HTML document which includes non-textual icons for 
 navigation or other purposes.  The text has been removed and the icons 
 made internationally acceptable because this reduces the work involved 
 in localising this page.  As my mouse moves over the icons a small 
 pop-up appears containing a prompt.  This is better than a tool-tip 
 approach, because the pop-up contains real HTML, and it is application 
 independent.  It can be large-sized for accessibility purposes using 
 stylesheets, and could even contain additional images and text (eg. a 
 warning triangle and an associated message).  As I move my mouse away 
 from the icon the pop-up disappears.

3	I?m in the middle of reading a boring document and I want to look 
 quickly at the contents, to see how much further I have to go.  Again 
 I don?t want to lose my visual context on the original page.  Perhaps 
 my user agent makes available the contents page, defined in a LINK 
 statement, via a menu selection, or perhaps a contents icon is 
 available in another frame, etc..  Because I told my user agent to 
 cache the contents page in the background, it pops up straight away in 
 a scrollable pop-up on the screen (defined by the author in terms of 
 screen width and location). 

The pop-up idea is different from that of creating a new window, 
 because I can control the size and placement, and it doesn?t carry all 
 the buttons, headers, etc., so it can be used inobtrusively.   It is 
 also easier to dismiss.


SUGGESTIONS FOR STORAGE OF THE AUXILIARY DATA

4	Auxiliary data is data which supports the current page, but is only 
 displayed on request.

5	Auxiliary data could be stored inline (say, within a POPUP element), 
 could be declared elsewhere in the current document (say, within an 
 AUXIL element - rather like a script declaration contains functions - 
 see below for the range selection concept), or could be accessed via a 
 URL from another document (again with the possibility of identifying 
 only a selected range of text within that document).  

6	I would like to see the user agent preload into the cache any 
 external files containing auxiliary data as soon as it has loaded the 
 file which refers to it (although this could be made user definable).  
 This could make a POPUP work quite quickly once the user reached the prompt.

7	An elegant way of doing this may be to have a link type ?Auxiliary? 
 in the LINK element, but the user agent should probably also parse the 
 document for other references.  I think it would help to have an 
 attribute for the LINK element which the author could use to 
 explicitly specify that a file be cached (of course if the file was 
 already in the cache, this wouldn?t provoke any action).

8	We should be able to specify lang and charset info as we call in or 
 define the auxiliary data.


SUGGESTIONS FOR ACCESS TO RANGES OF DATA

9	I would like to see the possibility of accessing a RANGE of data 
 within a larger set for display either via a POPUP element, as 
 included text, or as a new page.  Maybe this could be accomplished 
 using the DIV element or a new RANGE element with an ID attribute.  
 Any link or reference to this id would pick up all the text included 
 in the element describing the range.  The range could be specified 
 within the AUXIL element of the current page (see above), within the 
 body text of the current page, or within the body or AUXIL text of 
 another page accessed via a URL.
BENEFITS:  Start with the glossary example above, and assume that all 
 my glossary information is held in a gloss.htm file which I could also 
 display as ?THE glossary?.  I don?t want to write a term definition 
 more than once, but I may also want to access JUST that term 
 definition on other pages.  In this case, I can identify a specific 
 range of the glossary document associated with the term I need and 
 display/include just that.
Keeping all snippets of auxiliary text in one or a small number of 
 files to service a large set of HTML pages, rather than having them as 
 separate files, would benefit in the following ways:
-  it would be easier to create the material
-  it would be easier to manage configuration control
-  it may be significantly easier and faster to localise the data 
 (especially when it comes to configuration control across five, ten or 
 more languages!)
-  if the whole document was cached once, it could give faster access 
 to specific items of auxiliary data.

10	It may also make sense to extend this idea of ranges to data which 
 is not strictly speaking auxiliary data.  For example, any short 
 phrase which is repeated a number of times on a particular page could 
 be referred to using a range element the first time it is used and 
 called in to the text where needed further down the page.  This could 
 concievably carry benefits in terms of consistency, reduced file size 
 and productivity in page creation.

11	Then, of course, we could look at extending our idea of accessing 
 small amounts of a larger corpus so that we could access data records 
 in a database.


SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF THE POPUP

12	A POPUP element would need to provide access to the ?auxiliary data? 
 which will be displayed, and enclose a stretch of HTML which serves as 
 the prompt.

13	Style rules could be used to indicate how the prompt would be 
 highlighted, although a default may be appropriate.

14	The author should be able to specify the event which causes the 
 pop-up to appear and be dismissed (eg. click, mouseover, etc.).  There 
 may be a case for a new ?CR/Enter? event used to dismiss an open pop-up??

15	We should be able to set the border of the pop-up, it?s background 
 colour, margins, it?s size and location on the screen and/or browser 
 window, etc.

16	If there is insufficient space to display all the data in a pop-up, 
 scroll bars should appear by default.  The author should be able to 
 create pop-ups of a specific size, whether or not all the text fits.  
 Should NOSCROLL or NOWRAP options be available??

17	Should we allow pop-ups within pop-ups?

18	If we allow links within a pop-up, do we use a TARGET-like approach 
 to decide where the new data will go?  Should we just neutralise links 
 within HTML when it is displayed in a pop-up??

19	Older browsers which don?t provide pop-ups may do best to ignore the 
 auxiliary data. (?) 


Thoughts?