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Re: Exploring new vocabularies for HTML

From: David Carlisle <davidc@nag.co.uk>
Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2008 15:12:41 +0100
Message-Id: <200803311412.m2VECfKW031389@edinburgh.nag.co.uk>
To: jg307@cam.ac.uk
Cc: public-html@w3.org, www-math@w3.org


> making the MathML roughly a factor of 3.5 more verbose than the
> IteX. This is not a trivial  difference.

Not trivial, but manageable. MathML uses rather more elements than
typical in html as mathematics is struturally more complicated.
but the density of element marup to content in mathml is typically less
than say xslt. XSLT, because of the xml syntax, takes lots more
characters than the equivalent dsssl (which uses scheme lisp syntax) but
it's apparent that a) xslt is way more popular than dsssl, and b) a lot
of people are writing it using general text editors rather than specific
XML IDE's. There have been several attempts to provide "simplified"
linear non xml syntax for xslt together with pre-processors to convert
to the xml form, but as far as I can tell, they have never been popular
or widely used.



>  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.

emacs like many tools has far more features than any individual can ever
use fluemtly, you remember the the ones you need. I've typed a lot of latex
and a lot of xml in emacs, and let's just say that you are rather more
likely to remember how to get auto-closing assistance in xml than in
TeX.

But it's not all bad, emacs (or any editor) has a lot more information in the 
xml case: So while in latex if you get the nesting wrong, you typically
don't find out till TeX gets lost processing your document. In xml if
you get it wrong you instantly get a big red underline and your knuckles
rapped by James Clark.


> but it does suggest that expecting editor features to fix language
> deficiencies isn't going to work in practice. 

That I agree with. It is perfectly correct to be wary of claims that
people will provide tools to hide language mis-features. But first we
have to agree on which are the good features and which are the bad.


I like TeX, I spent some large part of my life helping to develop the
LaTex2e system but MathML syntax is the way it is for a reason: it's not
just some arbitrary attempt to scare the world with verbose element
syntax.

TeX syntax works best when used by TeX, there are some attempts at
TeX->xxx conversions, but basically they all suffer by various degrees
from the strangeness of using a language designed for the TeX execution
model in another context. No other system ever implemented a reliable
import of TeX. By agreeing on a common syntax notation and explictly
marked parse tree, MathML on the other hand has gained far wider support
in a far wider range of systems, CA systems, browsers, word processors,
even TeX. It is a bit harder to write mathml than TeX mathematics, but
it's harder (in the sense of more markup) to write a html table or full
document than a latex one, the differences though should not be
overstated.

MathML syntax has proved a great success as a common format for 
a wide variety of systems. I think those people that are claiming it
should change need to offer more proof than just initial gut reaction to
the amount of element markup. Whenever you look at a different language,
human or computer, it always looks insanely complicated intitally.


David

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Received on Monday, 31 March 2008 14:13:47 GMT

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