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RE: Personal stylesheet UI in 4.0 releases (was Re: CSS andpresen tational markup)

From: Chris Wilson (PSD) <cwilso@MICROSOFT.com>
Date: Mon, 9 Jun 1997 12:22:53 -0700
Message-ID: <41F7F4CE3CA2CF11BC5000805F14B2A901ABCE68@RED-31-MSG.dns.microsoft.com>
To: "'Todd Fahrner'" <fahrner@pobox.com>
Cc: www-style@w3.org
You're right, Arnoud, that was primarily a UI issue - which is certainly
not my area of expertise.  However, I do support this choice *at the
moment*, because user stylesheets are NOT required - in fact, it's quite
likely that the vast majority of users would find it annoying to use,
since those authors who use HTML constructs for presentational purposes
(I am NOT condoning this) would have their presentations messed up.  I'm
not saying it wouldn't be a useful feature, just that we have very large
amount of UI as it is - not only is space at a premium, but we are
burdened with the task of educating the end user with what the UI
options actually do, and stylesheets are still at the fringe of the
average end user's (not the document authors') knowledge.  At this
point, it's relatively easy to explain what the "use this stylesheet"
option does - but a selection mechanism for multiple user-side
stylesheets would be confusing to the majority of our users.  As we
progress toward more Web-educated users, and as the browser comes closer
to becoming an editor, I believe we will need (and want!) to provide
more options in this area.

I fail to see, however, how XML will increase the need for _user-side_
stylesheet options.  Obviously, without good, solid document-side
stylesheet support, XML would be dead in the water with respect to
delivering presentation - but it would seem that user stylesheets would
have a hard time hooking in to XML.  If you don't know what elements
(gids) are going to occur in the XML content you download, you can't
really write a stylesheet for them, can you?

I certainly don't see stylesheets as an "obscure accessibility option" -
I've poured most of my time, much of my energy, and a lot of faith into
evangelizing them both inside and outside Microsoft for the last year
and a half.  The short answer to why the user stylesheets option went in
the Accessibility page is (as I said to Chris Lilley in private email
last week):

>It had to go somewhere.  :^)

The slightly longer response is:
><<I consider it>> Not purely as an accessibility issue in terms of
disabled access, but it
>is a feature that makes content more accessible (readable) to the user.

As Chris responded, and I whole-heartedly agree, this does help make
"people realise that "Accessibility" is about themselves, not some
nebulous 'other'."  Accessibility is not just for those with severe
disabilities - it's about finding solutions to making content easier to
access and presentation less dependent on glitz (not that glitz isn't
there, but that the content shines through anyway).

I am far and away not the best person to stand on the Accessibility
soapbox (although I do like the view from up here), so I'll step down

...and stand back on the stylesheets one.  I didn't realize that CSS was
positioned as 'an "accessibility" enhancement.'  If that is its primary
intent, I can make a mockery of that position for a number of other
reasons - for example, the cascade order is not designed to give the
user complete control, and even if it were, the rules of inheritance
means the user would have to set (e.g.) their font on every possible
element type, so that the document author could not override their
inherited font preference.... which, hmm, makes it useless in the XML
context, where you as a document browser cannot possible preconceive
every element in random Web XML content.  This doesn't seem like it
solves real accessibility concerns.

Anyhow, I see the value of many extensions to both user-side and
document-side stylesheet linkage UI.  Rest assured, we will get there -
but we need to not overwhelm our users either.

Incidentally, I can see a way to use our CSS Object Model to write a
document stylesheet tester - that is, a way to load documents and flip
through several different stylesheets applied to that document to make
sure the document still looks okay, without having to mess with the
document itself.  If someone wants to remind me of this in about a week
and a half, I can write this up in script and send it out - but I'm
afraid I'm far too busy to work on it this week.

Chris Wilson

> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Todd Fahrner [SMTP:fahrner@pobox.com]
> Sent:	Saturday, June 07, 1997 4:17 PM
> To:	Chris Wilson (PSD)
> Cc:	www-style@w3.org
> Subject:	Personal stylesheet UI in 4.0 releases (was Re: CSS
> andpresentational markup)
> At 22:50 +0200 6.7.97, Arnoud "Galactus" Engelfriet wrote:
> > "Chris Wilson (PSD)" <cwilso@MICROSOFT.com> wrote:
> > > ... look in View...Options, Advanced tab, and
> > > click "Accessibility".
> >
> > This is probably more a UI issue, but why that deep? I believe there
> > is a recommendation that you can change stylesheets with something
> like
> > a dropdown menu (using the text in the LINK element as title or
> > something like that), and I'd like to be able to define more than
> > one stylesheet and switch between those depending on what I'm
> reading
> > and what I'm doing.
> Hear hear! I'll add that the ability to cycle rapidly through several
> (generic) stylesheets for the same content will help authors
> enormously in checking their work for "CSS-readiness." Sadly, most
> current Web content will break with personal stylesheets enabled.
> Without a one-step way to toggle to something closer to the
> "consensus" UA default stylesheet, personal stylesheets will rarely
> be used. This will contribute to CSS abuse by authors, making a
> mockery of its positioning as an "accessibility" enhancement.
> Further, consider the possibilities for intranet or special-interest
> use with defined sets of class markup: users could display/not
> display classes as appropriate for their department or interest - a
> kind of proto-XML. Finally, if you intend to support XML extensively
> in IE5, stylesheets will no longer be an obscure accessibility
> option, but absolutely critical for meaningful access of any kind.
> The better your UI anticipates this, the smoother, more natural, and
> more powerful will be the transition.
> Sounds like a strategic competitive opportunity to me. I'll run
> Virtual PC on my Mac to run IE4 if Netscape 4 won't offer a personal
> stylesheet UI. But not if it's buried as an "advanced accessibility
> option." Personal stylesheets are not just for the visually impaired.
> ________________________________________
> Todd Fahrner
> mailto:fahrner@pobox.com
> http://www.verso.com/
> The printed page transcends space and time. The printed page, the
> infinitude of books, must be transcended. THE ELECTRO-LIBRARY.
> --El Lissitzky, 1923
Received on Monday, 9 June 1997 15:23:00 UTC

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