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Why choose plain text over HTML email?

txercoupemuseum.org
 

Since those here are presumably group “management” of some sort, WHY would you not want the HTML version of digest for at least THIS forum? Is it longer, or ???. Seems to me like going to a play blindfolded or watching a color movie in black and white.

WRB



On Feb 15, 2020, at 1:09 PM, Jim Fisher <@jimella> wrote:

No formatting (italics, bold, colours or anything else) appears for those of us
who read all emails in plain text.

Jim Fisher
[Mod note: changed Subject text to reflect the change in topic. Jim's message was in
the topic "in case of orphaned group #poll"
https://groups.io/g/GroupManagersForum/message/29488 ]

Duane
 

On Sat, Feb 15, 2020 at 03:32 PM, txercoupemuseum.org wrote:
WHY would you not want the HTML version of digest for at least THIS forum
I can read plain text much easier than I can various colors, fonts, etc.  It also saves a bit on my limited bandwidth.  It's a personal preference for everyone.

Duane
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W David Samuelsen
 

I do agree about the need for plain text but not always possible so I set all my groups to strip out fancy stuff (normalize the HTML) and everybody is happy.

David Samuelsen

On Sat, Feb 15, 2020 at 4:37 PM Duane <txpigeon@...> wrote:
On Sat, Feb 15, 2020 at 03:32 PM, txercoupemuseum.org wrote:
WHY would you not want the HTML version of digest for at least THIS forum
I can read plain text much easier than I can various colors, fonts, etc.  It also saves a bit on my limited bandwidth.  It's a personal preference for everyone.

Duane
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Steve Hayes
 

On 15 Feb 2020 at 15:10, txercoupemuseum.org wrote:

Since those here are presumably group "management" of some sort, WHY would
you not want the HTML version of digest for at least THIS forum? Is it
longer, or ???. Seems to me like going to a play blindfolded or watching a
color movie in black and white.
I never use HTML for e-mail. It wastes bandwidth and disk space (yes, some
people have to pay by gigabyte, and it all adds up). If messages have
important information I sometimes like to save them in a database, and
stripping HTML from them makes it a longer and more tedious task.

Different email readers handle HTML differently, and often the effect that
the recipient sees is not what the sender intended. When I receive both an
HTML and a plain version the HTML version is often harder to read, as well as
being anything from twice to 100 times the size.


If I need to send a document with fancy formatting (fairly rare) I send it as
a file attachment.
--
Steve Hayes
E-mail: shayes@...
Blog: http://khanya.wordpress.com
Web: http://www.khanya.org.za/stevesig.htm
Phone: 083-342-3563 or 012-333-6727
Fax: 086-548-2525

 

WHY would you not want the HTML version of digest for
at least THIS forum? Is it longer, or ???. Seems to me
like going to a play blindfolded or watching a color movie
in black and white.
For the same reason you want HTML. It's a user preference, and I'm sure it saves space in the archives. More importantly, the reader may not want the distraction of colors or hard-to-read fonts. The font you want to read may be too small for someone's older eyes. Your choice of colored fonts may cause loss of contrast for colorblind users. The fact is, when you use HTML, you force the reader to use the size, color and font of what you've written. This isn't a fits-all world. By using plain text or Normalized HTML, the system defaults to the fonts and colors the recipient has selected for their own displays, which may be much easier for them to read.

One might also say that what you write should be clear enough to not need visual embellishment or obscuration. If you need to denote ranking of quoted text, the old 'greater than' symbol or indenting still works. The written language is a device that functions without regard to visual tricks. If you want a circus poster, you can always attach it as a graphic.

Dano

txercoupemuseum.org
 

All excellent points, Dano.

I never use color, so didn’t realize that might me a problem. Never see it in my groups. I do use the “greater than” and “Less than” denotations. I do indent at times, but also find that at times I’m fighting something in Apple Mail to make it look right.

Best!

