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CSS for the LDP? 506

Saqib Ali asks: "Over at The Linux Documentation Project there is a lengthy discussion going on about whether to use CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to improve the presentation of the documents. I support the use of CSS to improve the image/formatting of the document, and improve readability. I understand that content is more important than the presentation, but it can't hurt to improve both. There are others who think we should not get involved the presentation layer, and mainly concentrate on the content. Since, most Slashdot readers are Linux users, and might have visited the LDP once or twice, I would like to poll them on what they think about implementing and using nice CSS for the documents on the Linux Document Project website. I've written a CSS for this purpose that is available here, and some sample documents available in this weblog. Any thoughts? Any pros and cons on using CSS to improve presentation?"
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CSS for the LDP?

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  • What about Slashdot? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:57PM (#8710418)
    How about some CSS for Slashdot? Seriously.
    • by Thing 1 ( 178996 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:21PM (#8710582) Journal
      As long as we can use deCSS to remove it...

      Ow, stop hitting me!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:23PM (#8710598)
      How about this [alistapart.com] and this [alistapart.com]?
    • by Suppafly ( 179830 ) <{ten.ylfappus} {ta} {todhsals}> on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:29PM (#8710637)
      alistapart did complete transformation to css for slashdot a while back and I know there are some other efforts. noone bothers to send in patches to the slashcode people though. There needs to be a go between to coordinate between the webdesigners and the coders.
    • by orthogonal ( 588627 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:42PM (#8710711) Journal
      How about some CSS for Slashdot? Seriously.

      Let me second Mr. Coward, and remind Slashdot's readers that we saw an article posted here several months ago showing several CSS formats especially designed for Slashdot.

      I, in particular, would very much welcome CSS replacing nested tables on Slashdot, not least because I sometimes read Slashdot on my Zaurus. The default Zaurus browser, Opera, while it has a mode designed for display on smaller devices, spectacularly screwed up that mode for tables, as it doesn't line break at the end of table rows.

      Whether you're using a Zaurus or a Jumbotron to view Slashdot, odds are you can write a (possibly overriding) user style-sheet that conforms to your display better than the default Slashdot display does.

      Also, a properly written stylesheet likely means smaller pages, because the markup will be centralized in the stylesheet. For a site like Slashdot, with a lot of page hits, this might mean a significant bandwidth savings over time.

      Sounds like a win-win to me.
      • by ashkar ( 319969 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:46PM (#8711088)
        As a logged in user, you can select a version of /. made specifically for cases such as yours. I use it even to keep the formatting issues from cropping up in firefox and, after a few days, you grow quite attached to the lighter format. Go to preferences -> homepage -> check 'Light' -> profit!
  • why not? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by untermensch ( 227534 ) * on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:57PM (#8710420)
    Obviously content is the most important thing, but what possible reason could there be for not improving the presentation as well? Unless it somehow cuts into the time needed to prepare content (which is certainly shouldn't), it only makes sense to make things pretty.
    • Done right, CSS is a great way to separate presentation from display.

      The best examples online are still probably this [csszengarden.com] and this [csszengarden.com] and even and slashdot style [csszengarden.com]

      Note that all those pages had the exact same html. Only the css changed. In their site (read the page) they have styles for all sorts of displays including wireless friendly ones.

      • One would wonder why I cant just click on my Firefox stylesheet button and make the change from there.

        Hard coding a paticular style sheet into HTML - even if that HTML happens to be generated - kind defeats the purpose, no?

      • CSS can also help people think more about the actual structure of their documents. If we apply CSS to LDP, then someobody's got to standardize the structure across all the documents. Take a look at Gentoo. From day one, they have presented their documentation with data structure being the number one concern.

        CSS are like writing a business plan. It gets you thinking about the nitty gritty details of your document and just like a business plan gets you thinking about details in your business.
    • by Rick the Red ( 307103 ) <Rick.The.Red@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:04PM (#8710477) Journal
      If LDP goes with CSS, it should be one CSS for all the documents. I'd hate to see each document author do their own (different) style sheet.

      Also, the full text should remain available in plain ASCII. Just my $0.02 worth. Thanks for asking!

      • by TheVoice900 ( 467327 ) <kamil@k[ ]lkisiel.net ['ami' in gap]> on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:16PM (#8710549)
        Why one CSS? Allow user to pick which stylesheet they want to view all documents with (as in CSS Zen Garden). As long as each document has the proper tags, it would be easy to make them all appear consistent under a stylesheet. This would also make it easy for distros to distribute their own custom distro-themed stylesheets for the documentation.

