[whatwg] Footnotes, endnotes, sidenotes

Sander Tekelenburg tekelenb at euronet.nl
Sat Nov 4 11:03:18 PST 2006

At 17:53 +0100 UTC, on 2006-10-31, Håkon Wium Lie wrote:


> W3C recently published a proposal on how to achieve
> footnote/endnote presentations using the same markup [1]. The proposal
> is quite simple. Given this markup:
>   <div class=note>..</div>
> you would achieve footnoes with:
>   .note { position: footnote }
> ane endnotes with:
>   .note { position: endnote }

I miss the semantic aspect. <div class=note> has no meaning. Something like
<annotation> would have. Once that's in place, I suppose you could indeed
offer CSS mechanisms to suggest a presentation as footnote, endnote, whatever.

Btw, I can perhaps vaguely imagine what display:footnote might look like, but
I have no clue what position:footnote might look like. I feel that this sort
of thing needs to be *much* more obvious from a spec, or else only a minute
elite will actually use such features (which in turn will give browser
vendors a reason to not even bother implementing support).

Another problem I have when thinking about the ideal spec for this is that
footnote seems to me very much a print concept, where you have a clear
concept of "page". With a screen presentation however, there's the question
whether end of page == end of document, or whether it is the end of the
window (and scrolling takes you to the next 'page').

I mention this because I can imagine that in some situations you'd want notes
to appear at the end of the document, but in other situations it might work
better to have them at the bottom of the window, or at the end of a
chapter/section, which doesn't necessarily equal the end of the document.

Also, given the realities of scrolling, I think a useful implementation would
require a mechanism that allows the user to navigate back from the footnote
to the point in the text that references it. I'm not sure what mark-up this
would require though, especially given that a footnote might be referenced to
from different points of the text. Possibly an anchor-like mechanism would be
simplest, as it would allow a UA to allow the user to simply hit the back
button. (Althought that assumes the UA would go back to the specific point in
the page where the user was before -- some UAs instead still go back to the
top of that page.)

Another thought: it seems to me that something along the lines of the
longdesc attribute[*] might be useful for annotational purposes. The only
implementation I'm aware of is iCab's, which provides access to it through
its contxtual menu and loads the expanded description in a new window. That
too makes it easy for users to return to where they were. The downside of
longdesc of course is that it requires a separate Web page, which would
exclude the possibility of presentating the annotation in the same page.
Perhaps an longdesc-like annotation element should therefore require an
anchor (pointing to an ID within the current page), not allow URLs that point
to external documents.

[*] <http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/struct/objects.html#adef-longdesc-IMG>

Sander Tekelenburg, <http://www.euronet.nl/~tekelenb/>

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