[Mozile] White space handling

James A. Overton james at overton.ca
Thu Jun 1 12:51:27 EDT 2006

	I believe that I've fixed three of Max's four bugs (http:// 
www.mozdev.org/pipermail/mozile/2006-June/001055.html). The cursor  
shouldn't disappear anymore, tabs are now ignored, and merging is  
fixed. The only one left is inline white space handling, about which  
I wanted to ask some questions.

	You can now see on the demo page (http://mozile.mozdev.org/0.8/demo/ 
basic.html) the current behaviours:
	- If you press "enter" the current element is split, and if you  
press "enter" again more "p" or "li" elements are created. In order  
to make them render properly, Mozile inserts a \u00A0 non-breaking  
space (NBSP). When text is inserted in a text node which only  
contains an NBSP the NBSP character is removed.
	- Right now whenever you press "space" a space character is inserted  
(ASCII code 32). Ten "space" keypresses means 10 spaces inserted.  
Under IE the ten spaces are all visible, but Firefox 1.5 obeys the  
standard X/HTML white space rules and only a single space is visible.  
A space at the end of block is visible under IE but not visible under  
Firefox. Older versions of Mozile used to insert alternating NBSPs  
and spaces to make sure the user got what was expected.

	The question is: How *should* white space be handled?
	There isn't much that can be done to change the way the browsers  
render spaces. CSS "white-space" declarations affect spaces and  
newlines, which isn't helpful. What can be changed is when white  
space characters are allowed to be inserted, and conversion of  
inserted spaces into NBSPs to make sure that they show up.
	I think that the key to answering the question is to decide whether  
you want to maintain XML white space semantics, or you want to  
display what the user types like a word-processor. In different  
situations people will want Mozile to do both of these things, so I  
propose three "white space modes":

	- "collapse": consecutive white space characters are treated as a  
single character, so pressing "space" 10 times will insert only 1  
space character.
	- "display": every white space character entered by the user should  
be visible, so pressing "space" 10 times will insert spaces (and  
NBSPs) as needed to display 10 spaces. This would probably be the  
	- "manual": don't do anything fancy, just insert what the user types.

	The implementation could be tricky, but I don't see any barriers. It  
might also be useful to have code that cleans up white space before  
the content is saved. Also, I'm not sure what the "tab" key should be  
doing in all of this. It could be treated as a "\t" character, or a  
space, or used to trigger a command. The CSS white-space mode could  
also make a difference. Right now it's just ignored.
	Those are my thoughts. I'd really like to hear what other people  
think about how Mozile should handle white space.


More information about the Mozile mailing list