Backslash ( \ ) in ordinary text

Discussion in 'HTML' started by James Dow Allen, Aug 18, 2010.

  1. I have a website that uses only very simple html, for example
    http://fabpedigree.com/s061/f004932.htm

    As you can see, I use backslashes as a very primitive way
    to develop diagonal lines. I've had these pages online for
    several years with no problems.

    Yesterday I get a report that the backslashes are displaying
    as struck-out W's! The user had just reverted from
    Windows XP to Windows 7 and is browsing with IE I think.

    I've come across some mention of Windows Word mapping
    backslash to struck-out W, but don't understand it.
    And it shouldn't apply to webpages, right?

    I hope someone can figure out what's happening and explain it to me!
    Am I supposed to use an &-code for backslash?

    James Dow Allen
    James Dow Allen, Aug 18, 2010
    #1
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  2. Sherm Pendley wrote:

    >> Am I supposed to use an &-code for backslash?

    >
    > No, you don't need to use an entity reference for backslashes.


    Right, "\" is just another data character in HTML. In software that
    _generates_ HTML, e.g. a Perl or JavaScript program, things are different,
    but that's a whole another world. Wait a sec... we have a web page about it,
    don't I.... yes:
    http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/www/revsol.html

    > That said, I see the same thing on your page,


    I can confirm that too: on the page
    http://fabpedigree.com/s061/f004932.htm
    I see backslashes as struck-out "W" on IE 8 (Windows Vista).

    > and found other pages
    > for which back slashes are correctly displayed. It's worth noting that
    > those sites used valid HTML and "standards mode" rendering. Your page
    > lacks a doctype declaration, so it triggers "quirks mode," and has a
    > few HTML errors as well.


    Good guess, and the HTML errors should be fixed of course, but neither the
    markup errors nor "quirks mode" seem to affect the issue.

    The issue is that some versions of IE apparently display "\" in that very
    odd way, when font-family: serif is specified in CSS. That's weird, even for
    IE.

    It's really a font issue, as you can see if you copy and paste the text into
    a text editor for example: there you see the fancy character turned into
    "\".

    I don't know which font it uses when font-family: serif is specified, but
    it's apparently a broken font, with a completely wrong glyph for "\". This
    is mad, but it can easily be fixed by changing the CSS rule.

    Wait... we have
    http://www.fileformat.info/info/unicode/font/fontlist.htm
    and using it, one can see that the following fonts on my computer have a
    struck-out "W" in place of "\":
    Batang
    BatangChe
    Gulim
    GulimChe
    Gungsuh
    GungsuhChe
    Malgun Gothic
    And I'm pretty sure those fonts came with the operating system. For more
    weirdness, but more undertandably (though not acceptably), some fonts
    display "\" as the yen symbol - this is understandable because some Asian
    variants of Ascii have replaced "\" by the yen sign. Wait... the struck-out
    "W" is the wong symbol, _of course_. So this is not completely absurd, just
    mind-boggingly wrong, a return to the world where monsters called "national
    variants of Ascii" ruled the Earth.

    So probably serif means, to IE, one of those broken fonts. (Broken at least
    in the sense of rendering one character completely wrong.) And this explains
    why the issue may arise in Word, too - if the font somehow gets changed to
    Batang, for example.

    Specifying serif means in theory that the browser should use the serif font
    chosen by the user (either by accepting the browser default for it or by
    setting it), but this doesn't really work. One reason to that is that IE has
    no tools for setting the meaning of the keyword serif.

    Using e.g. font-family: xxx, "Times Roman", "Times New Roman" where xxx is
    the serif font that you really prefer would be better. Virtually any browser
    that supports multiple fonts at all can use Times New Roman or Times Roman,
    which can hardly be worse than the meaning of the keyword serif when it has
    oddities like this. And, of course, you can leave the font unspecified,
    which normally means Times New Roman, or something that the user has
    selected.

    I don't think the use of "\" in the construction of "Ascii graphic" is
    particularly advanced, but the late Bob Bemer, the inventor of the
    backslash, probably wouldn't object to it. After all, part of the motivation
    for this character was to make it possible to write the symbols for logical
    disjunction and logical conjunction, as defined in the Algol programming
    language, as pairs of Ascii characters: \/ and /\. So the particular visual
    appearance was more or less part of the idea.