        It should be trivial to generate proper classes of tags from the source documents because LDP uses something similar to Docbook (or maybe they actually use Docbook now? They didn't quite last time I checked) so all the context information is already there.
        • by Tin Foil Hat ( 705308 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:23PM (#8710951)
          I think he meant not having the documentation authors be able to specify CSS files for their own documents. That's totally different than what you are suggesting, which is user-selectable alternate style sheets.

          Both are exellent ideas. However, in order to do this properly, the LDP would have to also create a style guide for their documentation authors so that they can check their HTMl against it.

          Perhaps having a group available to edit mark-up for the authors would also be a good idea. These people would be volunteers, and would not necessarily be among the same group as the authors. The downside to this is that it creates added overhead to the document submission process, which results in longer delays to publishing. That is not to say, however, that it should not be considered. Sufficient planning could overcome such obstacles rather easily.

          • by Tin Foil Hat ( 705308 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:37PM (#8711039)
            Perhaps I should have read the LDP website first. It appears that they insist that all documentation be submitted in XML or SGML DocBook [docbook.org] formats. They even have a group of volunteers to help with that if the author is not able to provide DocBook.

            A quick perusal of CPAN revealed eight modules specifically for dealing with DocBook. No doubt other languages have similar libraries.

            Looks to me like more than half the work is already done. It shouldn't be a difficult matter to create a script to run the DocBook -> HTML+CSS conversions with predictable results.
    • Re:why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NeoThermic ( 732100 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:08PM (#8710497) Homepage Journal
      Presentation, readablilty and understanding is what makes documentation usable.

      This includes formatting, and visual output.

      If content is controled by CSS, then in theory, the content can be ammended as needed, with those in charge of presenting it not interfering with the actual documentation. This could lead to less time to prepare content as you stated.

      Remember, what makes the Microsoft KB almost un-usable is its presentation. What makes php.net's documentation usable is its presentation.

      Guess who has got it right, and who hasn't.
      Guess also who uses proper presentation and who doesn't. Compare.

      NeoThermic
    • by count0 ( 28810 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:29PM (#8710638)
      I think any CSS detractors are missing the point - docs should be marked up consistently, with H1, H2, etc. Particular semantic types (like author) could be added as styles for particular tags e.g. <h2 class='author'> Adding CSS would be relatively simple on top of semantically structured docs.
    • Re:why not? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Pieroxy ( 222434 )
      Obviously content is the most important thing

      Well, I will tend to disagree here. I'd say that the content is necessary. And for this project to succeed, it will need to have a lot more than just raw, uncut content.

      Some content are so ugly that no one would read them. And it is not a new tendency to overlook the presentation, as if it was secondary. That's probably one aspect where Microsoft widely dominates everything else, OSS included.

      My .02
  • by Ececheira ( 86172 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:58PM (#8710430)
    So how many people read the headline as Content Scrabling System?
  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:59PM (#8710439)
    I know this is a bit of a tangent, but...

    "Most Slashdot readers are Linux users" - seriously? I know there's a strong anti-MS contingent, but this can't be true. Is there data to back that up or are you just talking out of your, er, hat?
    • Re:What? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Cyno01 ( 573917 )
      I dont know about most, but i'd say definitly a high percentage. If your going by access statistics, most browsers masquerade as IE to trick broken IE only sites. I'm using Opera Right now (on windows however) but its set to identifie as MSIE 6. I'm sure the linux and mac versions do the same thing. I think Moz can do that to, although it may require an extension.
    • Re:What? (Score:2, Informative)

      Really.

      I tried Linux (Coyote, Red Hat 4, Red Hat 5, Gentoo, Mandrake 7, Red Hat 7, Mandrake 8) but it just never grabbed me. I switched my firewall from Coyote to OpenBSD and liked it so much I now use it for my server, too. I still use Windows on my workstation because I need it for games and it's just easier to stick with it for everyday things than to multi-boot. If I ever get the money I may try VMWare [vmware.com], but it won't be to run Linux on my Windows PCs, it will be to run BSD. I really agree with the statem

    • Re:What? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "Most Slashdot readers are Linux users" - seriously? I know there's a strong anti-MS contingent, but this can't be true. Is there data to back that up or are you just talking out of your, er, hat?

      Umm, depends what you mean by "linux users". I recall an analysis of the browsers used by slashdot readers to browse slashdot, and most of them use windows to read slashdot.

