A Modest Definition List Proposal (David E. Wheeler)

Seumas Mac Uilleachan seumas at idirect.ca
Wed Feb 25 20:34:47 EST 2009

David E. Wheeler wrote:

> On Feb 25, 2009, at 6:57 AM, Sherwood Botsford wrote:


>> One minor change. You don't need pipes in the horizontal separator

>> lines. E.g:

>> id | name | description | more info

>> ====================================================


> They could be optional; I prefer them.


>> Tables are critters where formatting is tangled with content. And

>> with proportional type, a text only system requires agreement on tab

>> spacing at minimum to get anything to look right. (I'm not a fan of

>> monospace, so all these examples are wonky.)


> I think you might be using the wrong markup language, then. The use of

> monospace fonts is an expectation for reading Markdown. Really, it's

> the whole point.

Wait, what? Monospace is an expectation?!? I have never used monospace
in my e-mail programs. Isn't THAT the main expectation of Markdown? That
it approximates e-mail writing?

I think the only time I actually use monospace fonts is with Alt-F1 (or

Admittedly it is easier to create legible text documents with lots of
bullets and tables and definition lists if you are using a monospace
font but in my experience monospace fonts are generally just harder to
read. The beauty of markdown is that you can approximate the spacing of
monospace by varying the whitespace. Or just let it be "wonky". (Of
course what looks beautiful in one proportional font will be wonky in
another anyway)


>> Add to this, the need for centering, the need for column spans.


>> Allignment could be done with your horizontal separators.


>> |-----------| Means use your default alignment. (Same as cell above)

>> |<--------| Means left alignment. The < can appear anywhere between

>> the |'s

>> |---------->| Means right alignment.

>> |-----=----| means center alignment.


> I dislike these. I have other ideas for alignment, but I need to do

> some more thinking and drafting before I have a proposal to submit.


>> Column spans could be done by replacing the pipe with an underscore.

>> |=========_===========|

>> |This is a cell that spans two|

>> columns, and is centred.

>> |------------------|--------------|

>> |Column 1 |Column 2|


>> I'm working in a proportional font, so the above example is sure to

>> be wonky.


> Yes, and basically illegible.


>> Note that these two ideas are contradictory.


>> To merge, them (makes reading slightly harder, but writing slightly

>> easier.


>> | Default alignment |

>> |< Left Alignment <|

>> |> Right Alignment >|

>> |= Centered alignment =|


>> The alignment tags don't have to be paired, but can be for eye candy

>> purposes.



>> || Spans two columns of the stuff below |

>> | Column 1 | Column 1 |


> IMHO, any formatting should be invisible in Markdown. That is, it

> should be implicit. The use of all these extra characters to show

> alignment and whatnot makes for ugly text-only tables.


> Best,


> David


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