    --
    Yucca, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
    Jukka K. Korpela, Aug 18, 2010
    #2
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  3. James Dow Allen

    BootNic Guest

    On Wed, 18 Aug 2010 04:48:33 -0700 (PDT)
    James Dow Allen <> wrote:

    > I have a website that uses only very simple html, for example
    > http://fabpedigree.com/s061/f004932.htm
    >
    > As you can see, I use backslashes as a very primitive way to
    > develop diagonal lines. I've had these pages online for several
    > years with no problems.
    >
    > Yesterday I get a report that the backslashes are displaying as
    > struck-out W's! The user had just reverted from Windows XP to
    > Windows 7 and is browsing with IE I think.
    >
    > I've come across some mention of Windows Word mapping backslash
    > to struck-out W, but don't understand it. And it shouldn't apply
    > to webpages, right?
    >
    > I hope someone can figure out what's happening and explain it to
    > me! Am I supposed to use an &-code for backslash?


    This would be a CSS issue. The generic font-family serif, on two different
    Vista IE 8 displays as described, winxp displays as a backslash.

    Some browsers allow the user to change/select what the generic fonts are, as
    far as I know IE does not provide such a thing.

    Removing the font-family suggestions should resolve the issue.


    --
    BootNic Wed Aug 18, 2010 01:16 pm
    The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is inefficiency. An
    efficient bureaucracy is the greatest threat to liberty.
    *Eugene McCarthy*

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    BootNic, Aug 18, 2010
    #3
  4. Thank you very much to all responders!
    This seems like a friendly group!

    On Aug 19, 12:11 am, "Jukka K. Korpela" <> wrote:
    > I can confirm that too: on the page
    > http://fabpedigree.com/s061/f004932.htm
    > I see backslashes as struck-out "W" on IE 8 (Windows Vista).
    >
    > Using e.g. font-family: xxx, "Times Roman", "Times New Roman" where xxx is
    > the serif font that you really prefer would be better.


    I've just now modifed the "qstyle.css" as you suggested.
    (But omitted the "xxx," as I don't have any particular preference.)

    Perhaps kind readers will click again and verify problem
    has gone away. And -- displaying my ignorance again -- what
    exactly is needed to clear any cache?

    I'll add the Doctype to every page next time I rebuild the website.
    The only other errors reported by the HTML validator were
    missing </small> after <small>, which I omitted deliberately
    to save space: the <small> within <td> ... <td> is cancelled
    by the end of the <td> region, or at least that's what I've
    observed. Am I wrong again?

    James Dow Allen
    James Dow Allen, Aug 18, 2010
    #4
  5. James Dow Allen wrote:

    > Thank you very much to all responders!
    > This seems like a friendly group!


    We are, at times... but beware of the Dark Side of alt.html! :)

    > I've just now modifed the "qstyle.css" as you suggested.
    > (But omitted the "xxx," as I don't have any particular preference.)
    >
    > Perhaps kind readers will click again and verify problem
    > has gone away.


    Strangely, it hasn't. The page
    http://fabpedigree.com/s061/f004932.htm
    refers to "../qstyle.css", i.e.
    http://fabpedigree.com/qstyle.css
    (I admit that I accidentally tried http://fabpedigree.com/s061/qstyle.css
    first - and saw the funniest 404 error pages ever, though I'd hesitate to
    use such a page on a business site!)
    which contains
    td {font-family: serif; font-size: large}
    and comes with HTTP headers saying
    Last-Modified: Tue, 29 Sep 2009 13:36:30 GMT

    > And -- displaying my ignorance again -- what
    > exactly is needed to clear any cache?


    Beats me! But this does not seem to be any normal cache issue. Even when I
    access the CSS resource on a browser that has never been used to retrieve it
    before, I get the version with font-family: serif. I think this is something
    between your authoring software and the server.

    > The only other errors reported by the HTML validator were
    > missing </small> after <small>, which I omitted deliberately
    > to save space: the <small> within <td> ... <td> is cancelled
    > by the end of the <td> region, or at least that's what I've
    > observed. Am I wrong again?


    In practice browsers tend to imply a closing tag for any open text-level
    element when they encounter </td>. But it's still wrong, and I would not
    count on it. Saving a few characters is really immaterial. The load time of
    web pages is dominated by the size of images, bulky script codes, or
    sometimes very verbose CSS or HTML markup, but closing tags aren't really
    that verbose. And you would probably save more by using CSS for all
    rendering issues than by leaving elements unclosed.

