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Re: lynx-dev <BR> does not accumulate

From: Al Gilman
Subject: Re: lynx-dev <BR> does not accumulate
Date: Wed, 12 Aug 1998 20:59:58 -0400 (EDT)

<sermonette warning>

I haven't studied the full HTML 4 specification well enough to
take a position as to whether HTML 4 really mandates the omission
of a whitespace line on encountering <BR><BR>.  The language I
quoted appears to allow Fote's implementation.

I agree with Philip that Lynx should not follow the consensus
documents slavishly, but seek common sense answers.

In this case, common sense dictates that you can't please all
of the people all of the time.  In other words, working with
a fixed-pitch character grid, either including a whitespace
line or excluding a whitespace line will displease some people
for some texts.  There is no ideal choice, here.  Just cutting
one's losses.

Working with a 24-line screen, there are common-sense reasons
for conserving vertical space and eliding excess whitespace
on encountering repeated <BR> elements.

I can testify from my involvement in the closing days of HTML 4
development that Fote's implementation complies with but is not
dictated by the spirit of HTML 4.  There was a strong desire to
define structure topologically in HTML and reserve layout to
CSS2, with style defaults supplied by the browser when there is
no explicit stylesheet invoked.  So the spirit of HTML 4 is: it's
up to us to decide what makes sense.

Personally, I use the deprecated &nbsp; in <BR>&nbsp;<BR> when I
want to force Lynx to leave a vertical whitespace.  This renders
consistently in Lynx and other browsers, so I don't need to
rewrite either Lynx or HTML to get a blank line when I really
want it.


to follow up on what Philip Webb said:
> From address@hidden  Wed Aug 12 20:31:07 1998
> From: Philip Webb <address@hidden>
> Message-Id: <address@hidden>
> Subject: Re: lynx-dev <BR> does not accumulate
> To: address@hidden
> Date: Wed, 12 Aug 1998 20:26:23 -0400 (EDT)
> In-Reply-To: <address@hidden> from "Dave Eaton" at Aug 12, 98 02:49:02 pm
> X-Mailer: ELM [version 2.4 PL24]
> Sender: address@hidden
> Precedence: bulk
> Reply-To: address@hidden

> 980812 Dave Eaton wrote:
> > On Wed, 12 Aug 1998, Philip Webb wrote:
> >> i agree with the gentleman in Vancouver that it's a bug,
> >> at least in the sense that Lynx 2-8 doesn't comply with HTML 4.0.
> > I disagree. Refer to the section of the HTML 4.0 spec re whitespace
> > which is referenced by section 9.3.2 which concerns line breaks
> > (
> > as well as the parts of the spec mentioned earlier on this thread:
> >> Line breaks are also white space characters. ...[clip]...
> >> In particular, user agents should collapse input white space sequences
> >> when producing output inter-word space."
> > Thus, in the absence of a <PRE>,
> > multiple spaces, tabs, newlines and <BR>s get collapsed
> > to a single space (or no space in this case) & the line gets terminated.
> > Lynx isn't broken here ... please don't fix it.
> no, the HTML 4.0 spec is not properly thought-out by its authors:
> they tell us to collapse input white-space sequences,
> but they don't tell us what to collapse them to!
> even collapsing spaces & tabs is not simple:
> no doubt, multiple spaces become  1 space  & multiple tabs become  1 tab ,
> but what does  1 space + 1 tab  collapse to:  1 space  or  1 tab ?
> newlines have no effect, even without multiple white-space char's;
> OTOH  <BR> + space  collapses to  <BR> , not to  space  (presumably).
> the `PR' version 971107 (linked from the Lynx 2-8 help page) was worse:
>   Any sequence of contiguous white-space characters
>   should be interpreted as inter-word space.
> that tells us -- literally -- that  <BR><BR>  is shown as  space !
> moreover, since  1 <BR>  is a sequence, ALL  <BR>'s  should become spaces!!
> no, i'm not being pedantic: that's what you get if you approach HTML 4.0
> without asking whether its words make sense, let alone common-sense.
> i'ld say it's patent that the authors of HTML 4.0 didn't think it thro',
> including  <BR>  as a white-space character in one paragraph,
> then instructing collapse of such characters in another paragraph,
> without noticing that there are cases in which ambiguity results.
> since the authors plainly didn't get everything clean & consistent,
> Lynx has no reason to follow their instructions to the letter,
> esp as collapsing <BR>'s misrepresents the intentions of document authors,
> as shown by many WWW sites whose pages Lynx users then complain about.
> i will alter my assessment "Lynx 2-8 doesn't comply with HTML 4.0"
> to "Lynx 2-8 can't comply with HTML 4.0 at this point,
> since HTML 4.0 does not give consistent unambiguous instructions";
> that leaves it upto the Lynx community to decide how to treat  <BR><BR>
> & i recommend they be rendered as  2  fresh lines,
> following common sense & the intentions of most document authors.
> as for the originator of this bit of Lynx pedantry,
> i was well aware of what AG & TD pointed out, but wanted to be tactful:
> it's fun to have a debate, but not to provoke people.
> -- 
> ========================,,============================================
> SUPPORT     ___________//___,  Philip Webb : address@hidden
> ELECTRIC   /] [] [] [] [] []|  Centre for Urban & Community Studies
> TRANSIT    `-O----------O---'  University of Toronto

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