Re: list-style-type idea

On Wednesday 18 September 2002 13:54, George Lund wrote:
> It would be nice to have another possible value for list-style-type,
> namely 'collapsible'.  This would mean that browsers implementing
> this suggestion could display the list in a collapsible tree-view
> style.
> This would eliminate the need for a lot of JavaScript, and would mean
> that what is a relatively common GUI widget could be specified by
> authors with minimal fuss.  It would improve HTML coding, because
> such lists could be marked up with the <ul> element for non-CSS3
> browsers.

I have a proposal...

[Long intro, can be skipped:]

Collapsing text is an old idea. It was used in the earliest hypertext 
systems. Indeed, there are people that believe that expanding text 
should be the normal mode for hypertext, with the Web's current 
behavior of replacing one text with another reserved for exceptional 

Of course, it should not just apply to lists, although lists are a very 
common case.

I've been thinking about this a bit and I have some ideas, but it is 
hard to come up with something that is at the same time easy to specify 
for the common cases and still flexible enough for less common ones.

First, I'd like to be able to apply expanding/collapsing to any element 
in a document, but also to a link. In the latter case, clicking will 
put the linked document in place of the link. (Amaya can do that, to a 
limited extent, via its "make book" option.) The two ways of expanding 
do not necessarily have to use the same properties, though sharing some 
would be good.

Then, when an element is collapsed, I'd like to be able to say what is 
shown in its place. That might be an icon, the contents of a TITLE 
attribute, a certain child element of the collapsed element, etc.

Since the CSS WG is already planning to extend the 'content' property to 
apply to elements (it applies only to ':before' and ':after' in CSS2), 
we could use that to specify what is shown instead of the normal 

It looks, then, that we have two states for each element and for both 
states we can set properties, including the 'content' property. But if 
we make the 'content' property sufficiently general, the "collapsed" 
state might actually have more text than the "expanded" state. Maybe we 
should forget about "expanded" vs "collapsed" and just say that every 
element has two states. But why two? Why not more?

Taking the lead from DSSSL ("modes") and XSL-FO ("multi-fo"), we can 
make every element have as many states as we want. Let's simply number 
them, to avoid having to invent names, to make cascading easier and to 
create an implicit ordering. By default, the element is in state 0. 
Clicking it moves it to state 1, if defined, otherwise to the next 
state that is. If there are no more states, the next click moves back 
to state 0.

A click only affects the nearest enclosing element with states, not all 
ancestor of that element. There is still a problem if an element has 
multiple states and is also the source anchor of a hyperlink: what does 
the click do? Let's assume for now that it advances the state. (We may 
need a separate property to say that loading a new document takes 
priority over advancing to the next state.)

[Start reading again here:]

Let's say I want a DIV to be collapsed to an icon that has to be clicked 
to show the actual DIV contents. This is the style that replaces the 
DIV by an image:

    DIV {content: url(mypic.png)}

And this is state #1, which the user reaches by clicking the element in 
state #0:

    DIV:1 {content: normal}

Another example. I want an IMG to show the image initially, then the ALT 
text on the first click and the LONGDESC target on the second click:

    IMG {content: target(SRC)}
    IMG:1 {content: attr(ALT)}
    IMG:2 {content: target(LONGDESC); display: inline-block}

I added 'inline-block', because the longdesc is probably more than one 
paragraph. Note that 'attr()' inserts the contents of the attribute,  
but 'target()' inserts whatever the attribute points to (assuming it 
can be interpreted as a URL reference). 

Here is a collapsing list. It starts in collapsed state. In the 
collapsed state, it shows the UL's TITLE attribute:

    UL:0 {
        display: list-item;
        list-style: url(plus.png) disc;
        content: attr(TITLE) }

Since there is one explicit state, there are two states in total. The 
other state, say #1, matches the rule for generic UL (which is not 
shown, but presumably does the normal thing for lists).

Note that rules for UL apply to a UL in any state, while UL:0 applies 
only to state #0. It is slightly more involved than saying, e.g., 'UL 
{display: collapsed}' or some such, but it is more flexible.

Here is a hyperlink source anchor, that, when clicked, makes room for 
the target to be displayed inline:

    A[HREF]:1 {content: target(HREF); display: block}

And this makes it work if we neither know the name of the source anchor 
nor which attribute holds the URL (but, we assume, the browser knows 
the document type and can fill in the blanks):

    *:link:1 {content: target(); display: block}

And here is a challenge: given this HTML 2.0 fragment:

      <h>The section title</h>

how do I collapse the section to show only the heading?

Here is a solution, but it is not a very intuitive one:

    section:0 > h {display: block}
    section:0 > * {display: none}

Here is an interesting test case:

    body {color: magenta}
    section:0 p:0 {color: red}
    section:0 p:1 {color: blue}
    section:1 p:0 {color: green}
    section:1 p:1 {color: black}

If the p is red, how many times and where do you have to click to make 
it magenta?

  Bert Bos                                ( W 3 C )                              W3C/INRIA                             2004 Rt des Lucioles / BP 93
  +33 (0)4 92 38 76 92            06902 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, France

Received on Wednesday, 18 September 2002 22:41:12 UTC