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Re: [Groff] tbl problems in man

From: Eric S. Raymond
Subject: Re: [Groff] tbl problems in man
Date: Wed, 7 Feb 2007 14:47:09 -0500
User-agent: Mutt/

Werner LEMBERG <address@hidden>:
> > > Well, then I'd really like to have some general solution
> > > (workaround) that would cause the cell widths in tables with any
> > > arbitary number of columns to set to something more reasonable
> > > than what tbl(1) currently does.
> >
> > That change needs to be made in tbl itself.  Which is, I think,
> > where this discussion has been heading all along.
> As mentioned earlier, I don't object to adding a new tbl keyletter
> which does what we all want to do.  However, it won't help with
> compatibility issues.

Werner, I've thought about this, and I've concluded that I was wrong to agree
with you so quickly about the compatibility issue.  My old-Unix-head
reflexes got the better of my forebrain for a moment there :-).

The worst case, if a viewer didn't implement the percent extension, is that
we'd get lumpy tables as we do now.  But I'm not really worried about
this, because I think the important case going forward is HTML 
transformation.  Viewers like man2html would ignore the percent extension
anyway, because they expect that each cell will end up as the content of 
an HTML table cell and the broswer will handle the column sizing.

So a percent extension would be a cosmetic fix for groff tables, a no-op
for HTML and XML translation, and produce results no worse than today's 
under classic Unix troff.  That seems acceptable to me. I don't think
it makes compatibility an issue.

But what Michael is really asking for is for gtbl to handle T{ T} blocks
beter even *without* some new feature.   Which, I think, is an eminently
reasonable request and where we ought to be focusing our energies.
                <a href="";>Eric S. Raymond</a>

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