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Re: Email Format Poll for the list

Hi Stroller,

You have raised some interesting issues that deserve special attention.

Stroller wrote:
On 31 Jan 2010, at 00:46, David Godfrey wrote:
... and long before I sent an email on the list I had noticed that many contributors also sent in HTML.

My belief was that the practice of sending HTML messages to this list was
established only amongst newcomers, who come here looking for help & who
don't know any better.
I based my sending of "multipart" email to the list on observation.
I don't recall seeing any information even suggesting Plain Text before, during,
or after the joining process.
Admittedly I am a relative newcomer to the list, I joined in July 2009 and I
think the first message I sent was November 2009, so I had time to notice what
others were doing.
If we (as the list) prefer email in Plain Text, I think it should be mentioned
on http://sourceforge.net/mail/?group_id=175965 and on the individual
subscription pages as well.
Considering the number of regulars on the list that prefer or require plain
text, perhaps it would be good to have a simple autoresponder that, in the event
of a HTML only mail being received, sends a message back to the originator
asking them to use plain text or multipart.

One problem with plain text and modern clients, is that text is wrapped at
the senders end. Normally to something like 72characters. This is a huge
waste of screen space where you may easily have 160 to 300 or more
characters available on a modern screen.

Addressed elsewhere.

HTML also allows simple formatting changes (like this) that can often
assist with readability.

It does so, only if your view and and mine *happen* to coincide on what
constitutes "readability".
I would have thought that most people agree that a properly formatted HTML web
page is more readable than a plain text one.
Even publishing houses utilize a variety of fonts, pitches, and emphasis when
laying out a book.

It is sophisticated & adult of you to choose black text as your display
preference, as many people composing in HTML choose colours such as blue,
green or pink.

However your text size is too small.
I agree that most people misuse html, but this is often a fault of the client,
rather than the user.
Take for example font pitch (size).
Thunderbird wraps text in <big> and <small> tags which may have "specific"
meaning on a receiving client, while a style:size=90% should be portable
regardless of the target configuration.

I have 1600x1200 monitors, each with a diagonal of c 20". I don't know what
size or resolution your monitor(s) is, and I don't care, just as you
shouldn't need to know the specifications of mine. When I configured my mail
client preferences some years ago, I spent some minutes choosing the optimal
font for viewing. It says "13 points" in my display preferences, but it would
probably appear a different size on your screen; that doesn't matter - it's
just best for me on my monitors, considering my operating system, viewing
distance, screen resolution and optical prescription.

In practice yes you are correct, a users hardware can effect the way text is displayed. In theory though, monitor size and resolution should make no difference on a correctly configured system.
This is what the dpi setting is for in your X preferences.
Most of the time this is correctly retrieved from the monitor using DPMI but on some systems it needs to be manually overridden, if your system requires this, then you really should report a bug :) With a correctly configured DPI and Resolution everyone should see a 10point character as the same size.

When you send me HTML email, you're saying "I don't care what text size you
find most readable, I'm setting this one instead". The font of your last
email was a few points too small and it's a little difficult for me to read.

Well I shouldn't be, if the Email client does the right thing and only changes the relative size of a font (for example) then if most text is "unchanged" it will be rendered at whatever size you have set your default as, then any changes should be relative to that. If it is used just for emphasis (headings, notes etc) this should improve the readability. Unfortunately, as mentioned above many clients don't do the best thing here, although they have improved, you used to be able to set "point sizes".

Additionally, if we all continue to post and reply in HTML, then I can't copy
a sentence of your message into mine and quote it, (like this: "The sentence
before last was all one line") without either it ending up in a different
format to the rest of the sentence. I then have to manually & arduously
change the font, font size, and colour of the pasting to match the rest of my
text. This should not be necessary, if we all just post in plain text.

Now this is a real problem, in some software (eg: Open Office) you have the option to paste, or paste without formatting, this is certainly required for HTML email.

I do rather feel that those of us who believe in open-source and open- standards missed an opportunity when HTML first became adopted by mainstream
email clients. I believe this was initiated by Netscape Communicator in the
mid- to late-1990s, and geeks simply objected to it and said "don't use that
around here". Of course the mainstream didn't listen to the geeks, and an
HTML email non-standard was since been made up on an ad-hoc basis over the
following decade. I was a newcomer to computers myself in 1996, and didn't
use OSS for another 3 or 4 years, but I can only think that *maybe* someone
would have been successful if they had vigourously proposed an alternative
before it was too late.

Hear, hear. I totally agree.

Email would benefit from the ability to designate text clearly as bold,
italic or underlined, to include inline hyperlinks, to designate perhaps a
word or a sentence or two as "emphasised" in some way that would normally be
displayed to the reader as red or blue. But it needs this without allowing
whole emails to be composed in glaring pink, or allowing the sender to
specify a font size which distracts or inhibits readability (or indeed ANY
font or size).

I agree with the need for some formatting capability, but disagree with the "ANY font or size" statement.
Specific fonts are often required for special symbols, or characters.
Font Sizes if applied as a percentage increase, or decrease can often bring a useful layer of clarity to a document.
Do your LedgerSMB templates use a consistent font throughout? I suspect not.

For a corporate environment it is common to have a fairly large email signature that includes disclaimers and all sorts of other information, that is often in reduced font sizes, I think this is a good thing, if I want to print the email, I don't really want half a page to be taken up by "fine print" just because we can't change the font size, and I shouldn't have to make a copy of the email and edit it (to remove the fine print, hey it may be important that it stay there) just so I can print to a single page, instead of have a couple of lines on page 2.

I have a client who employed a graphic designer to create fancy HTML "stationary" for his company emails. They include a number of logos (sent as
jpeg images, of course) and as a consequence a one-sentence email, in which
there are only a few hundred bytes of text, arrives consuming 100kb in my
email box. This aspect of the client's messages is annoying, but overall the
most critical problem is the imposition of font & its size upon the reader,

This I think will be agreed on by all on the list!

If you post in plain-text, no-one will think less of you for it, and no-one
will filter your messages to /dev/null on the basis of that. The same cannot
be said for posting in HTML.

I have never had a problem with posting in plain text, but I think that sensibly used HTML has it's place. Unfortunately current clients may not be sensible. :)

Also: please try to post your messages as a general rule only to *one* list
at a time. Surely everyone on -dev already reads -users?

I actually deliberately posted to both lists, hoping to get an indication of the type of subscriber that was replying. eg. if all of the "plain text only" replies came from the Dev list, and most of the user list replies were html, or don't care it would have been useful information. As things turned out, it was a resounding "plain text" from virtually everyone so it didn't matter.

Also I have been around other projects where the dev's never subscribed to the user list. There was just plain too much traffic, so it never hurts to make sure everyone that needs to know is covered.

Despite my rebuttal of some of your comments (ok maybe most of them), I actually am quite happy to both send and receive plain text, at least until the clients handle html in a less "enforcing" way, and the users realise that horrible colour schemes, and bloated (jpg's etc) emails are bad.

David Godfrey