WRB

On Feb 15, 2020, at 11:42 PM, D R Stinson <@steeplecab> wrote:

WHY would you not want the HTML version of digest for
at least THIS forum? Is it longer, or ???. Seems to me
like going to a play blindfolded or watching a color movie
in black and white.
For the same reason you want HTML. It's a user preference, and I'm sure it saves space in the archives. More importantly, the reader may not want the distraction of colors or hard-to-read fonts. The font you want to read may be too small for someone's older eyes. Your choice of colored fonts may cause loss of contrast for colorblind users. The fact is, when you use HTML, you force the reader to use the size, color and font of what you've written. This isn't a fits-all world. By using plain text or Normalized HTML, the system defaults to the fonts and colors the recipient has selected for their own displays, which may be much easier for them to read.

One might also say that what you write should be clear enough to not need visual embellishment or obscuration. If you need to denote ranking of quoted text, the old 'greater than' symbol or indenting still works. The written language is a device that functions without regard to visual tricks. If you want a circus poster, you can always attach it as a graphic.

Dano

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Laurence Marks
 

I wonder if users like Duane and Dano would be happy with the original HTML, and not the monstrosity it's evolved to.

The original HTML predecessor, SGML, was designed under the premise that the author identified the text objects as what they were: paragraph, Header 1/2/3/4/5, numbered list, unnumbered list, table, table (cell) data, etc. The very few decorators (bold, underline, italic, line-break) were seen as compromises. The user would configure the rendition of each of these to his personal preferences. For example, a person with limited vision might configure everything in a large font, but use different colors for Headers 1/2/3/4/5. A blind person might configure his screen reader for different pauses between different element types, maybe different volume levels or intonations for different headers. He might even configure announcement of certain table tags to ease navigation. This is the original "pure" HTML.

The browser creators got into a feature war and created any number of poorly thought out features. Does anybody remember <marquee>? 

Then the graphic artists, bless their hearts, got involved. They were used to specifying colors, complicated layouts, non-functional things like elegant drop-caps. User configuration went out the window. With the creation of the rococo CSS, creation of simple, clean web pages by directly entering HTML mostly went out the window.

The final nail in the coffin was the evolution caused by embedded editors like the one I am using to type this. Real HTML (and XHTML and XML) requires properly nested tags. If you start underlining and then start italics, you have to turn off the italics before turning off the underlining. But anyone who has ever used "Reveal Codes" in the older word processors knows how hard that is to do when you are in a WYSIWYG environment. When you set the I-Beam pointer in the gap between two characters, and there are two codes (e.g., underline-start and italic-start), you have no control over which of the three potential positions you have selected. If you've ever tried to change the formatting of previously formatted characters in a word processor and it won't change, you will instantly recognize this problem. This led to tags <div> and <span>. They are not required to be nested, but the editing problem persists. The complexity to deal with this leads to huge browser footprints and probably to that curse we all see, memory leaks.

This complexity may explain Duane and Dano's preference for plain text.

Larry

Duane
 

On Sun, Feb 16, 2020 at 09:20 AM, Laurence Marks wrote:
I wonder if users like Duane and Dano would be happy with the original HTML, and not the monstrosity it's evolved to.
I won't speak for Dano, but I don't think it would make much difference to me.  Plain text is simple, easy to read, and takes less storage space (since it doesn't have all those 'hidden' codes.)  All the bells and whistles in the world won't make make an idea more clear if the proper words aren't there.

Duane
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> I won't speak for Dano, but I don't think it would make much
> difference to me. Plain text is simple, easy to read, and takes
> less storage space (since it doesn't have all those 'hidden'
> codes.) All the bells and whistles in the world won't make
> make an idea more clear if the proper words aren't there.
>
> Duane
 
I think you've put my thoughts quite succinctly, Duane. Thank you.
It might be worth noting that I write this as a person who has been doing graphic design for better than four decades.
 
> I wonder if users like Duane and Dano would be happy with
> the original HTML …
 
Laurence, that's pretty much what "Normalized HTML" in groups.io is. I have that set in a couple of my groups.
 
Dano
 

ro-esp
 

On Sat, Feb 15, 2020 at 10:32 PM, txercoupemuseum.org wrote:


WHY would you not want the HTML version of digest
I'm not sure it applies to groups.io, but sometimes I get newsletters with fancy layout, and I have to literally wait for minutes before I can move on to the next message. Choosing plain-text prevents this.


groetjes/ĝis, Ronaldo

Darlene <dvhhemail.darlene@...>
 

Thank you Larry for this history.  I have been looking for a summary like this.  
Darlene

Glenn Glazer
 

On 2/15/2020 21:42, D R Stinson wrote:
WHY would you not want the HTML version of digest for
at least THIS forum?  Is it longer, or ???.  Seems to me
like going to a play blindfolded or watching a color movie
in black and white.
The fact is, when you use HTML, you force the reader to use the size, color and font of what you've written. 

