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Restructuring the Ordered List

From: Lenny Domnitser <ldrhcp87@yahoo.com>
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 2004 15:11:00 -0800 (PST)
Message-ID: <20040324231100.66401.qmail@web60502.mail.yahoo.com>
To: www-html@w3.org

In the latest strict versions of HTML, the `ol`
element
has no `start` attribute. The removal of this
attribute
breaks core functionality of ordered lists.

The CSS alternative is a complicated counter-based
solution that is poorly supported by browsers.
However,
even if browsers properly supported CSS counters, a
structural part of the list is being deprecated.

Imagine using a non-CSS browser and instead of

    I. First Section
       a. sub-section
       b. yet another

    an interrupting paragraph

       c. some more
    II. foo
       a. bar

you saw

    1. First Section
       1. sub-section
       2. yet another

    an interrupting paragraph

       1. some more
    1. foo
       1. bar

Now imagine being told to refer to point II.a. This
is not an issue of styling: it is critical to the
meaning of the list.

Also note that, although slightly less important
than `start`, `type` is also semantic.

Suggesting that list indices should be generated by
CSS is like creating the entire body of a page by
CSS's `content` property: a poorly supported
non-semantic solution that is pushed by the same
zealots that removed `target` from `a`.

At the very least, `start` should be returned,
however, there are still many properties of ordered
lists in HTML that make it very inflexible. For
example, suppose David Letterman wanted to create
a website for his famous "top ten" lists. For those
of you unfamiliar with Letterman, "top ten" is an
inane countdown that is presented with the tenth item
first and the first item tenth.

Already established is that properties of ordered
lists are semantic and should be handled by HTML.
Top ten is clearly ordered, however, because it does
not conform to the standard "1, 2, 3" form of list,
it cannot be properly marked up.

Letterman, in fact, does have a "top ten" site
[topten],
on which the items are wrapped in paragraphs.

What is a possible solution to inflexible lists?
Perhaps another attribute such as `step`. So
Letterman's
web lackeys can write

    <ol start="10" step="-1">
      <li>Once when he was 30, he smiled.</li>
      <li>Has experimented with drugs, alcohol and
      Botox.</li>
      ...
    </ol>

This, however, is still too rigid. I propose a format
more like that of definition lists, with an arbitrary
index that is explicitly defined by the author, in,
say,
an `lindex` element, perhaps abbreviated to `lx`. So
Letterman can now use whatever type of ordering he
wants, instead of limiting himself to the predefined
list styles [zvonlst]. An example would be

    <ol>
      ...
      <lx>8.</lx>
      <li>Had he decided not to go into politics, it
      would have been the Captian, Tennille and
      Kerry.</li>

      <lx>7.</lx>
      <li>Belonged to an exclusive secret society
called
      the Columbia Record and Tape Club.</li>
      ...
    </ol>

XHTML2 is already moving toward explicit definition,
specifically with the `quote` element [xhtml2q],
replacing
the `q` element. Aside from the name change, the main
difference is that while `q` depended on the browser
to
automatically surround its contents with quotation
marks,
`quote` elements include quotation marks. For example,

    <q>Nay, I say!</q>

becomes

    <quote>"Nay, I say!"</quote>

Although CSS is becoming more widely used, we must
remember that it is not a replacement for proper
markup,
but merely a complement. One standard should not be
dependent
upon full support for another one, especially one that
is
broken in the most widely-used browser.

---

[topten]:
http://www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow/top_ten/
[zvonlst]:
http://zvon.org/xxl/CSS2Reference/Output/prop_list-style-type.html
[xhtml2q]: http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml2/mod-inline-text.html#edef_inline-text_quote

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Received on Thursday, 25 March 2004 02:08:31 UTC

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