Re: hmmm... servers producing per-browser customised output.

Duncan White (
Thu, 3 Nov 1994 05:43:52 +0100

Hi all,

I've been watching the discussion on presentation control with interest.

In Message-Id: <>, Robert A. Lentz
<> writes:

>Sometimes there seems to be an interesting dichotomy growing with regard to
>presentation. There exists a noble wish to restrict HTML to primarily a
>logical markup language. Those who wish control over presentation are often
>pointed towards an external format such as PDF, or reduced to having to use
>bitmapped images. Yet, it seems that such a solution is the worst possible
>solution since we lose all logical markup (and most presentation control for
>the user).

I agree strongly with Robert here - it seems to me that HTML merely needs to
give a bit more control to document authors - not the whole hog, right down to
the exact fonts, colours, kerning algorithm, resize behaviour etc etc, but
(perhaps) about as much as basic LaTeX commands give a document author (but
definitely not the full complexity of the underlying TeX system!)

Someone gave the example of a newspaper that wanted to be laid out multi-
column. This seems an eminently reasonable thing to be able to request.
Likewise, that a line of text should be "centred" within the column, without
having to say "it's a citation" if it **isn't** a citation. Likewise, that
data should be laid out in a tabular format, or as equations (ok, I know these
latter two are coming "real soon now").

In taking an extreme position against "creeping presentationism" :-), and
arguing that HTML is purely for structure, not appearance, I think some people
are forgetting that what is most attractive about the Web is precisely that
HTML documents look **REALLY ATTRACTIVE** on a decent browser like Mosaic.
That's why Web browsers such as Mosaic and its offspring are candidates for
"the killer app of the Internet" - not cos documents are structured!

Before structure lovers start to flame me, let me state that I am enormously
grateful that HTML is a structured layout mechanism (in the LaTeX/troff school)
as opposed, for instance, to RTF or display postscript or some rubbish like
that! I have a keen regard for using only "legal" HTML, and frequently have
to suggest this to some of my more DTP-happy colleagues who say "if I make this
whole paragraph an <h5>, and then use <b> for a couple of words, then they'll
stand out nicely!"..

>It seems that an early appearance of style sheets (and HTML 3.0)
>is our only hope. (Will MCom be the savior? They certainly appear to be in
>the strongest position right now.)

>From what everyone's been saying about NetScape (Mozilla) it looks like that's
gone way over the top allowing font and colour choice etc, but at least they've
started to add some more new features (and now)! I'm much happier with a
practical bunch like Mcom experimenting with new features than I am with the
various SGML-inspired ideas that are invading HTML, such as DTDs and style
sheets. I really think that HTML is, say, 90% of the way there already, and
it just needs a few more commands.

>Just what I think I see,
> "You have to push as hard as the age that pushes against you."
> -Flannery O'Connor


Duncan C. White, Software Support Officer, Room 36BB20, Dept. of Elec Eng,
University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 5XH, UK.
Email: Direct phone: (0483) 259826
Fax: (0483) 34139 Or: (0483) 300800 ext 9826
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trying to do tremendous damage."
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