      Is browsing a website that runs on linux enough to be a "linux user"? I don't think so.

      Do you get your email from an IMAP or POP server ru
      • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bcrowell ( 177657 )
        Considering that Linux systems account for somewhere on the order of 0.5% of all desktop machines, it's not realistic to expect the majority Slashdot users to be running Linux on the machine they're slashdotting with. If even 20% of Slashdot users are slashdotting using Linux, that's an amazing triumph.

        An even more amazing triumph would be if Linux's share of desktop systems could grow by an order of magnitude, to some incredibly large figure like 5%. But I'm not holding my breath, because 5% is a lot more

    • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:52PM (#8710780) Homepage
      Well, in the sense that we're all Sendmail users and Apache users and BIND users (i.e. we interact with them on a day-to-day basis, even if we don't run them on our own systems), /.ers are (by definition) all Linux users (and Perl users). Of course that makes most of us Windows users as well, since it's hard to get through the day without hitting some site running IIS or Exchange.

      Personally, I think it's silly that people try to pigeonhole me as a [insert OS here] user since I use (i.e acting as a local or authenticated remote operator or user of) anywhere from 4-8 different OSes over the course of a typical week.

    • Serious. (Score:5, Funny)

      by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:51PM (#8711131)


      "Most Slashdot readers are Linux users" - seriously?


      Damn. You've found us out. I suppose we might as well all come clean.

      The truth is - we're staunch Microsoft Windows fans. In fact, many of us work within various business units involved in Microsoft's marketing. We really don't dislike Microsoft. And we certainly don't use Linux.

      Except for one guy. See - there is, in fact, one Linux user in the world. We created this environment just to screw with his mind. I'd tell you who he is (we all know)... but that would ruin the fun. Part of the game is to sign up, discover the "true believer", and then become part of the conspiracy.

      Without giving it all away. But hey - its over now. Been fun while it lasted. My only regret is that there aren't really many other candidates to play with. I'm affraid we've been a little too efficient while "on the job." I suppose there's always those two BeOS guys.

      I know this sounds pretty far-fetched. Heck - just think of the man-hours and funds we've had to float to pull this off. All I've got to say is two things:

      1) Expense account.

      2) What's the use of millions in liquid assets if one can't have a bit of fun with it?
  • Excellent idea. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:59PM (#8710440)
    I fully support the idea. It's not a matter of "getting involved in the presentation layer," as opposed to the content. That's, after all, the whole point of CSS... To separate these concepts, and make them independently manageable.

    It would be simple for a team to develop CSS files in concert with those who are already doing a great job developing consistent, predictable content. This project lends itself easily to improvements with CSS.

    I'd only recommend that multiple CSS files be created, and people be allowed to choose one that suits them, or none at all.
    • Re:Excellent idea. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bbsguru ( 586178 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:10PM (#8710517) Homepage Journal
      The idea is the thing, right? It's all about the content after all..

      No, it isn't. It's also about communication, and to the extent that better presentation helps communicate more clearly, CSS should be used. The best ideas that are never heard matter not.

      Don't let the presentation get in the way of the content? Exactly. But don't let the lack of presentation take away from it either.

  • i've seen people use css to increase their font size 1 to 4 inches from normal with just a few keystrokes with no side effects. this is just irritating... I hope they don't make it flashy or with obnoxious colors.

    damn, i've been reading too much spam!
  • Think About it...

    This would be a little Linux predation a la MSFT to force more users into using Open Office, right?

    lol

  • Exactly what presentation problem are you trying to solve? Make it look prettier? The UI is pretty solid. Just wanting to change the presentation layer without understanding what you are trying to achieve for the user is silly.
  • by metalhed77 ( 250273 ) <{andrewvc} {at} {gmail.com}> on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:01PM (#8710459) Homepage
    It would be trivial to write a CGI script that would simply include, or not include the link to the CSS for each document. Assuming of course that all these documents are in XML (docbook?) format to begin with.
    • Sandwich (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mrnick ( 108356 )
      Assuming they are using Apache then they could just use Apache::Sandwich to include the CSS tags.

      Nick Powers
  • Uhoh.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by c0dedude ( 587568 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:02PM (#8710463)
    Error: Acronym overload! Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! Jesus christ.

    Translations:
    Cascading Style Sheets-Uniform visual format for web pages.
    LDP-Linux Documentation Project: Produce documentation for linux. Quite helpful.
  • xml (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mastergoon ( 648848 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:02PM (#8710464) Homepage
    If you are going to go through all that work to reformat the documents, it seems more reasonable to go to an XML/XSLT system. For documentation projects XML is the way to go, so it can be viewed great in many applications.

