W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > October 2003

Re: [CSS21] Text-decoration "inheritance"

From: Jukka K. Korpela <jkorpela@cs.tut.fi>
Date: Thu, 2 Oct 2003 10:04:33 +0300 (EEST)
To: www-style@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.4.58.0310020923540.11649@korppi.cs.tut.fi>

On Wed, 1 Oct 2003, fantasai wrote:

> Jukka K. Korpela wrote:
> >
> > The text-decoration property as a whole is questionable. It should
> > probably be preserved for compatibility reasons, but its name is heavily
> > misleading, and most of its values are misleading.
> Have you looked carefully at CSS3 text?
> http://www.w3.org/TR/css3-text/#text-decoration-overview

No really. But the more carefully I read that part of the proposal,
the more convinced I am of the point I make above. Extending
text-decoration with new features, which might be called real decoration,
just adds to the confusion.

Actually I had missed that the confusion already started in CSS 2.
I had forgotten that, since I've mostly been thinking about those CSS 2
features that actually work.

The draft says:

"The 'text-decoration' property itself is now a shorthand property for all
these new properties. However, the 'text-decoration' values are not
composites built from the values of constituent properties. Rather,
'text-decoration' values come from a small set specific to the
'text-decoration' shorthand property."

I think there's enough confusion around shorthands. As a whole, they help
little, but they create traps even for fairly experienced authors.
This would add yet another anomaly to the shorthand trickery.

>  > The most common value, underline, could and probably should be replaced
>  > by a bottom border.
> Underlining and bottom border are two different effects.

Certainly. But often bottom border is a more suitable effect.

What do you need underlining for, anyway, on the Web? Excluding special
cases like replicating the appearance of printed text being converted to
HTML or XML format, for which <u> markup would actually be more adequate,
links are the only thing that should be underlined, due to the history and
practices of the Web. Underlining anything else usually just calls for
confusion. And for links, a bottom border would generally be better, since
it leaves the text more readable when it has descenders or subscripts.

OK, most people probably disagree with that. But the point is that
underlining has, for better or worse, a well-established limited usage.
There's little reason to help authors create confusion by adding
variations to the theme. If we wish to allow _decoration_ of texts, that's
a different issue.

> > Line-though is questionable in most presentation environments...
> Line-through is provided for effects like *striking out* text that
> are marked to be deleted, not for making regular text stand out...

I would say "marked as deleted". But the point is that if the text is
present at all, it should be fairly easily readable, so that the reader
can see exactly what has been deleted. And line-through, especially as
implemented in browsers, makes the text hard to read. The proposed new
properties would help here, but they still don't let you specify the
vertical position. I doubt whether all the added complexity is worthwhile.
Even if the specification gets approved and implemented in, say, five
years (to be optimistic), it will take time before authors learn to use
the tuning so that line-through is not too disruptive. And there's the
simple option of discourageing the use of line-through and encourageing
other approaches in the relatively rare cases where deletions are to be
indicated visually.

Jukka "Yucca" Korpela, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
Received on Thursday, 2 October 2003 03:04:35 UTC

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