Re: tab-width specifications in HTML

Tue, 7 Feb 95 10:50:14 EST

| >While tables can be used for vertical alignment, this can be inconvenient.
| >For instance in a table caption, you might want a copyright message at
| >the end of the caption to be right ajusted and in a different font. In this
| >and similar circumstances, it is natural to use a "right tab".


| While it is very alien to most, I tend to agree with Eric Naggum that
| a "table" is nothing more than just an ordered collection of
| information, and that too much emphasis is placed on mapping the
| visual effects people expect tables to produce, onto a DTD. Using
| stylesheets it should be possible to associate an arbitrary amount of
| processing with each SGML element, which might include right
| justification within the parent of it's left sibling.

Agreed that a table is (i.e., should be) "an ordered collection of
information", it is often not _just_ that; sometimes it is an ordered
collection of information plus some explicit formatting hints needed
to represent that information in the way that I want to see it
represented. I am thinking specifically of column widths. The
algorithm does not exist that will allocate widths based on cell
content as well as I can do it myself. (Since the definition of "as
well as I can" is "in the way that best expresses what I wish to
convey", I would maintain that such an algorithm never will exist,
either.) It's essential from the standpoint of information retrieval,
reuse, localization, etc. that tables be ordered collections of
information before they are anything else, but you have to provide
mechanisms for layering some personal, case-by-case formatting hints
on top of that foundation. Case-by-case hints aren't going to go
gracefully into a style sheet.

I do agree with Gavin's point about right-justifying a particular kind
of element; that's something that can and should be handled in a style
sheet (though I would do this by hanging the desired behavior on an
element's being tagged a certain way rather than basing it on the tree
structure). I just didn't want to let the general statement go by
without pointing out that not everything can be handled that way.

Jon Bosak, Novell Corporate Publishing Services
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