This statement is not true. Many HTML readers, including MUAs like Thunderbird which I use, have a setting which permits the reader to override the body style of the message.

One might also say that what you write should be clear enough to not need visual embellishment or obscuration. If you need to denote ranking of quoted text, the old 'greater than' symbol or indenting still works. The written language is a device that functions without regard to visual tricks. 
The inventions of text formatting such as italics and underlining long predate HTML and are used for technical language requirements (such as story and book titles), not "embellishment or obscuration [sic]". From a linguist perspective, these font formats are no different than other "visual tricks" like punctuation, line spacing and so on, none of which existing in early English.

I am glad there is a choice and those that wants one or the other can have what they want. But I also think choice is best when made as an informed decision.

Best,

Glenn

Laurence Marks
 

On 2/15/2020 21:42, D R Stinson wrote:
The fact is, when you use HTML, you force the reader to use the size, color and font of what you've written. 
Actually it's not only incorrect, but precisely the result of the unfortunate evolution I was describing. Graphic designers took over the original tool and abused it so "My page looks better than the other guy's." There are obvious commercial reasons why this happened.

You can still create web pages which are completely non-specific as regard to fonts and colors. Wake Interfaith Disaster Team is a website I originally created in 2011 using raw HTML, restricted to HTML 1 and 2. There are no specifications of fonts, column widths, etc. The browser defaults are used throughout. A surprise benefit of this is that it works reasonably on phones and tablets with no changes. Another is REALLY FAST page loading.

(Yes, these pages are a little ugly--I had to bang them out late at night while managing disaster recovery as a volunteer during the day. And the colors are awful, they tell me. I'm colorblind and pick colors which great mutual discrimination for me.I can name some websites where the colors for visited and unvisited links appear so similar that I cannot distinguish them.)

I had done some work on projects for people with disabilities and learned that the more you "make things pretty" the more you break screen readers, people with impaired color vision, and others.

Larry

Steve Hayes
 

On 16 Feb 2020 at 8:59, Glenn Glazer wrote:

The inventions of text formatting such as italics and underlining long predate
HTML and are used for technical language requirements (such as story and book
titles), not "embellishment or obscuration [sic]". From a linguist
perspective, these font formats are no different than other "visual tricks"
like punctuation, line spacing and so on, none of which existing in early
English.
And if you really and that, the convention is to indicate _italics_ by
underlining and *bold* with asterisks, and if you export it to and MS word
document, it will convert those into the printable fonts for you.

You might object that exporting and converting is too much schlep, but so is
exporting to an HTML stripper.

--
Steve Hayes
E-mail: shayes@...
Blog: http://khanya.wordpress.com
Web: http://www.khanya.org.za/stevesig.htm
Phone: 083-342-3563 or 012-333-6727
Fax: 086-548-2525

Glenn Glazer
 

On 2/16/2020 10:06, Steve Hayes wrote:
On 16 Feb 2020 at 8:59, Glenn Glazer wrote:

The inventions of text formatting such as italics and underlining long predate
HTML and are used for technical language requirements (such as story and book
titles), not "embellishment or obscuration [sic]". From a linguist
perspective, these font formats are no different than other "visual tricks"
like punctuation, line spacing and so on, none of which existing in early
English.
And if you really and that, the convention is to indicate _italics_ by 
underlining and *bold* with asterisks, and if you export it to and MS word 
document, it will convert those into the printable fonts for you. 

You might object that exporting and converting is too much schlep, but so is 
exporting to an HTML stripper. 


I don't think that convention is universal, since I see your italics as underlined:



I don't think the shlep is necessary. In the sample above, I italicized italics and underlined underlining and yet your MUA/browser stripped the formatting off cleanly.

