[rfc-i] Should Figures be allowed to float?

Riccardo Bernardini framefritti at gmail.com
Fri Jan 10 00:03:03 PST 2014


On Fri, Jan 10, 2014 at 2:47 AM, Paul Hoffman <paul.hoffman at vpnc.org> wrote:
> On Jan 9, 2014, at 12:57 PM, Jim Schaad <ietf at augustcellars.com> wrote:
>
>> The current layout rules are all based on the assumption that figures are going to be placed in-line in the text and not allowed to float freely and allow for the text to flow around them in those cases where it makes sense.  I have been working on a document where there is a picture and a set of steps.  Allowing the step description to flow around the picture of the steps would probably improve the reading experience for this document.
>
> This seems like a minor improvement for a lot of UI pain. The "allow to float" attribute would need to say how far the figure would be able to float; getting the units right on that would be daunting, to say the least.

I would suggest using the LaTeX approach that, in my experience, works
pretty well (as long as one knows that the float will be moved around;
float mobility is a major surprise/annoyance for LaTeX beginners).
LaTeX decides where to place floats (figures and tables, but also
other "objects" like algorithms, ...) according to an algorithm
similar to this

*    The float is placed as soon as possible, compatibly with the
following constraints.

*    Floats are placed at the top or at the bottom of a page or on a
page that contains only floats.

*    A float cannot be placed before the point it is "declared"

*    Fig. <n> cannot be placed before Fig. <m> if m < n

*    The user can modify this behavior by using some options (e.g.,
put only on top, only on bottom, put the float exactly here!)

The actual algorithm is a bit more involved and it is described in the
Leslie's  book.


> Can you quantify "probably improve"?

Although this question was directed to OP, let me add my 0.02 Euros.

Clearly, it is difficult to quantify something like this, but I had
few experiences with documents with non-floating figures and it can be
quite annoying.  For example, it can happen that a figure is placed
almost at the bottom of the page with only one or two text lines after
it.  When you arrive at that page, you read the text before the
figure, you do not notice the line after it and move to the next page,
just to find that there is a jump in the sentence.  You go back, go
forward again, check the page numbers and, finally, you discover the
line after the figure.    If the document has many figures, this can
be quite annoying.

Honestly, I do not see any major drawbacks (from user's perspective)
in having floats, especially if we provide an attribute to say "place
it here!" for those very very rare cases when it is needed (I write
scientific papers &stuff with LaTeX since the 90s and I never used
this option).

I guess that handling floats will make the xml2rfc code a bit more
complex, but if you think that in LaTeX float handling is written
using TeX...

Riccardo

>
> --Paul Hoffman
>
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