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Re: New Working Draft published: CSS3 module: Color

From: Andy <lordpixel@mac.com>
Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2001 01:07:43 -0500
Message-ID: <3AAC67AF.9E6D3ADA@mac.com>
CC: "www-style@w3.org" <www-style@w3.org>
Tantek Celik wrote:
> I am happy to announce the availability (as of a few days ago) of a new
> working draft published by the W3C CSS working group: "CSS3 module: Color".
>  http://www.w3.org/TR/css3-color

First let me commend you on removing the hugely complicated list of
colours from the previous version of this specification. The previous
draft defined 210 system colours, but failed to allow one to determine
how to style such simple elements as a scrollbar, checkbox, radio button
or slider in a way that integrates with the feel of the platform[*].
Despite the inadequacy of the short list of colours in CSS2, vastly
increasing the number of colours listed is not a viable solution.

With the public unveiling of Windows XP, and the existing demands of the
Macintosh and Linux look and feels, its clear that no simple list of
colours can accurately reflect even the default look of any of the major
platforms; much less what they may look like when customised by the user
(themed). Clearly, if CSS is to be able to describe the richness
inherent in these looks, it needs a far more powerful mechanism.
Therefore its good this list has been frozen - even better if it were
explicitly deprecated.

I find it a shame that the X11 colour table was included. Though I
acknowledge one of the things CSS attempts to do is codify current
working practice, I find myself at a loss to discover why this arbitrary
colour list actually adds anything of value. The names have little
meaning even to native English speakers. These colours are also rather
unlikely to render correctly on 16bpp displays. The specification begins
by stating it may be judged as appropriate only for 32bpp devices, but
this seems to be disingenuous. Clearly it can be useful on much less
capable devices, if care is taken to avoid including things that mandate
32 bit colour.

So currently the module has:
	* an arbitrary list of 16 basic colours from HTML - i.e. the Windows ones
	* an arbitrary list of system colours - i.e. the Windows ones
	* an arbitrary list of contrarily named colours - i.e. the X11 ones.

To this is added flavour, chosen by the user and then somewhat
fancifully described as defaulting to the colour of the physical box the
user agent runs on. How are most user agent implementors  meant to
determine this? (given most UAs run on personal computers, not embedded)
Ask the user what colour his or her iMac is? What if its Blue Dalmatian?

Sarcasm is really out of place here, but again, I find adding one colour
for flavour to the list to be inadequate. Mac OS 9 defines a central
"flavour" colour and 6 variant shades. Having the central colour
available has some utility, but it is of very limited value without
knowing the other 6. What is "flavour" on Aqua or Windows XP? One
particular shade of blue is clearly inadequate as an attempt to describe
the richness of these looks and feels. Even Windows 98 allows 2 dominant
theme or "flavour" colours on screen - one for each end of the titlebar. 

There is much useful information in this module. Opacity, gamma, colour
profiles... Mixing in documentation on today's inadequate support for
"User Color Preferences" seems of limited value. If CSS is to address
look and feel integration, then the working group would better serve the
community by waiting until a module which describes how to do this
appropriately is complete. Much good work is being done in this area by
group members. Codifying more bad practice into the CSS3 standard - even
as a stop gap - serves noone in the long run; once in the standard it
will be very difficult to remove. 

I would recommend removing the X11 colours (as irrelevant) and
deprecating the system colours (as they are not widely implemented or
used, so impact is minimal).

AndyT (lordpixel)

[*] I admit, my bias is towards general styling of user interface using
CSS, rather than styling documents. I'd also comment that the system
colours as they stand are similarly biased, including colours for window
titlebars and other UI widgets.
Received on Monday, 12 March 2001 01:07:48 UTC

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