    Before you start whining that "it wont work in my browser," remember, there are several solution where the stylesheet is applied server side, and the page can be servered as plain old html.
  • by Deraj DeZine ( 726641 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:02PM (#8710465)
    Of course they should use CSS to make the pages look better.

    Unfortunately, CSS won't solve the root of the problem: non-semantic HTML. I've re-done several sites to make use of the so-called semantic HTML tags (em, strong, etc.) and to get rid of nasty table-abusing layout tags. CSS is necessary to make this transition, but readability on non-desktop browsers (phones, terminals) can only really be improved by switching to layouts using semantic HTML tags and divs for layout.

    One last point I'd like to get out there is that there are many console browsers (links, w3m, but NOT lynx) that do a fine job displaying abused table layouts. Unfortunately, the console usually has so few columns that everything just ends up looking squished, while as my div-layout pages are easy to read.
    • Unfortunately, CSS won't solve the root of the problem: non-semantic HTML.
      That's already solved. Everything at the Linux Documentation Project is using Docbook which is an XML DTD. This article is about using CSS on the HTML output from those XML files.
  • Silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sethadam1 ( 530629 ) * <<adam> <at> <firsttube.com>> on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:02PM (#8710467) Homepage
    Isn't this kind of silly? Why would we the Linux community actively choose to NOT use stylesheets? They're not complex and they're widely supported now. Only this community of emacs users at GUI-less workstations users would think it better to not use CSS. I see refusing their introduction as actively alienating users by refusing to implement anything that could possibly be considereed "eye candy."

    I'm sure someone will mod this down as flamebait, but it's not meant to be. Truly, this is one of those times I find myself not so surprised that Microsoft retains so many customers - because you gotta sell the sizzle with the steak.
    • Re:Silly (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MrDelSarto ( 95771 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:11PM (#8710518) Homepage
      Only this community of emacs users at GUI-less workstations users would think it better to not use CSS.
      No, this is exactly who wants people to use CSS. If people separated content from layout, imagine how much of a better place the world would be. Personally, this is why I have gravitated to DocBook so much recently. On the extreme end, you have Microsoft Word, where layout and presentation is completely embeded with your actual information. LaTeX is better, but you still end up with \parskips and things around. DocBook may be verbose, but you have all your content separate and then mark it up the way you like for presentation in a completely separate style sheet.
    • Re:Silly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nailer ( 69468 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:28PM (#8710633)
      Why would we the Linux community actively choose to NOT use stylesheets?

      We wouldn't. Chances are:
      • The poster is on a mailing list with soemone who doesn't like CSS for no reason other than they don't understand it
      • The poster has submitted the concept to Slashdot so that the project can see that this person is a tool

  • Why even ask? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chuyskywalker ( 714847 ) <jeff_slash.creatimation@net> on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:03PM (#8710468) Homepage Journal
    Of course they should!

    CSS doesnt touch the content of a document at all - that's the whole point of it. You can "pretty up" a document without needing to redo all the content's code. In addition, no one doing to the documenting needs to worry about anything new - they just continue as always. The "extra" download can be turned off in cool browsers so that its formatted normally - heck, even a fancy JavaScript button can be set up to use different (or no!) style sheets.

    So - Better appearance, negligable performance hit, backwards compatable, no change in article (html) formatting, and zero drawbacks. Why would they not put CSS into action? Even basic CSS can do wonders.
  • Good idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Feztaa ( 633745 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:03PM (#8710470) Homepage
    There's nothing wrong with making the pages more visually appealing, just don't overdo it.

    I suppose if you provided a standard stylesheet that every document used, and each document author only had to worry about content and didn't have to bother with how it would look (since that's all handled with one good stylesheet forced on everybody), then it could work. Just don't, for the love of god, force each author to come up with their own stylesheet for everything. There should just be one standard one, and that should do it for everybody.
    • I'd go a step further - have multiple "standard" stylesheets that authors should use, and leave the choice up to the browsing public. Modern web browsers support multiple alternate stylesheets (eg. Firefox, lower-left hand corner for pages with multiple stylesheets). And even if the unfortunate user is stuck with IE, the choice can still be availabe using some clever DHTML code.

      For a decent example, see BluesNews.com [bluesnews.com] (Under the "customize" header, left-hand side).

