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As described in SimpleTextFormatting, Ward in the original Wiki needed a subset of HTML to allow simple text to be converted to have ParagraphFormattingRules are associated with the formatting for the entire paragraph, as well as additional types of paragraph-like structures such as quotation, indentation, ordered and unordered lists.


HTML elements.

A simple set of text markup is needed to represent various types of paragraph formatting markup that can converted to html.

Solution 1: Ward's Wiki

As described in [WikiBase Text Formatting Rules] there are basically 6 ParagraphFormattingRules:

In addition, there are two others:

Issues 1: Ward's Wiki

The choice of blank lines to separate paragraphs, and to ignore most newlines was excellent, and so far has been preserved by all Wiki variants that I've surveyed below.

The choice of using indentation for monospaced paragraphs has not been as successful, as quite a few variants have chosen other methods. I believe that the most significant problem is that there are issues of line endings (in Ward's wiki you have to force your line breaks), and there is some confusion as to whether you should allow wiki markup (in particular links) inside monospaced paragraphs.

The choice of asterisks after new lines for unordered lists (bulleted lists) works fairly well, and is used by a number of wikis. Some of the issues are that "**** List Item" seems more prominent then "* List Item*, and that mixing types of lists doesn't work very well (i.e. *#* which is supported by SocialText).

Ward's choice of newline tab TERM colon tab for both definition lists and for blockquote indentation has been the least successful, and I've found no other wiki variant that supports it. However, this is a difficult problem as evidenced that almost every wiki variant has found a different solution to the problem. I think the biggest issues with Ward's first choice here is that tabs don't work well in text_areas -- most browsers will not allow you to enter tabs into text areas, forcing you to do space to tab tricks with Ward's Wiki. In addition, Ward's techniques handled only one level of depth -- suitable for definition lists (I've only seen one Wiki so far that supports level 2 def lists) but for indentation multiple depths are important.

I'm not sure why Ward deprecated ordered lists. My guess is that he originally used newline # as that is what other early wiki variants used. The issues with newline # with ordered lists are similar to that of unordered lists.

Almost every wiki variant has added some additional ParagraphFormattingRules, in particular, tables and a way to stop the interpretation of wiki formatting.


WikiSyntax WikiMarkupStandard

Unintegrated Comments

Peter Thoeny of TwikiClone wrote me to say "On the syntax (of unordered lists), " *" is inherited from JosWiki, the granddaddy of TWiki."

Survey of Paragraph Formatting Rules

CategoryWikiFeatureSurvey CategoryTextMarkup CategoryWikiDesignPatterns


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