W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-html@w3.org > August 1998

Re: newspaper-style columns

From: David Cary <d.cary@ieee.org>
Date: Sat, 22 Aug 1998 13:17:57 -0500
Message-Id: <l03130301b2049a0528d8@[]>
To: www-html@w3.org

Let me see if I can explain what I would like a "newspaper columns" tag to do.

<h1 align="center">
Marsbase Alpha Gazette
<newspaper_columns width=300>
  <h2>First baby born on Mars</h2>
  <p>Blah, blah, blah
  <p>Blah, blah, blah

  <h2>Dome 2 under construction</h2>
  <img src="artistic_sketch.png" alt="" align="right">
  <p>Blah, blah, blah
  <img src="blueprints.web" alt="" align="left">
  <p>Blah, blah, blah
<h1>Classified Ads</h1>
<newspaper_columns width=200>
  <p>jetpack for sale. Hardly used....
  <p>Opening for a pilot. Must have 6 months experience on Mars.

which might render as

 |              Marsbase Alpha Gazette               |^
 |First baby born | her name is    | Dome 2 under   | |
 |on Mars         | is ...         | construction   | |
 | blah ...       |                |  blah .        | height of user screen
 |                |                |                | |
 |                |                |                | V
 +----------------+----------------+----------------+ -
 | the dome is    |                |                |
 | scheduled to be|                |                |
 | completed by ..|                |                |
 |...             |                |                |
                ->|                |<- 300 pixels
 |                  Classified Ads                   |
 | jetpack    |            |            |            |
 | ...        |            | ---------- |            |
 | ---------- |            |            |            |
 | opening    | ---------- |            |            |
            ->|            |<- 200 pixels

Of course I cannot predict or control the geometry of the user's browser
window. That is the whole point of this "newspaper" tag. If I knew exactly
that geometry, I could do this with a <table></table>.

If the user resizes his window to less than 2* the specified width, then
the UA renders the newspaper_columns text into a single column, exactly
like the single column one sees at

If the user resizes his window to 2* the specified width or more, then the
UA would render the text into multiple columns on his screen, similar to
using a table. (The wider the screen, the more columns would render).

Unlike a table, however, each column would never be longer than the height
of the user's screen. (If the user made the window-height shorter, then the
text would reflow -- some words that were at the bottom of the 1st column
now move to the top of the 2nd column, etc.). If one wants to read the
entire story, one just reads each line of text left-to-right (in English),
then each column of text top-to-bottom, then jump to the next column to the
right ... really long stories would require him to scroll down to the next
"page" and start over at the 1st column. But one never needs to scroll down
to read a story, then scroll back up to the top to read the next column of
the story, the way one needs to now if one tries to implement this with
tables but the user has a shorter window than the designer used.

Perhaps you may claim this is a layout issue, not a issue of semantics --
therefore something that should be covered with CSS. But I think it is just
as much semantics as the <table></table> element.

Of course, there are lots and lots of other subtle things that one can do
with page-layout programs that this simple proposal can't handle.

This particular proposal seems to degrade gracefully for browsers that do
not support the <newspaper_columns></newspaper_columns> tags.

There's lots of ways this proposal could be improved -- for one, I don't
think I like specifying column widths in pixels.

>Date: 18 Jun 1998 16:53:23 +0100
>From: Peter Flynn <pflynn@imbolc.ucc.ie>
>Cc: www-html@w3.org
>Subject: Re: newspaper-style columns
>   I've searched around trying to understand why there aren't any provisions
>   for newspaper style columns in HTML. All I've found so far were vague
>   hints or explanations that didn't make any sense.  I'd appreciate if
>   someone could help me with this (or point me to a resource with a coherent
>   explanation).
>Because you cannot predict or control the geometry of the user's
>browser window. This makes it meaningless to try and implement this
>kind of columnar layout online. Look at any of the zines that _do_ try
>and see what a bodge it looks like.

+ David Cary "mailto:d.cary@ieee.org" "http://www.ionet.net/~caryd_osu/david"
| Future Tech, Unknowns, PCMCIA, digital hologram, <*> O-
Received on Saturday, 22 August 1998 14:21:29 UTC

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