      This way you can default to the fancy

  • This article title reminds me of this poll [slashdot.org]. How many here actually deduced the content of the article correctly from the title?
  • by wasabii ( 693236 )
    LDP should host Docbook documents.

    Style should not come into this, except as presentation on the web site. Making individual CSS files for each document is retarded. Making ONE style sheet, targetting the output of Docbook->HTML is what I would do.
  • It seems to me that one should keep the actual documents as simple as possible in order to facilitate future conversions to other file formats or print media. If fancier presentation of that raw data is needed then that ought to be something that's automatically created.
  • Ability to choose! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by eingram ( 633624 )
    I think you should create several different style sheets and give users the ability to choose which style they like the best or turn it off altogether.

  • I'd have to say that I'm all for the CSS update. I was a little ambivalent at first, as I've never really payed any attention to the presentation of the documents before. But the simple, content oriented style in use in the examples makes the documentation all the more readable. And if the style makes it easier and more accessible for people, then I say go for it. The more people who read your documentation the better, in any case.
  • In my experience the only way to improve the presentation of a web site, document, etc. is to have a designer come up with a layout without the input from developers. After that, take what each group likes best and incorporate it into the project. Most developers I know aren't very good designers and when a bunch of them get together to improve the look and feel, what they usually get out of it is something different but not any more useful. Designers aren't always the best developers, but they tend to b
  • LDP should write documents in XML. Headings should be tagged as headings. Example command line instructions should be tagged as example command line instructions. A table of contents should be tagged as such.

    Then, to present the documents, LDP can automatically convert the documents into any beutified HTML format they want.

    Furthermore, XML could be used to help users jump over the explanations and get straight to the directions. XML could also come in handy when analyzing documents and looking for w

  • CSS is great. You don't need to have the people writing documentation to write CSS. You can store your documentation in XML, transform it to XHTML, and have someone, anyone, write a stylesheet for it. Something along these lines [apple.com] would be my favorite solution.
  • by Fiz Ocelot ( 642698 ) <baelzharon&gmail,com> on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:09PM (#8710509)
    The site looks fine to me, it's very usable and I see no real problem with it. Sounds to me that some people may be bored and want to make it look different just for the sake of changing it.

    Unless they can make even easier to use, it seems like a waste of time to me. I could change the look of things on my end if I really needed to.

  • I vote yes (Score:3, Informative)

    by ChiralSoftware ( 743411 ) <info@chiralsoftware.net> on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:10PM (#8710510) Homepage
    If you're going to do any formatting at all, especially for the LDP, it should be in CSS. This is why:
    • All the main Linux browsers today support CSS.
    • CSS looks better than the old style of using nested tables and spacer graphics.
    • CSS is accessible. A CSS page looks ok on Lynx, whereas any other formatting system doesn't work on Lynx.
    • Users who don't like formatting or CSS can turn it off and still access the sites.
    • CSS formatted pages can be viewed on some wireless devices and can be transformed [chiralsoftware.net] for all wireless devices. Ever need to look something up so you could get the computer on the net?
    • It's easy to do. Just create the CSS sheets and then put in the link at the beginning of the documents and it should mostly work.
  • Definitely (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ripbruger ( 312644 )
    I definitely think this CSS should be used as a formatting technique for the Linux documentation project. Since you can also apply to CSS to XML documents, why not just do that instead. Use the CSS to make it look pretty, and create separate style sheets for a GUI browser, and a text based, or allow a user to use their own (I have never seen this though).

    I guess the real advantage is that you can easily parse the XML and "port" the documentation to something else as well be it PostScript, PDF, or some o
  • by steve buttgereit ( 644315 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:10PM (#8710516) Homepage
    I can't remember who said that long ago, but it is an important axiom.

    Many readers will tune out or find it even daunting to jump into a document that doesn't make an effort to present itself well. Even when the content is top notch, weak presentation will leave a poor first impressions placing the author on the defensive from the get-go. That's not to say good presentation will save a bad document... but every little bit helps!

    If using CSS makes the documentation look more professional, more organized, easier on the eyes, and more consistient in presentation I say go for it. Just don't fall into the mistake of overdoing it and continuously changing the presentation... then effort will be wasted.

    One final point: corporations (including Microsoft :-) ) pay lots of money to be sure documentation is clear and attractive. Without commenting on success, they do spend those dollars and make the effort for a reason.

    Cheers!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:13PM (#8710537)
    Like the users. This user at least.
  • I understand that content is more important than the presentation, but it can't hurt to improve both.

