W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > October 1997

Re: CSS1 and tables

From: John Udall <jsu1@cornell.edu>
Date: Thu, 09 Oct 1997 16:25:59 -0400
Message-Id: <3.0.1.32.19971009162559.00aa96a0@postoffice2.mail.cornell.edu>
To: www-style@w3.org
At 08:56 PM 10/9/97 +0200, Chris Lilley <Chris.Lilley@sophia.inria.fr> wrote:
>On Oct 9, 11:28am, Chris Wilson (PSD) wrote:
>
>>  Really, what you want is a switch that
>> the document author could set that says, "this document expects to be
>> parsed in strict accordance with the HTMLx DTD, and does not expect to
>> have any abnormal stylesheet hacks to match default rendering."
>
>I agree that the author is the one who (should) know about this, not
>the individual readers of the document.
>
	No argument here.  The problem is that the authors who we are talking
about here are the ones who created the documents with the problematic
"legacy behaviors" to begin with.  Many of these people don't know and
don't care what a DTD is, or whether or not their documents conform to it.
They just want to publish their information on the web.  Part of the beauty
of the web is its simplicity, the ease of authoring and publishing.  This
same simplicity coupled with the ambiguity allowed by the early
implementations of the browsers are at the root of the problems that we are
seeing now.

>> Maybe
>> that switch should be linked to the presence of (or the value of) the
>> <!DOCTYPE>, I don't know - but that seems like a better route for
>> attacking the problem.  Comments?
>
>That seems like a good suggestion. The only thing that would need to change
>would be those authoring tools which insert (seemingly random, and often
>obselete) doctypes in generated documents on the grounds that they think
>they are supposed to.
>
	Many of these are these are the same tools which couldn't produce a valid
(conforms to some known DTD) HTML document if their production run depended
on it.  There are a few good tools out there. Most of them are getting
better.  Style-sheets really help improve the whole tools situation,
because they allow the tools maufacturers a standards based route for
developing WYSIWYG behaviors, which the users apparently demand. 

	As far as automatically or with some user intervention, selecting the
correct DTD for a document is concerned, it's just a development nightmare.
 I mean, do you test the document against a given set of available DTDs to
see which one is the closest match for the document? Do you analyse the
elements contained in the document and then try to find a DTD which
contains them all, and see if the document validates, flagging the errors
as you get to them?  Or, if you have user intervention, how do you explain
to them which DTD is which, and what the implications are as far as
document usability/viewability (by the final audience) of selecting one DTD
vs. another?  Do you use a wizard, or pop-up help, or what?  Does the tool
explain it, or just show the user what it would look like?  It's just a
design nightmare.

	I can see the trademark desputes now ... [A hypothetical example:]  A
commercial product comes out from some-name software developers Inc.
containing a DTD selection wizard that says something like, " If you select
this DTD your document will be optimally viewable using Netscape Navigator
2.x or higher or Microsoft Internet Explorer 2.x or higher. But features x,
y, and z will be unavailable under earlier versions. Under Lynx 2-4-FM or
higher it will look like this, but may not display properly on earlier
versions.  Behaviour may vary using other web browsers."  Suddenly,
Netscape or Microsoft or some other company decide that they have been
maligned, or that their trademark has been used without permission, or that
they have been unfairly excluded all together.  Some-name software
developers Inc. get sued.  It's just really ugly. 

	I would love to see an web authoring product that could help with avoiding
the problems of "legacy HTML behaviors", but I just haven't seen one out
there. I'm not holding my breath either. :-( 

	As much as I hate to say it, from a personal HTML purist point of view, I
think that Chris Wilson is right on the money looking at it from the
business side of things.  You have to keep the browser users happy if you
want to build significant market share.  This means continuing to support
"legacy browser behaviors", be they ever so ugly.  But until we see some
better tools from the tools manufacturers, these problems are only going to
continue.  Software development is difficult (It also happens to be a lot
of fun, IMHO :-) and it takes time.  That's just the way it is.  The world
isn't a perfect place either.  That doesn't mean that we should stop trying
to make it better.  

Do any of the tools manufacturers want to step up to the mike, and address
these issues, either formally or informally?  We can kibitz, but you guys
are down in the trenches.  What have you're experiences been?

-John

>I note that both HTML 3.2 and 4.0 require the doctype in conforming
documents;
>HTML 2.0 does not require it but allows it.
>
[-snip-]
>-- 
>Chris Lilley, W3C                          [ http://www.w3.org/ ]
>Graphics and Fonts Guy            The World Wide Web Consortium
>http://www.w3.org/people/chris/              INRIA,  Projet W3C
>chris@w3.org                       2004 Rt des Lucioles / BP 93
>+33 (0)4 93 65 79 87       06902 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, France
>

Standard Disclamer -- The opinions expessed here are my own. They do not
represent official advice or opinions of Cornell Cooperative Extension 
or Cornell University.

John Udall,                                       
      Programmer/Systems Administrator            40 Warren Hall
Extension Electronic Technologies Group           Cornell University
Cornell Cooperative Extension                     Ithaca, NY 14853
email: jsu1@cornell.edu                           Phone: (607) 255-8127
Received on Thursday, 9 October 1997 16:28:03 GMT

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