Best,

Glenn

--
PG&E Delenda Est

David Grimm
 

On Sat, Feb 15, 2020 at 04:32 PM, txercoupemuseum.org wrote:
WHY would you not want the HTML version of digest for at least THIS forum?
Back to the original question. So after reading this question, I decided to see what I might be missing by selecting Plain Digest. After changing to Full Featured Digest, I found out why I prefer the Plain Digest: I couldn't read the Full Featured Digest due mostly to lines scrolling off the visible page when using any of three different email clients, both Android and Windows based. Yes, I got fancy colors and different fonts, but I also had to go to a web-browser and go through each thread to see what I couldn't in the digest. Which defeats totally the purpose for which I get the digest by email. 

Yes, I probably could go in and hack in different settings for my email clients, but it is much easier as long as I have logged in here, to just change my subscription back to Plain Digest, thank you very much.

Dave

 

First, I'm not talking about digest but individual messages, but that probably
isn't important. I have my email client set to read all emails, from whatever
source, in plain text. The text is what matters. The main reason for not
reading in HTML is that it can carry malware and I don't want my computer to be
infected that way. I know that form of infection is less common that it once
was, but it is still possible. Others have also pointed out the difficulty of
reading the fonts and colours some people choose. HTML in nearly all cases
simply wastes bandwidth as again others have pointed out, which for people on
slow connections is still of some importance, so I always send in plain text as
well.

BTW, I seem to remember I copied the sig file on the end of this messsage from
Shal, who owns this group.

Jim

On 15 Feb 2020 at 15:10, txercoupemuseum.org wrote:

Since those here are presumably group "management" of some sort, WHY would
you not want the HTML version of digest for at least THIS forum? Is it longer,
or ???. Seems to me like going to a play blindfolded or watching a color movie
in black and white.

WRB
--
//\\ Plain Text Campaign | Remember -
\\// No HTML/RTF in email | You can't get malware from plain text!
XX No Word docs in email | No one has ever said "I can't read that
//\\ Respect open standards | plain text email you sent."

Laurence Taylor
 

txercoupemuseum.org <ercoguru@...> wrote:

Since those here are presumably group “management” of some sort, WHY
would you not want the HTML version of digest for at least THIS
forum? Is it longer, or ???. Seems to me like going to a play
blindfolded or watching a color movie in black and white.
Partly because it increases the size of the email, sometimes
condiserably. Partly because it can introduce malware.

And partly because adding HTML coding doesn't add anything to the
message apart from the sender's choice of font, size, colour, &c., which
I don't want.

A plain text email includes what was written, clearly (because I set my
PC to display it in a font I can read) and without any risk of anything
nasty happening.

Oh yes, and emphasis? /Italic/, *bold* or _underlined_ works very well.

--
rgds
LAurence
<><

Chris Jones
 

On Sun, Feb 16, 2020 at 06:46 PM, Jim Fisher wrote:
HTML in nearly all cases simply wastes bandwidth as again others have pointed out
Does it waste as much bandwidth as over - quoting? That is a persistent problem with many group members. (I am not necessarily referrring to GMF, but it is a problem.)

Chris

Glenn Glazer
 

On 2/16/2020 10:46, Jim Fisher wrote:
First, I'm not talking about digest but individual messages, but that probably 
isn't important. I have my email client set to read all emails, from whatever 
source, in plain text. The text is what matters. The main reason for not 
reading in HTML is that it can carry malware and I don't want my computer to be 
infected that way. I know that form of infection is less common that it once 
was, but it is still possible. 

The only way this is possible is if the reader clicks on a bad link or attachment. If they do not click on the link it is NOT possible to get Not having links/attachments at all defies the general utility of links/attachments in emails for the sake of an easily avoidable error. It's like banning pencils because someone got poked in the eye with a pencil once.

I recommend this article which lists several very easy ways of detecting phishing in emails:

https://blog.malwarebytes.com/101/2017/06/somethings-phishy-how-to-detect-phishing-attempts/


Others have also pointed out the difficulty of 
reading the fonts and colours some people choose. HTML in nearly all cases 
simply wastes bandwidth as again others have pointed out, which for people on 
slow connections is still of some importance, so I always send in plain text as 
well.

I have to admit, I read the bandwidth claims with some incredulity. I live in a rural, mountainous area with substandard internet. I have no problem with the speed of HTML embedded emails.

Perhaps people need to upgrade from their acoustic modems.

Best,

Glenn

[political sig trimmed by moderator]