Re: T->B/R->L text flow (was Re: Portrait vs. Landscape)

=?iso-8859-1?Q?Martin_J=2E_D=FCrst?= (
Fri, 3 Oct 1997 18:40:02 +0100 (MET)

Date: Fri, 3 Oct 1997 18:40:02 +0100 (MET)
From: =?iso-8859-1?Q?Martin_J=2E_D=FCrst?= <>
To: Benjamin Franz <>
In-Reply-To: <>
Message-ID: <Pine.SUN.3.96.971003182156.7026O-100000@enoshima>
Subject: Re: T->B/R->L text flow (was Re: Portrait vs. Landscape)

On Sat, 27 Sep 1997, Benjamin Franz wrote:

> While Japanese has substantially more L->R/T->B than English has
> T->B/R->L, I still get the feel from books, newspapers and even online
> material that the *preferred* way is T->B/R->L, with that preference
> becoming more pronounced the longer the text is.

It's also a matter of topic and medium. Technical texts are usually LTR,
literature, newspapers, and magazines are usually TTB.

In particular on the right side of cars, you also find one-line
RTL texts. The best way to think about them is that they are
one-character-per-line TTB texts. Similar things can be found
on traditional doors in temples and shrines. The situation is
similar in Korea, China, Taiwan,..., although of course there
are differences.

> I make a habit of surfing Japanese web pages and I am finding significant
> numbers of pages that are employing gifs to obtain T->B/L->R text flow.

I don't do too much surfing, but there are so many English pages
that do gifs for all kinds of reasons that I guess it's not TTB
only that makes them do gifs. You do a gif because you want a special
color, font, placement of letters,... and then why not do it TTB?
Also, there is of course always a trend to try to be different.

> Here is an example of what I mean (this page is what prompted me to bring
> up this old thread - I was not deliberately looking for T->B/L->R
> documents - I was just surfing looking for information for a web site I'm
> creating when I ran into this.) 
> <URL:>

The main reason here again is not TTB, but just that the creators
were too lazy to (re)type the whole text, and just scanned it in,
and it happened to be TTB in print.

> I feel that the lack of regard in HTML for the problems of T->B/R->L text
> is really insupportable given the lengths its authors go to to support
> people with disabilities. Even the i18n effort appears to have completely
> ignored the issue (although it chose to recognize the BIDI issue, which
> is closely related). 

We haven't completely ignored it! At first sight, it looks close to the
BIDI issue. But on closer examination, it is quite different.
Horizontal vs. vertical is a presentation issue. You can display a
Japanese text horizontally or vertically, it stays the same text.
Therefore, this does not belong into HTML or XML, it belongs into
CSS. BIDI issues, on the other hand, need to be in HTML, because
without some idea of the structure of the text, you have no
chance to get it right in case of embeddings. You cannot display
Arabic LTR on one browser, and RTL on another. And you cannot
have different embeddings on different browsers.

> Why is it 'ok' to say 'yes we know your language doesn't naturally go this
> way and that well over 100 million people fall in this category, but you
> will have to live with it', but *not* ok to say 'I know that you have
> trouble with (small|colored|spoken representation|graphical navigation)
> text but you are going to have to live with it'?

It's not 'ok'. But there are several differences. First, Japanese
can read LTR, and use the web a lot without too much practical problems,
while handicaped people, or people with older equipment, couldn't do
anything with the web without due care. Second, the W3C gets special
money for their accessability initiative from the EU and the US, as
far as I know.

> Has *anyone* actually attempted to start the process to adapt HTML/XML to
> deal with the T->B/R->L text flow problem? Are there people here who would
> be interested in trying? 

I would really like to start the process, it is long overdue.
I just up to now didn't have the time to do it, i18n for HTML 4.0
(as well as my daily work :-) have just taken too much time.
And there are quite some companies that have expressed their
interest. If anybody else is interested, please let me know.
But it has to go into CSS, where it belongs, not into HTML/XML.

Regards,	Martin.