From: Murray Sargent (email@example.com)
Date: Thu Jul 29 2010 - 00:26:18 CDT
> Murray Sargent <murrays at exchange dot microsoft dot com> wrote:
>> It's worth remembering that plain text is a format that was introduced
>> due to the limitations of early computers. Books have always been
>> rendered with at least some degree of rich text. And due to the
>> complexity of Unicode, even Unicode plain text often needs to be
>> rendered with more than one font.
> I disagree with this assessment of plain text. When you consider the basic equivalence of the "same" text
> written in longhand by different people, typed on a typewriter, finger-painted by a child, spray-painted
> through a stencil, etc., it's clear that the "sameness" is an attribute of the underlying plain text. None of
> these examples has anything to do with computers, old or new.
> I do agree that rich text has existed for a long time, possibly as long as plain text (though I doubt that, when
> you consider really early writing technologies like palm leaves), but I don't think that refutes the independent
> existence of plain text. And I don't think the need to use more than one font to render some Unicode text
> implies it isn't plain text. I think that has more to do with aesthetics (a rich-text concept) and technical limits
> on font size.
My comments were to some degree hyperbole, in the hope that people fixated on plain text would be encouraged to think a little more broadly. Plain text underlies all rich text and in that capacity, it's been around since mankind started scribing. And plain text can have exotic formatting, e.g., gradient color; it's just that the formatting has to be uniform for all the text, rather than for parts (runs) of the text. One can regard the need for more than one font to render Unicode text as an implementation detail. But as a practical matter, it means that rendering/editing engines need to be able to handle a fair amount of richness. The RichEdit library used in Windows and Office takes advantage of that fact in providing plain-text controls as well as rich-text controls.
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