Re: text transformations in CSS?

Scott E. Preece (
Sat, 9 Dec 1995 21:57:55 -0600

From: Glenn Adams <>

| Date: Fri, 8 Dec 1995 10:13:00 -0600
| From: (Scott E. Preece)
| Has the group thought about including more general textual
| transformations in CSS? Something like
| P.abstract {text-edit: "<B>Abstract</B> #value"}
| This is a fundamentally bad idea, one which has surfaced from time
| to time and quickly dismissed (at least in the form you have presented).
| Namely, HTML and style sheets are designed to be dependent of each
| other; one should be able to parse an HTML document independently of
| its style sheet and vice versa. If the style sheet were permitted
| to generate arbitrary content including markup, then this separation
| would no longer be possible.


I guess this makes me wonder if the HTML/stylesheet model is pitched at too limited a level of functionality. When you say "stylesheet" to me it covers a lot of things that do involve exactly this kind of transformation - things like order of elements, presence or absence of structural headings, ordering and punctuation of elements in bibliographic citations, etc.

The CSS proposal seems much more at the level that word processing programs tend to use the word "stylesheet" - just typographic style control. This has always seemed to me to be a key shortcoming of those word processing programs, and one of the reasons I thought SGML, which supports real structural markup, was a far better way for the future.

I had hoped that HTML with stylesheets might make up for some of the least-common-denominator nature of HTML (that class information could make up for the fixed and minimal DTD). I guess I'm disappointed that the combined HTML+stylesheet doesn't aim higher, for all that it's a useful advance over HTML alone. It seems to me that pre-formatted document tools (like Acrobat distillers) on the one side and SGML tools on the other side are likely to put a lot of pressure on HTML's growth potential...

I think I would be inclined to move my own authoring towards SGML, rather than HTML, assuming I can find good tools.


scott preece
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