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Re: OPINIONS WANTED: regexps in CSS?

From: George Olsen <golsen@2lm.com>
Date: Sun, 15 Mar 1998 15:15:22 -0800
Message-Id: <v03110701b1320d22defd@[]>
To: www-style@w3.org
Albert Lunde wrote:

>I'd be tempted to try for the same expressive power in a more verbose
>syntax: I once used a homegrown mainframe editor that used pattern matching
>loosely based on SNOBOL functions. But then people would have to learn
>another arcane syntax. (The advantage was you could make, say "*", mean
>whatever you wanted it to mean in a particular context.)

One solution to the "arcane-ness" issue to translate regular expressions
into a format mere mortals can understand -- similar to want PreFab
Software's "TextMachine" does. In example from their product documentation
<http://www.prefab.com/textmachine/docs/usersguide.html> shows their
approach, in this case, parsing a North American phone number:

[3 digits, punctuation, 3 digits, punctuation, 4 digits]

clear and self-documenting to non-programmers.

A fuller description of PreFab's approach is at

Yes, it's yet another variation to learn. However, the advantage is that it
doesn't require memorization of arcane commands, which I think is the main
hurdle to non-programmers. As a test, it would be interesting to have some
non-programmers read through PreFab's documentation and then see if they
understood the concept of regular expressions and could build one using the
syntax provided.

Certainly, the logic involved in the pattern matching (particularly for
more complex searches) is something that would need to be learned. However,
using an English-like syntax removes the cognitive overhead of translating
traditional regular expression notations into English.

Solving the usability problems will help provide a big enough user-base to
justify the effort needed to incorporate regular expression. While it's
dubious that many amateur users will use this feature, it's something the
could be used by a number of professional developers.

George Olsen
Design Director/Web Architect                          mailto:golsen@2lm.com
2-Lane Media                                              http://www.2lm.com
vox 310/473-3706 x2225                                      fax 310/473-6736
Received on Sunday, 15 March 1998 18:13:49 UTC

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