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RE: facemenu-unlisted-faces

From: Drew Adams
Subject: RE: facemenu-unlisted-faces
Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2006 09:49:27 -0700

Sasha writes:

    > FWIW - I never argued that anything should be bulletproof or
    > that anything shouldn't be changeable. My argument was that
    > applying a text property (such as boldness) to text is
    > conceptually simpler and closer to what newbies are
    > used to than is applying a face to text. That's all.

    I think I'm getting your point and I think you are right, that that's
    the way many (most?) people do WYSIWYG text formatting these days.
    But I also think, that this is the wrong way to do it, and that we
    shouldn't encourage it in any way.

    Edited text should be marked up semantically, not by means of concrete
    visual properties.

    This is especially important with electronic text, where you will
    never know about the special properties of the medium the recipient
    will use when he reads it:  He might use an X-Terminal (with high
    resolution, colors, arbitrary fonts), a Text terminal (which might
    only know about bold and one font), a printout, or he might be even
    blind, using a speech synthesizer...

    Users should rather learn to use a semantically named face like
    "subtitle" or "emphasized" from the very start than to mark text as
    "bold" or "italic".

    These concepts ain't new, they are well known for a long time, but I
    think it's a big obstacle, that most existing text processing systems
    (let them be WYSIWYG "office" programs or markup languages like HTML)
    make it too easy for the user to ignore them.

Tomas continues in the same vein:

    FWIW, modern text programs (yes, even the one with the "W" on its name)
    all try to coax the user into a more semantical markup. So yes, I think
    it makes sense to try to seduce users into that way of thinking. Making
    "visual markup" *the* obvious choice seems to be the wrong way.

You both bring up a different ball of wax. I agree with you (and with TeX
and Framemaker and everyone else) - this is the Emphasis vs Bold discussion.

The current discussion, however, takes as a given that the aim of these menu
items is to provide simple, constant changes to text appearance, without
regard to meaning. I believe that is RMS's position and the raison d'etre
for these menu items. He's after WYSIWYG here, where the WYS and the WYG are
within Emacs buffers (and possibly PostScript form and some other forms).
"Underline" means underline, purely and simply. A speech reader will convey
that using the word "underline", for whatever that information might be

Faces are the closest mechanism Emacs has to providing (the equivalent of)
more semantics-based markup. And I have no objection to encouraging the use
of faces, especially for that purpose - quite the contrary.

To the extent that we might also want to provide a quick-and-dirty way to
make Emacs text Bold (vs Emphasis), however, that quick-and-dirty mechanism
should probably avoid use of faces for the most part - or at least the two
should be kept separate in the UI.

And, partly for precisely the issue you raise, it is, in general, not a good
idea to have faces (e.g. `bold', `fixed-pitch') whose names claim a certain
appearance. Face names like `dired-flagged' communicate what the face is
for, they don't communicate how it looks; they are in the Emphasis camp, not
the Bold camp.

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