Re: In defense of Plane 14 language tags

From: Martin Kochanski (
Date: Tue Nov 05 2002 - 03:45:16 EST

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    At 22:25 04/11/02 +0000, Thomas M. Widmann wrote:
    >Proponents of deprecating language tags probably assume that plain
    >text isn't much used and that higher-level protocols can therefore
    >nearly always be used, but that is not the case in my experience:
    >plain text is still widely used.

    The reason that I would support deprecating language tags is *precisely* that to use them is effectively to abolish Unicode as a medium for plain text.

    A plain text editor (such as the edit control in any dialog box) is something that allows you to insert, select, replace, delete, and move the characters in the text that it is editing, while at the same time letting you see that text. It does not have modes for "show hidden characters / hide hidden characters" and the characters it manipulates have no attributes other than their existence.

    If you now say that this so-called "plain text" actually contains an unknown number of invisible metacharacters and that the text editor has to behave rationally when the user inserts, selects, replaces, and deletes *those* - it really is not a plain text editor any more: you will need modes to show or hide those characters, and methods of applying tags to any text that you enter or select (and remembering those tags if the text is copied or pasted). You end up with the ridiculous situation where even a simple one-line control that asks for someone's name has to have all the facilities of a mid-range word processor.

    From a programming point of view you might as well complete the process of destruction by defining "bold on/off" and "italic on/off" as part of Unicode (something that has always, rightly, been opposed). The damage has already been done by redefining "plain text" to mean "plain text with invisible metacharacters".

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