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Humane Text Formats


A very interesting blog post from Thomas David Baker comparing Humane Text Formats. These are plain-text alternatives so you don't have to write in HTML. I did a similar comparison, but came to a different conclusion.

I decided to stick with HTML.

I know HTML. If I need to support users that don't know HTML, there are excellent WYSIWYG textarea replacements.

Eventually, you are going to want the full power of HTML. Any markup is either going to be lacking in some way or is going to end up being just as complex.

Everything I write is targeted at the web. I don't need to convert to LaTex or RTF.

Out of the reasons against HTML:

  • Simplicity: if the source and destination are the web, HTML is simpler! No conversions to and from HTML are required.
  • Readability: a valid point, but if people don't know HTML, then they should be looking at the output (rather than the source).
  • Security: this is a real concern, but I already have a filter that will escape anything except a subset of tags and attributes.
  • Conversion: I don't have existing content, and in any case, this points out the lack of durability of a non-standard format.
  • What people know: This is a funny one. A lot more people know HTML than any given flavor of humane text.

My "needed features" list was similar to his, but I wasn't willing to give up tables. I also needed a pure java implementation and wasn't really willing to do it myself.

The long term viability was the deciding factor. Look at all the alternatives: None of them seems to have a critical mass. Everything supports HTML.

Tags: fileformat

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