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Re: Exploring new vocabularies for HTML

From: James Graham <jg307@cam.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2008 14:29:31 +0100
Message-ID: <47F0E73B.2000604@cam.ac.uk>
To: David Carlisle <davidc@nag.co.uk>
CC: public-html@w3.org, www-math@w3.org

David Carlisle wrote:
>> The IteX:
>> The equivalent MathML:
> 
> the generated mathml is rather more verbose than needed
> 
>    <mstyle fontweight="bold">
>       <mrow>
>         <mi>H</mi>
>       </mrow>
>    </mstyle>
> 
> for example is the same thing as
>    
>   <mi fontweight="bold">H</mi>

OK, so I converted all the constructs of the first type to constructs of the 
second type, removed whitespace from the MathML and counted the resulting 
characters; there were 514. The unchanged IteX has 145, making the MathML 
roughly a factor of 3.5 more verbose than the IteX. This is not a trivial 
difference.

As well as just requiring extra keystrokes to input, MathML is frustrating to 
author because you spend a lot of effort telling the computer information like 
"1 is a number", "+ is an operator" and so on. The difference between "2" and 
"<mn>2</mn>" is 9 characters that serve purely to mark a number as a number.

> Using entity names in HTML is already
> problematic and I don't see anyone really suggesting adding a couple of
> thousand character names in TeX  _\_oint syntax is going to be any
> less of a problem than adding them in SGML _&_oint; syntax.

Sure.

> With a small amount of text editor support such as closing open
> elements and less perhaps small amount of text editor support such as
> auto-completion of element names based on language knowledge, it doesn't
> really take many more key strokes to type
>  \frac{\partial \mathbf{D}}{\partial t}
> as
> <mfrac> <mo>&PartialD;</mo><mi mathvariant="bold">D</mi></mfrac>

I just did a straw poll in my office (research scientists who all publish using 
a LaTeX-based workflow, and all of whom use emacs as their primary LaTeX editor) 
to see how many people knew the keyboard shortcut for "Close Environment" in 
LaTeX. To my surprise, no-one knew the shortcut, even though it is clearly 
marked in the top level menus in LaTeX mode and is reasonably useful (I expected 
at least a few people to know). Admittedly this is hardly a scientific survey 
and the sample size of ~6 is pretty small, but it does suggest that expecting 
editor features to fix language deficiencies isn't going to work in practice.

-- 
"Eternity's a terrible thought. I mean, where's it all going to end?"
  -- Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Received on Monday, 31 March 2008 13:30:06 GMT

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