Re: Proposal for an Outlining Markup Scheme For HTML 3.0

Keith Rettig (
Thu, 13 Jul 1995 10:34:15 -0400

Messages from and both had concerns that the
outling mark-up scheme we proposed could be expressed in terms of
subordinated headings and divisions. And, that HTML should not be extended
with new tags unless absolutely necessary.

It is indeed possible to achieve an outline presentation using the
techniques they proposed. In fact, nested lists and tables can also be
used. However, our goal was to present a natural mechanism for expressing
outlines (a "presentational issue" as commented by,
instead of having to figure out how to do it with existing tags. In
addition, the use of existing tags (is not clear how "stylesheets will
solve this issue" as commented by does not provide the
dynamic behavior we have described. Nor, with the use of additonal CGI
scripts to achieve dynamicity, will it reduce network traffic and delays. also proposed using a modified INCLUDE mechanism to accomplish
the expansion and contraction. This seems like it would work. And, once
again our goal is to provide a natural expression for outlines. It is our
belief that HTML should remain accessible to the majority of potential
authors who have little or no programming skill. Dealing with INCLUDEs
seems just too much like programming. The advent of things like Java will
provide plenty of outlet for those of us who are programmers
( But, those of us who are human factors
engineers ( don't want to be excluded. In fact,
it is the human factors perspective of HTML development that prompted our
proposal. understands the shortcomings we are
addressing , "...the notion of transmitting only the "table of contents" in
an outline form cannot be sensibly handled by Hn and DIV."
and provides a useful scheme for using heading for presenting an outline.
However, we addressed this issue during our internal review at Bellcore and
as also notes...

"...However, this doesn't work that well. Why? If you attempt to use Hn is
a sensible fashion, (H1 is top level, H2 is second level, etc) you're
limited to approximately 6 levels of outline."

The dynamic aspect is still not included in this approach.

As an aside, it seems that the concatenation of a number onto heading
labels is an artifact of early development. Why not use <H 1> and </H>?
Note the space between H and 1. Anybody interested in a separate thread on

In regards to Tilbury's following comment...

"I think I'd be inclined to agree with Brian here. We already have a
mechanism for creating lists, ordered or otherwise, and for creating
entries within these lists, and encapsulating further lists within these
entries. {snip snip} We already have three list metaphor elements within
the DTD, <OL>, <UL>, and <DL>. Another would be unnecessary, IMHO."

We disagree. Sure there are already several metaphors (these metaphors are
only a subset of the possibilities) being used by HTML 3.0, but one of the
goals of HTML is to provide the greatest capability with the least codes.
We feel that our proposal provides many new functions with a limited set of
additional codes. These functions include outlining a book, heirarchical
representations of information spaces, non-hierarchical representations of
information spaces, and a plethora of capabilities that centers around the
ability to dynamically reveal text at the will of the user. All while
keeping network reconnects and transactions to a minimum. However, we are
certainly interested in seeing a proposal which could make use of existing
tags, i.e. OL, and "wrap" them in some kind of outline mark-up so as to
produce the effect we desire. We tried this and failed. [See we aren't as
smart as we think! :-)]

Simon Blackwell (
Kieth Rettig (

Keith Rettig
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