[css3-writing-modes] The writing-mode property: existing implementations and naming

As you know, the writing-mode property was originally defined in CSS3 Text
many years ago [1]. It defined both block and text direction using a set of
values like lr-tb for Latin scripts or tb-rl for Japanese. The property
acted as a shorthand for the direction and block-progression properties.

This was implemented in IE5 and has been supported since; it was, 
unfortunately, implemented without a vendor prefix.

The CSS3 Writing Modes spec now redefines writing-mode to define block flow
direction only. It also defines a writing mode as 'determined by the writing-mode,
direction and text-orientation properties'[2].

I see two issues here.

First, naming. Given the scope of the feature and the module name, I would expect
writing-mode to be a shorthand that completely defines a writing mode, not part of
it. This seems to have been its function and intent in the original drafts. So
I'd expect a writing-mode to be defined by, say, the block-progression and 
text-orientation properties, or using the writing-mode shorthand to set both at

It just seems odd to have a property called 'writing-mode' that only defines part
of what a writing mode is.

Second, existing implementations. The writing-mode property implemented by IE5+
has seen a fair amount of use. Not always for the exact purpose the feature was
intended for e.g. to rotate text sideways for purely esthetic reasons. But it's
there. During our Kyoto f2f we talked of other legacy features that were also
been implemented and thus should be deprecated instead of redefined. Specifically,
new semantics should use a new property name and the existing property would be
called out as deprecated. This seems a similar scenario.

Although if the new writing-mode could be a shorthand with semantics that map 
closely to its original values then it may be possible to address both issues 
at once.

Thoughts ?

[1] http://www.w3.org/TR/2003/CR-css3-text-20030514/#writing-mode
[2] http://dev.w3.org/csswg/css3-writing-modes/#text-flow

Received on Wednesday, 22 June 2011 22:35:30 UTC