    Techs are notoriously for slamming style over substance. To me it's like asking what's more important, breathing or eating? The answer is both.

    Yes, beautifully displayed text with bad content is junk, but a lot of people are more prone to believe pretty junk than ugly genius.

    First, make it right. Then make it look good. Then go back and make it more right. I used to be of the addage "if it ain't bro
  • I'm sure, there are people, who will only work on one of the aspects, because the other is not fun for them. So, just don't reject the cosmetic modifications and make sure, the "content providers" are not yelled at for breaking the form on occasion.

    Unlike a commercial project, which has to think on how to split the money, you can "afford" to have both.

  • Only a geek would think these two are seperable.

    --hsm

  • Last time I looked, which wasn't recently, CSS did not provide all the parameters necessary for page markup. For example, there was no way to change the spacing (leading [www.ncf.ca]) before paragraphs or after paragraphs.

    The people who designed CSS were not typesetting professionals.

    The result is that, if you use CSS, you must also use a proprietary scheme, also, to finish the job. But, implementing a proprietary scheme defeats the intended purpose of CSS.

    If CSS were designed well, it would be possible to us
  • misses the point. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:22PM (#8710593)
    The question shows a profound mis-understanding of CSS.

    If anything, CSS reduces the effort on style in LDP, not increases.

    CSS would be just one line,

    <link href="ldpstyle.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css"/>

    Thats it. And that could be put in by php elsewhere. Heck, you could even exclude it alltogether and let people set their own style.

    the pages could then concentrate purely on content. Don't say font/i/b if its not needed, use pre/tt/em/strong tags. e.g content, not style (pre formatted, typewriter, emphasized, strong text).

    Don't use tables, if it isn't a table you are describing. use div's (and class=..., ok one more css usage, but not required).

    I can't tell you the number of times I have been annoyed when someone writing a webpage assumed style tags like font (+size, -size) should be used, it makes a blind assumption about the viewer of the page, their resolution, fonts available etc. Far better to use CSS, and avoid any style at all in your content, just use a separate, includable css page for the style.

    Far too many pages on the web use content related tags to do style (table) and style related tags to do content (b, i, font=courier). I for one would be thrilled to see CSS used in LDP to reduce this horror.
  • by urbieta ( 212354 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:25PM (#8710612) Homepage Journal
    You can see in gentoo's website [gentoo.org] that they have a very nice consistency in their documentation, it really helps the human eye find what's needed among all data, so Im all for it

    you go ldp!
    • by Publicus ( 415536 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:35PM (#8710670) Homepage

      I agree. Gentoo's docs are good.

      As a webmaster, I'd love to see more major sites embrace CSS sitewide. Getting browsers up to date on the standard is long overdue. If people start visiting CNN, for example, and having problems, they'll be more likely to update their browsers.

      I'm still doing transitional, but the next iteration of my site will probably be in XHTML 1.0 strict -- if I can convince management to go that route.

      Non compliant browsers be damned!

  • by TheViewFromTheGround ( 607422 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:27PM (#8710620) Homepage

    I think it goes without saying that Linux folks should embrace CSS. It's sort of a no-brainer. That being said, another advantage is style-sheets for different media. In particular, LDP pages are likely to be printed (I printed one the other night for a Linux install where I didn't have a live Internet connection), and even with all the problems, a smart designer can make very nice print stylesheets that use serif fonts (not so good on screen, very good on paper from a readability standpoint), add banners that print on each page, etc. This assumes a well-structured document that the CSS is styling, but that's a big advantage.

  • Priorities ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Prop ( 4645 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:32PM (#8710654) Homepage
    There's nothing wrong with CSS in and of itself, but the because issue facing the LDP is NOT how they should handle presentation. It's the seriously outdated content in many HOWTOs and FAQs. If I had a say, that's where I'd "vote".
  • IMHO... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ioexcptn ( 190408 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:33PM (#8710658)
    CSS & LDP, PDQ!

    No, but really, it is always a good idea to make docs user-friendly, especially when the Linux community as a whole is trying to recruit the troves of Windows users out there. Anything to make user experience more friendly shouldnt be overlooked.

    Who among us here doesnt remember that first RFC that we gasped in confusion at? And the fact that it was entirely in Courier 10 didnt help ;)
  • Readability!!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:42PM (#8710714) Homepage
    When I first used gentoo linux, I was most impressed by the quality of the documentation provided.

