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Subject: RE: [dita-translation] Draft proposal for dir attribute

On the call this Monday, somebody mentioned that there are cases where
xml:lang is not enough to determine the direction of the text. In those
cases, my current understanding is that setting the attribute means
something like "The contents of this element do not follow the default
language rules for the currently specified xml:lang attribute." Thus, the
only time anybody needs to set the value is when they need to override the
current default, which is probably somewhat rare. Is that correct? In those
rare cases, is there any way we could identify the change and automatically
set the direction on output? My guess is no, otherwise the display
mechanisms would already display them correctly.

If I am correct about why this is used, would it be possible for someone to
give an example of where this override behavior is most often used? I think
examples were given on Monday relating to numbers or punctuation, but I am
not sure. Like Kevin, some of us were a little confused by the by the
Hebrew example, because both values showed up the same in our browsers.
Perhaps this is just an indication that browsers do not yet actually
support the dir attribute.

I would like to call for examples of use cases (particularly any that show
up often) to help us determine if this is critical for DITA 1.1, or whether
we can spend more time considering it for 1.2.


Robert D Anderson
Authoring Tools Development
Chief Architect, DITA Open Toolkit
(507) 253-8787, T/L 553-8787

             "Farwell, Kevin"                                              
             onbridge.com>                                              To 
                                       Robert D                            
             03/03/2006 02:47          Anderson/Rochester/IBM@IBMUS,       
             AM                        <gershon@tech-tav.com>              
                                       <bhertz@sdl.com>, "Bryan Schnabel"  
                                       <bryan.s.schnabel@tek.com>, Charles 
                                       Pau/Cambridge/IBM@Lotus, "Lieske,   
                                       <christian.lieske@sap.com>, Dave A  
                                       org>, <dpooley@sdl.com>, "Felix     
                                       Sasaki" <fsasaki@w3.org>, "Richard  
                                       Ishida" <ishida@w3.org>, "Jennifer  
                                       <pcarey@lexmark.com>, "Reynolds,    
                                       <rfletcher@sdl.com>, "Munshi,       
                                       com>, "Yves Savourel"               
                                       RE: [dita-translation] Draft        
                                       proposal for dir attribute          


I alluded to this on the phone the other day, but after thinking about it
for a few days I'm getting kind of sour on directional tags of any kind.
The question of whether overrides are needed got me to thinking the basic
idea of directional tags is based on presentation only and is display tool
specific. As such, any tagging method could either do no good or do harm in
all the various output tools there are. It seems to me that applying
tagging according to whether the content is going to Internet Explorer or
Antenna House or something else is very much against the notion of
separating content and format. Since the two consider bi-directional text
differently, tagging for one doesn't guarantee the text will work in the

It is true that the various tools will handle bi-directional text in almost
random ways, so some degree of directional control is needed, but it should
be applied at output time, not stored in the source XML. For example, in
the snippet included in the bi-directional model page, the first instance
of the Hebrew word "Hebrew" displays right-to-left in IE on Windows and
Safari on Mac with no tagging at all because of the Unicode range the
characters are in. The second one does too, but I can't figure out if that
one is supposed to run backwards to demonstrate the difference between
logical and display order and it's just typed in wrong. Otherwise it
doesn't demonstrate much of anything.

Still, punctuation and other characters must be handled, so control is
needed. The only thing that seems to work consistently is the use of the
Unicode directional characters. They don't necessarily rely on nesting,
which has a lot of advantages. Control can be applied to set of characters
before the next neutral character or a span, depending on what's needed.
Relying on spans can run into problems like a period displaying
right-to-left (which isn't so dramatic) at the right end of a Hebrew word
(which is). If the span is just around the period, nothing happens; if the
span is around the word and the period, you might get the same result
because a period is neutral character and is ignored in directional
controls. Also, I suppose just because it's fun, most tools treat Arabic
and Hebrew differently, so the controls can't be the same for all

Anyway, since it's too late to make a long story short, I'll just repeat
that I think directional control is too messy to rely on tagging to manage.
Authors or translators would have to know what display tool the content is
destined for and also know all the specifics of the letters, numbers, and
punctuation of the language in question and English or any other
left-to-right language. If it's handled at output time, the specific tools
won't necessarily be known, but at least the target output will be. The
chances of getting it right get better in that case.


