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From Johannes Schaefer <>
Subject semantic markup vs. WYSIWYG (was: [ANN] odt plugin)
Date Tue, 30 May 2006 08:51:35 GMT
Ross Gardler wrote:
> Ferdinand Soethe wrote:
>> Ross Gardler wrote:
>>> I'll certainly consider switching to a -0 if people want to see this,
>>> but I strongly caution against it. In my opinion it undermines the whole
>>> purpose of Forrest.
>> It is a slippery slope.

Yes, it is: Semantic/logical vs. presentational/physical markup.
See below and

>> Otoh there are many ways a developer can bend Forrest out of shape so
>> why not leave it up to them and their clients to decide.
>> I guess if it defaults to _not_ carry over styles and the switch carries
>> a sufficient warning in place that should be ok.
> Yes, it sounds reasonable. And Thorsten was careful to have a very clear
> warning in the contract description.
> However, I'm still concerned of posts to the user list of the form:
> "My section is not appearing in the TOC"
> "Everything looks fine in HTML but in PDF sections get all screwed up"
> "My headings have an inconsitent format"
> etc.

"Section" and "Heading" are semantic terms, i.e. we (the
users) talk about the meaning of the marked-up text.

Not appearing in the TOC e.g. means that they made them
*look* like section/heading but did not mark them up correctly.

X "looks fine" in Y but not in Z: may mean that Z does not
support the notion of X but Y does. What it usually means
is that the markup was fine-tuned for the *Look* not the
meaning, e.g. "My web page looks fine in MSIE but not in Z".

> The potential problems are massive, and since we claim to give a uniform
> output from inputs we are in danger of failng to deliver what we claim
> to do so. Sure the user should know what is going on, after all there is
> a warning in the contract description. But we all know users ignore
> things they do not understand and go ahead anyway. It works on the first
> test document so they spen time building a full site and then *bang*
> half the documents don't work.

We run a danger with WYSIWYG-input: users may use presentational
markup (bold, 24pt and these things) instead of semantic like
"section" and "heading".

I always thought of the Word/OOo (and now ODf) is to import
"legacy" documents, not to encourage users to write new content.
(OK, this is a radical point of view).

We have this in some of the plugins, e.g. OOo, Excel.
There was a discussion about carrying over "style"
from such plugins, see

If we allow "style" to carry through to the result this needs
to be implemented in all (!?) output formats Forrest supports
(at least users may request it; I requested it once for cell
coloring in PDF).

As for the Excel-Plugin: I ignored any styling done in Excel
(note, I introduced bg-color from the content of the cells).
And still, it's just a special-case input vehicle for not-XML-
savvy users. Others use a XML editor for "near WYSIWYG" (see

To use these input-plugins "correctly" they need good
documentation, as e.g. for OOo-HowTo
instructing them how to use OOo to write "proper" new documents
that work seamlessly with Forrest.

What do you think?

> Ross

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