    And then I realized. It wasn't necessarily high qualty nor at the time did it contain better content than the guides for Debian and Red Hat. It was presented in a much cleaner format using CSS and a nice clean layout. Since then, the quality of the gentoo documentation has only improved.

    Compare this gentoo page [gentoo.org] with this TLDP page [tldp.org].

    See the difference? They both contain useful information. The TLDP documentation makes me feel like i'm reading a legal document. Blegh! The gentoo document is much less harsh on the user.

    This is scary, considering that gentoo is widely considered one of the most difficult of the linuxes to use, as it contains absolutely no installer. Thanks to the clear documentation, I actually perfer the gentoo installation process over fedora's, as it's easy (thanks to the documentation), and gives me a tremendous amount of control. I think this fact can only be capitalized by the fact that I use a mac 95% of the time as my desktop machine.

    Please... add some color. It helps. Lots of people are visual learners. It just so happens that most linux users aren't (Reading a monotonous 26-page manpage on ls of all things makes me want to gouge my eyes out)
  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:43PM (#8710723) Homepage
    There are others who think we should not get involved the presentation layer, and mainly concentrate on the content.
    Um, isn't that what CSS is for?

    Seriously, what could the cons possibly be?

  • Content dammit! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brandybuck ( 704397 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:05PM (#8710854) Homepage Journal
    There's more than one person working on LDP, so do whatever you're best suited at. If that's CSS, then put in some CSS. On the other hand, if you were the only person working on it I would skip the CSS and put in some friggin content!

    I'm a FreeBSD user who has to dabble in Linux from time to time. So every time I need some Linux info I go to LDP. What I generally find are horribly out of date HOWTO's and incomplete manpages. Quality content is lacking. For example, the XFree86-HOWTO was last updated September 2001. Maybe not a lot has changed since then, but considering the sparsity of information in this document, someone could have at least expanded a bit on several areas. Another example is ALSA. This was recently added to the 2.6 kernel, but the HOWTO was last updated November 1999!

    So go ahead and work on your CSS. But find out who's in charge of content, and give them a swift kick in the butt!

    p.s. Don't go too wild on the CSS. Make it use the standard DocBook-XSL produced HTML. For a good example see FreeBSD's stylesheet. It's not going to win any NEA grants, but it gives a consistant professional feel to all of the FreeBSD HTML docs.
  • by arcade ( 16638 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:05PM (#8710855) Homepage
    I used to love Linux howtos and faq's. They were great - a charm to read, just like RFCs.

    Then they began to htmlize them, and I couldn't just less then any more. Which, quite frankly sucked.

    Then they began to come in "chapters" instead of one giant file. Which, quite frankly, sucked even more.

    I'm sure there's an option to get all the howtos and documentation in good old ascii out there _somewhere_, by the gods the LDP has made those more difficult to find.

    And not, this is not an attempt to troll. It's an honest frustration. You cannot search a html document which contain 20 different html-files (one for each chapter) like youc an search a single .txt file.

    • I'm sure there's an option to get all the howtos and documentation in good old ascii out there _somewhere_, by the gods the LDP has made those more difficult to find.

      Come on. I went to the LDP website, and clicked on HOWTOs. I scrolled down, and there was the link to the plain text versions [ibiblio.org].

      I wouldn't describe one click away from the homepage to be "difficult to find".

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:12PM (#8710891) Homepage Journal
    The best use of CSS, other than offering an easy way out of spending time on formatting (in favor of time spent informing) is any consistent presentation of the documents. I want to learn LDP documentation structure once, so I can quickly look for author attribution, platform (version, distro, HW, etc) details, publication (relevance) date, and "related links" to projects, docs, presentations, discussions, etc. Using CSS will not only make that structure easier to produce and comply with, it will make it easier for me to read, and to discard inappropriate docs more quickly. It will also make indexing the docs for searching much more straightforward. Get right on that!
  • some of both (Score:3, Interesting)

    by josepha48 ( 13953 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:21PM (#8710940) Journal
    What I have found to work well is the use of a little css. You can use css to set font size and font family, and href attributes, but I still use tables for layout. I find they scale easier when dealing with internationalization and forms where you want label / input in columns. I try to avoid nexted tables. Doing this makes the pages still viewable in old browsers, or limited browsers, but also makes it a nicer experience in newer browsers. People still use lynx, and links and neither has support for css. They both kinds just strip it all down.
  • W3C Core Styles (Score:5, Interesting)

    by driptray ( 187357 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:25PM (#8710958)

    Sure, use CSS! But if you're short of time/expertise, don't reinvent the wheel! Use the W3C Core Styles [w3.org].

