[rfc-i] What the text version is used for (was Re: The <tt> train wreck)

Brian E Carpenter brian.e.carpenter at gmail.com
Sat Aug 21 16:26:07 PDT 2021

On 22-Aug-21 10:27, John Levine wrote:
> It appears that Robert Sparks  <rjsparks at nostrum.com> said:
>> There have been several times we have had long threads where people have 
>> told us what they use the text formats for. They've been compelling, at 
>> least to me, for helping ensure the format continues to be produced.
> Early on I thought the text version was a barbarous relic, but as I
> talked to more people I see that it remains useful mostly because we
> (for a very broad version of we, not limited to the IETF) do not have
> adequate tools for using non-text versions. We don't have xmldiff 

Have you tried rfcdiff on xml2rfc files? It works remarkably well
except for needing to wrap long lines. That could be fixed. But of
course what we really need is a diff between *rendered* html
files, and that is science fiction afaik.

> or
> xml or html grep. Several people have said that when they're
> commenting on a draft or I-D, they copy and paste rectangular regions
> of text, which is generally impossible in HTML in a browser. (You can
> copy, but try to select a rectangle.) 

Huh? I don't know how to select a rectangle from a .txt file which
is not full width. Also, the cases where you actually *need* to
preserve the layout will be artwork or code. You can select those
from the rendered HTML with no problem.

> To do anything with a PDF beyond
> display or print it needs a graduate seminar in PDF-ology.

It depends a bit which PDF viewer you use, but with the most widely
distributed one, selecting and copying from PDF/A is indeed annoying
as it loses whitespace even in artwork or code.

(However, PDF has the advantage that it supports commenting.)


> This tells me that we need to keep the text version and it needs to have the full
> contents of the document, but not that it has to be particularly beautiful.  The HTML
> is where you get the beautiful version.

> R's,
> John
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