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Subject:
From:
Steven Pemberton <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Steven Pemberton <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Tue, 15 Jun 1999 11:40:39 +0200
Content-Type:
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 > Yes, I know the underline or underscore tag is a BAD, BAD thing. However,
 > there is a valid use for it that maybe wasn't considered when the decision
 > was made to axe it. I'm using it right now, underlining things like crazy.
 > What, you ask, could the ostracized underline tag possibly be good for? The
 > answer is software instruction manuals. Look at all those menu options along
 > the top of the window in the program you are using right now. Every one has
 > one letter in it that is underlined. That underline indicates the keyboard
 > shortcut for the menu item. It's also used on buttons, such as Save and
 > Close and Cancel. How can I write Web-based software instructions without
 > the underline tag? Should I just forget about documenting keyboard
 > shortcuts? (Rhetorical questions)

You misunderstand why tags are being deprecated. HTML is a
structure-describing language, not a presentation language. There are
lots of reasons why presentation-oriented tags are a bad idea. Talk to
a blind web user sometime for just one of those reasons.

It is only the underlining tag that has been deprecated, not
underlining itself. The correct way of underlining things in HTML is
with CSS (according to my logs, nearly 90% of people browsing use a
CSS-enabled browser). Here's an example:

    <html>
        <head>
            <style type="text/css">
                .shortcut {text-decoration: underline}
            </style>
        </head>
    <body>
        <p>
            To open a file, use
            <span class="shortcut">F</span>ile
            O<span class="shortcut">p</span>en
        </p>
    </body>
    </html>

You can also put the style sheet in a file and then reference it from
all your files with the following in the <head>:

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

Some of the advantages of this approach:

        * You can use one style file, and if you decide to change how
          the presentation should look, you change it once, and all
          documents change immediately

        * The sight-impaired can read your documents

        * Documents are generally easier to write

        * Documents are generally smaller, and therefore faster to
          download.

Steven Pemberton
(As it happens, chair of the W3C HTML Working Group)

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