W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > July 1999

Floating Boxes Idea

From: George Lund <George@lundboox.demon.co.uk>
Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 18:51:51 +0100
Message-ID: <x2fjnCA3SJo3IAZa@lundboox.demon.co.uk>
To: www-style@w3.org
Firstly, I apologise if this has been discussed before, but I didn't
notice and I have enjoyed thinking it up for myself :-)...

For better readability, I have put this suggestion in HTML format at
<URL: http://www.lundboox.demon.co.uk/george/floating.html > That copy
has a few modifications and corrections too. The example page doesn't
work in IE because IE doesn't understand HTTP properly.


Here are some thoughts on how, for interactive media, a new browser
window might be created. With HTML 4, the target attribute is deprecated
[1], effectively precluding authors from creating new windows without
scripting. Such windows could be a useful way of providing navigation
for a site, particularly if they could be made to float on top. As the
navigation aid will not be stored as a separate document (except if
specifically the CSS were to be applied to an <OBJECT> element), a
method for keeping the aid on the screen persistently is also required.

Property: > display < (or should that be > position < ?)
   An additional value of > floating < is proposed (another name might
be better to avoid confusion with the float property). Elements with
display: floating are removed from the flow and placed in a separate
window. Resizability of the window depends upon the value of the
> resizer < property. Details of toolbars, menus etc. are up to the UA
although on a typical system none would be required. The window must be
able to be moved around. UAs choosing not to implement this value for
> display < should replace > floating < with > block < . The default
size of the window depends on the content and the UA (width and height
properties still apply). Positioning with > left < and > top <
properties is relative to the window from which the navigation aid
originated, but regardless UAs must not position it beyond the visible
area of the screen.
   If a floating window box (hmm, that phrase conjures up strange
images!) contains no content, no new window must be created.

Property: > z-index <
   This property has the effect that might be expected, i.e. a value
other than auto specifies that the new window will appear _permanently_
above (or, in a crazy scenario, below) the originating window. (This is
the 'always on top' setting familiar to Windows' help users.) User
agents should provide a way for users to close the window and to set the
z-order to auto and back again.
   Setting the > z-index < property affects the navigation aid's
relationship with the originating window only (and any other floating
windows it creates). In particular floating windows must not appear
permanently on top of other browser windows (or any other windows).

   To be useful as a navigation aid, the floating window must remain in
the same position when the user changes which page is being viewed.
Therefore if a page contains a box in which (a) the > display < property
has the value > floating < and (b) it has the same ID attribute value as
a box in the previously-viewed window which also had display: floating,
the floating window should not be removed. Otherwise, floating windows
must be removed when the originating page is no longer being viewed.
Thus during normal navigation using <A> links, floating windows remain
open whilst the next page is being downloaded and displayed. Other
operations, such as entering a URL manually, choosing a bookmark or
closing the browser window, cause the floating window to close
   In the situation as outlined above, the > z-index < , > left < , and
> top <, properties should be ignored, so that they may be 'inherited'
from the previous floating window. If the floating box has previously
been closed (i.e. display had been given the value of none) then the new
page's floating box should have display: none as well.
  This persistence idea is admittedly a bit on the borders of what CSS
should do but my whole concept is useless without it.

This proposal allows the creation of accessible web pages because the
content of the box can be provided inline if necessary. There might be a
case for defining a whole new property to initiate a floating window
(rather than using display: floating) because that would allow users to
create a stylesheet which explicitly forbade the creation floating

The one big problem with this proposal is: adverts. But any given
advertising company (e.g. Geocities) would probably use identical IDs
for their pop-ups so a user could create an appropriate stylesheet to
insist on display: none.

Ah well, I'd be interested in any comments.

[1] Whilst not specifically deprecated, the target attribute does not
appear in the Strict DTD for HTML 4 <URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-
html40/strict.dtd >.
George Lund
Received on Thursday, 29 July 1999 13:53:32 UTC

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