Re: Shortref [was: Re: Super and Subscripts]

Dave Raggett (
Mon, 23 Jan 95 08:36:12 EST

> Even if I grant that, I really question what's easier to use consistently
> in a correct manner with a minimum of surprises even in cheap technology:
> shortrefs or some (possibly more keystroke-intensive) tagging structure.

My own practical experience with trying out the math support in Arena
is that simple shortrefs in a restricted context are really helpful when
typing in examples. It also makes the markup easier to read - which is
important when you want to proof read it.

> I note, however, that it might be a moot point. If the tagging structure
> and shortrefs are both there, any user (perhaps depending on the
> availability of various tools) can make her/his own decision on which to
> use. Of course, by giving two ways to do it, you do incur both
> implementation and upkeep overhead. Maybe that's acceptable. [Lest I'm
> misunderstood, while I would hope the ArborText SGML editor will provide a
> WYSIWYG interface for whatever "HTML mathematics" turns out to be, it can
> now input an SGML file with shortrefs.] I just want to be sure we don't
> design a tagging structure that's so complex that the only way to make it
> acceptable is with shortrefs, because I believe many users will find
> shortrefs unacceptably difficult to use.

The code in the browser to support the shortrefs and their corresponding tags
is trivial. The ease of use issue is much simpler for math than for normal
text entry. You first need to explain to users that { stands for <box> and
} for </box>, not an exactly tricky idea to get across. The _ and ^ shortrefs
are also simple to explain. The only complication comes when you want to
explain how to superscript a superscript. This is rare in practice, though.

-- Dave Raggett <> tel: +44 272 228046 fax: +44 272 228003
Hewlett Packard Laboratories, Filton Road, Bristol BS12 6QZ, United Kingdom