From: Robert D Anderson [mailto:robander@us.ibm.com]
Sent: Thu 3/2/2006 3:57 PM
To: gershon@tech-tav.com
Cc: bhertz@sdl.com; 'Bryan Schnabel'; Charles Pau; 'Lieske, Christian';
Dave A Schell; dita-translation@lists.oasis-open.org; dpooley@sdl.com;
'Felix Sasaki'; 'Richard Ishida'; 'Jennifer Linton'; mambrose@sdl.com;
patrickk@scriptware.nl; pcarey@lexmark.com; Reynolds, Peter;
rfletcher@sdl.com; Munshi, Sukumar; tony.jewtushenko@productinnovator.com;
'Yves Savourel'
Subject: Re: [dita-translation] Draft proposal for dir attribute

Hello again -- only two short comments on the dir attribute.

1. As the one currently responsible for maintaining and bug-fixing the
DTDs, I would strongly favor making it a universal attribute, rather than
adding it to almost everything.

2. One of the points in the write-up says:
"If the document element does not specify the dir attribute, assume left to
right (ltr). "
The previous bullet says that inline elements use the "specified language's
default text direction". Wouldn't that be the case for the document as
well? That is, if I indicate xml:lang="he-il" on my root topic element,
then everything in the topic (such as tables, notes, and lists) should
default to dir="rtl" unless otherwise specified.

I do not know about the lro and rlo values -- does anybody here have tool
experience that would indicate whether these are still needed? If tools
still require them, then we should probably add them.

Robert D Anderson
IBM Authoring Tools Development
Chief Architect, DITA Open Toolkit

             "Gershon L
             <gershon@tech-tav                                          To
             .com>                     <dita-translation@lists.oasis-open.
                                       org>, <mambrose@sdl.com>,
             03/02/2006 01:36          <pcarey@lexmark.com>,
             PM                        <rfletcher@sdl.com>,
                                       <bhertz@sdl.com>, "'Richard
                                       Ishida'" <ishida@w3.org>,
             Please respond to         <tony.jewtushenko@productinnovator.
                  gershon              com>, <patrickk@scriptware.nl>,
                                       "'Lieske, Christian'"
                                       "'Jennifer Linton'"
                                       Charles Pau/Cambridge/IBM@Lotus,
                                       "'Felix Sasaki'" <fsasaki@w3.org>,
                                       "'Yves Savourel'"
                                       <ysavourel@translate.com>, Dave A
                                       Schell/Raleigh/IBM@IBMUS, "'Bryan

                                       [dita-translation] Draft proposal
                                       for dir attribute

Hi all,

Here's my draft proposal for the dir attribute. I'd appreciate review
feedback via email before Monday's SC meeting so we can try closing this
item on Monday to hand off to the DITA TC.

It's a working draft that I hope will invoke input from the SC members.
Based on feedback I receive, I plan to prepare a closer to final draft
before Monday's meeting.

I think the main questions are:
1. Should dir be a universal attribute or not?
2. Should we support dir="ltr|rtl" or dir="ltr|rtl|lro|rlo" as per HTML

Any and all feedback will be greatly appreciated.

Best Regards,

Gershon L Joseph
Member, OASIS DITA and DocBook Technical Committees
Director of Technology and Single Sourcing
Tech-Tav Documentation Ltd.
office: +972-8-974-1569
mobile: +972-57-314-1170
[attachment "DirAttr.html" deleted by Robert D Anderson/Rochester/IBM]

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