    And if none of those style sheets quite tickles your fancy, you can use one as a base to modify.

  • Absolutely (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mla_anderson ( 578539 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:47PM (#8711093) Homepage

    CSS is the way to go. It makes it much easier to maintain pages, it means the document authors don't have to be the style managers, and it means less to download. With care CSS can be used to make pages that look very nice in a graphical browser and still function well in lynx.

    Another advantage is the ability to have styles based on media. Display ads (if necessary) on the viewed pages but hide them on the printed (saves paper and ink/toner).

    I use CSS so that I don't have a lot of formatting to get around when I want to update my web pages, or to make the programming easier.

    <p align="center"><font size="4">My big centered paragraph</font></p> is amuch messier than <p class="parcent">My big centered paragraph</p>

  • by X-Nc ( 34250 ) <nilrin AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:37AM (#8711356) Homepage Journal
    I have nothing against presentation so if a decent css (and the one the original author did isn't bad at all) is used I would not be against it. I am more concerned with the information/content/data than the presentation of same, though. Keep it simple. Keep it clean. As long as those two criteria are met then I don't really care.
  • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @01:09AM (#8711516) Homepage Journal
    The worst sites for me are sites where I can't change the text size, and also sites where the width of the page has been predefined, even if I can change the text size. I stretch the browser window wide, and the stupid page locks at 640 or 800 pixels wide - at that time, I'd like to smack the page designer right upside the head.

    Basic HTML pages don't seem to ever lock down text size (I'm not sure they even can - does anyone know?) and letting the page reach the width that the browser window is set to is a simple act of omission - just don't put a pixel width in any outer-level tables (assuming there are any tables), use percentages instead.

    The very worst offending pages I run into all seem to be CSS-based; so while it certainly flexible, it is also a means by which pages can be made almost unusable. One of the reasons I prefer Mozilla Firefox is the ability to size text even on "locked" CSS pages (though I wish it could natively size images as well.) MS IE isn't nearly as friendly about this, though you can kind of hack it to work with the "Accessibility" settings. No big deal, I formatted my last XP system into a Linux machine a few weeks ago. :) But I still have to use IE at work, sometimes. The Windows Firefox isn't quite as clean. But I digress.

    As you can probably tell, I'm a member of the crowd that thinks the user should always control the entire end presentation, and never, ever should the web site do so. The only thing that annoys me more than locked-format web pages are PDF pages, which are not only completely locked, they're overweight and massively sluggish compared to HTML - I have zero use for them.

    So, as long as the CSS isn't used to enforce text size and/or width rules, I'm all for it.

    But if either one of those capabilities goes away, for any reason, honestly, I'll probably stop visiting the site. My eyes are getting older a good deal faster than the rest of me is.

    My .02

  • by zonix ( 592337 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @02:38AM (#8711869) Homepage Journal

    The markup used for the LDP files is quite straigtforward and luckily stripped of any bloat like font tags and like, and as such I'm sympathetic to the idea of not getting involved with the presentation layer.

    For most pages (ie. like /.) using CSS will greatly increase page load times when all the presentational deprecated markup is shed in favor of CSS. Much of the redundancy is gone after this treatment.

    However, this is not the case with the LDP files as they are already stripped of any presentational information (*). Though, this is also an advantage in this case, as the markup then lends itself quite nicely to being used with CSS. It would still for the most part be for the eye-candy purposes (which is okay), and therefore my recommendation would be to provide the style sheets as alternate style sheets. People can choose one of the different looks if more style sheets are available, or by default stick to the tried and true look.

    (*) However, when we already have this clear separation of content and presentation, it would still be possible for the doc writers to do their job like they're used to without worrying about presentation. And if I'm not mistaken, the documentation source is in docbook format - here they're not worrying about presentational stuff anyway. YMMV, of course.

    z
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @02:39AM (#8711873) Homepage
    There are a number of good reasons not to use style sheets. First, they introduce a dependence on directory structure. If we start seeing links like "../../../x11/styles" in documentation, something has gone wrong.

    Second, getting different people to use the same style sheet on an open source project is tough. And if everybody has different style sheets, there's no point.

    Third, unless everybody edits HTML with the same WYSIWYG editor, nobody will be able to use a WYSIWYG editor on the HTML. (Has anyone written an open-source Dreamweaver replacement yet?)

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