Ordered list syntax.

Már Örlygsson mar at anomy.net
Sat Mar 27 17:40:41 EST 2004

Another problem with relying on external stylesheets to provide numbering
schemes and counter start-points for ordered lists, is what happens when the
HTML document is viewed with CSS turned off (In simple browsers, on handheld
devices, in RSS readers, as syndicated content published offsite or in
print, etc. etc.) Then the document lacks important information.

Please understand that I'm only trying to bring up all sides of this issue,
because I think it is an important issue - more important than it seems at
first. John has a very difficult decision to make.

Lou Quillio:
> The *minimal* way to validly accommodate complex numbering is to 
> provide a syntax for class-attribute assignment, which would allow 
> users to apply their own schemes.  Most folks could ignore it, but the 
> hooks would be there.  Users could share their techniques, but that 
> would happen within the general discussion of XHTML/CSS, not MD.  Most 
> users don't need it anyhow, but when they do, they do.

Because I know how important MD's usability is to John, I think it might be
beneficial for us to consider this alternative from a usability/readability
point of view.

If a typical user, say Aunt Tillie, types in an ordered list like this (MD syntax)

    E) add sugar to the mix.
	F) stir vigorously.
	G) jump up and down.

I bet he/she pretty much expects that list to appear like that: using
uppercase latin characters; starting with E.  She doesn't want to be
bothered with complex, optional class-name styntax and defining stylesheets.
At least I bet she'd like to be able to start using MD, right out of the
box, without having to worry about these things.

This brings up the question: does John intend Markdown to be used by our
Aunt Tillie, or is it targeted at the more technically sophisticated crowd
that doesn't mind boggling over applying CSS class-names to seemingly simple
ordered list fragments?

Two other questions:

1) Should John consider a soltuion where Markdown automatically assigns
certain predefined class-names to ordered list tags based on what type of
list is being written?

This would mean that Aunt Tillie's list fragment above, would produce the
following HTML markup:

    <ol class="ol-A ol-5">
	  <li>add sugar to the mix.</li>
	  <li>stir vigorously.</li>
	  <li>jump up and down.</li>


  a) Simple!
  b) Validates!


  a) Relies on an external CSS file (problems with RSS, syndication, etc.).
  b) Potentially endless number of counter-init classes that need to be
     definfed in the CSS file. (.ol-2, .ol-3, .ol-4, .ol-5, .ol-6, etc...) 

2) Should Markdown's default behaviour be to output Transitional HTML with
start="" and type="", but to also to allow power-users to override the
default configuration to allow compatibility with (X)HTML 1.1 and the Strict

For those users Markdown could allow three options:

  1) style="" attribute sytax.
  2) Automatically assigned class-names (see "1"above).
  3) Manually assigned class-names, as per Lou's suggestion.


  a) Simple for Aunt Tillie.
  b) Flexible.
  c) Validates!


  b) Config file needed. (Is that neccessarily bad?)
  a) More programming work for our poor John. :-)

...just thinking.

Már Örlygsson
mailto:mar at anomy.net

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