Style/content separation (was: color text?)

Bruce F. Webster (
Wed, 3 May 95 21:26:45 EDT

I'm not surprised that some folks are arguing for embedding style
information with content/structure; it's an obvious solution for anyone
who hasn't previously done significant development of document
processing. Unfortunately, it's also a short-sighted and limited solution
that will cause no end of grief. If you don't believe me, then just
trace the history of the WordPerfect document architecture and the
struggles they've had extending it.

Concern over the time required to go out and fetch a stylesheet is,
IMHO, false economy--penny wise and pound foolish, as it were. It pales
in comparision to time spent fetching graphics and is near zero compared
to fetching "rich" file formats such as Acrobat, MSWord, and some of the
other efforts being put forth. Yet the results could be rich enough to
eliminate most of the remaining need for those formats.

I can sympathize in part with those browser engineers who aren't looking
forward to dealing with a generalized stylesheet implementation; again,
in-line style commands are easier to parse, and because the approach is
by nature self-limiting, easier to support. Put a bit more bluntly, it's
quick and dirty. However, I'm afraid such an approach opens the door for
non-HTML proprietary formats and may well hinder or limit commercial
acceptance of HTML as a broadcast and distribution medium.

It also blocks a need that we discovered with our design model
technology: people need different layouts for reading from screen and
printing to paper. For that matter, there are variations of on-screen
presentation based on color depth (if any), screen resolution, quality of
display, and even rendering model being used (Display PostScript vs.
TrueType vs. whatever). Introduction of separate stylesheets allows a
document to be reformatted automatically and optimally for the screen or
printer being used. Embedded commands prevent any such reformatting.

As for local caching of stylesheets, I think it'll be far more prevalent
than has been stated by some. At least two areas spring to mind:
electronic publications and in-house web document distribution. In both
those cases, it is simple and desirable for the user to have local copies
of stylesheets for documents that he/she browses on a regular basis.

Just $0.02 from someone who's being dealing--from the design and layout
side--with style/content separation and separate design models for five
years, and who's very much dealing with it now for web document creation.
Bruce F. Webster | We hackers linger by our leading edge
CTO, Pages Software Inc | Forgetting what is pending in the cache | Till practice hurtles past us, and we crash. | -- Jeff Duntemann