Re: More than just HTML (was Re: Poetry and Maths)

Dave_Raggett (
Thu, 27 May 93 9:53:34 BST

Neal Holtz writes (in response to Thomas A. Fine):

>> HTML only provides the framework by which lots of other document types
>> are accessed. You want to do lot's of neat TeX things? Use TeX.

> The kind of documents I am most interested in are about 50\% math
> and 50\% text with {\em lots} of cross-references. It is important
> that the math appear in-line with the document. A typical unit (node)
> is 1/2 page. I worry about performance if, for example, the math
> portion is farmed out to TeX/xdvi for rendering, and I wonder whether
> an acceptable cacheing scheme can be found (perhaps it can).

> I was attracted to HTML for this purpose because of the nice tools
> that are now available, in contrast to other mechanisms.

It seems to important that there is a simple and efficient way of embedding
equations in HTML documents. I very much like the interface for
interactively specifying equations in Microsoft Word on the PC - however
this is quite a lot of effort to implement.

My suggestion is that we follow the approach taken with the PC and allow
object level embedding in HTML. This basically means you keep HTML small
and simple while allowing people to embed figures etc. in a foreign format.
The embedding uses a link like Mosaic's <IMG> tag. The embedded data can
be sent along with the main document using MIME's multipart capability.
This approach also allows simple browsers to negotiate the format, so
that the server can be asked to render equations into bitmaps etc.

This approach avoids the danger of HTML being continuously extended to
support an every increasing variety of needs. By decoupling HTML
from special purpose formats, I believe that the latter can evolve
faster and more effectively, than if they were tied to revisions to HTML

That said, I am drafting a proposal for HTML+ (a superset of HTML) and
would be happy to draft ideas for supporting equations in a presentation
independent format. I don't think we should tie ourselves to Tex's approach,
but should take the good ideas from a wide variety of sources: Tex, eqn,
Microsoft Word, Mac, ...

Comments please!

Best wishes,

Dave Raggett,

Hewlett Packard Laboratories, +44 272 228046
Bristol, England