    By the way, it seems that Batang is the font that (some versions of) IE use
    as the font corresponding to the CSS keyword serif and that the only Ascii
    character that it gets wrong is the backslash "\". Batang has been designed
    especially for the Korean language, and this explains why "\" has been
    replaced by the won symbol, the symbol for the monetary unit of South Korea
    (looking like overstruck "W") - but it's still all wrong, since the won
    symbol has a code position of its own and should appear there, in any font
    that wants to support it. - And encoding "\" as "&#92,", though permitted in
    HTML, is useless, since the problem does not depend on the representation of
    the character in HTML source but in rendering, in some fonts.

    --
    Yucca, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
    Jukka K. Korpela, Aug 18, 2010
    #5
  6. James Dow Allen

    dorayme Guest

    In article
    <
    >,

    James Dow Allen <> wrote:

    > Thank you very much to all responders!
    > This seems like a friendly group!


    Nevertheless, stay on guard pal, there are a couple of
    techniques, sometimes folk are immediately torn apart like they
    are a lone monkey walking into a rival group. Sometimes they are
    lured in and thrown some juicy morsels to fatten them up for
    later... <g>

    --
    dorayme
    dorayme, Aug 18, 2010
    #6
  7. James Dow Allen

    dorayme Guest

    In article
    <
    >,

    James Dow Allen <> wrote:

    > Thank you very much to all responders!
    > This seems like a friendly group!
    >
    > On Aug 19, 12:11 am, "Jukka K. Korpela" <> wrote:
    > > I can confirm that too: on the page
    > > http://fabpedigree.com/s061/f004932.htm
    > > I see backslashes as struck-out "W" on IE 8 (Windows Vista).
    > >
    > > Using e.g. font-family: xxx, "Times Roman", "Times New Roman" where xxx is
    > > the serif font that you really prefer would be better.

    >
    > I've just now modifed the "qstyle.css" as you suggested.
    > (But omitted the "xxx," as I don't have any particular preference.)
    >


    Just in case someone does not have the font you suggest in the
    modification, and just in case their browser implements the
    offending serif fonts for your diagonal lines, you could

    <span class="lines">\</span>
    <span class="lines">|</span>

    and choose a sans-serif. Or, for that matter, be daring and do
    the unusual:

    ..lines {font-family: "Times Roman", "Times New Roman,
    sans-serif;"}


    > Perhaps kind readers will click again and verify problem
    > has gone away. And -- displaying my ignorance again -- what
    > exactly is needed to clear any cache?
    >


    If there is a problem, consider the above suggestion.

    > I'll add the Doctype to every page next time I rebuild the website.


    Don't wait, I can't think of a more deserving site (that is a
    compliment to you btw) than yours for a doctype. You can do all
    this stuff automatically, both the suggestion above to deck out
    your lines in classed spans and sticking in a doctype, you might
    probably best use for now:

    <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN">

    (right at the top)

    by using a good editor's *Search and Replace* function (mine, for
    example, can replace instances of anything or add anything
    anywhere over a whole folder, yours might be able to do this
    too).


    > The only other errors reported by the HTML validator were
    > missing </small> after <small>, which I omitted deliberately
    > to save space: the <small> within <td> ... <td> is cancelled
    > by the end of the <td> region, or at least that's what I've
    > observed. Am I wrong again?
    >


    Best to mark the end of the element with </small>. If space
    saving is the game, you *could* close the smalls and leave off
    all the considerable number of </td>s. But I would not do either.

    If you are interested in saving space and gaining elegance in
    markup, maybe utilise more CSS. You will eventually give up stuff
    like

    <font color="#68ECFC"><strong>&amp;</strong></font>

    for something like

    <strong>&amp;</strong>

    and have a CSS rule like

    strong {color: #68ECFC; background: #fff;}

    or, if not all strong things are this colour:

    <strong class="class">&amp;</strong>

    strong.class {color: #68ECFC; background: #fff;}

    Just a taste of the delights awaiting you.

    --
    dorayme
    dorayme, Aug 18, 2010
    #7
  8. James Dow Allen

    Neredbojias Guest

    On 18 Aug 2010, James Dow Allen <> wrote:

    > Thank you very much to all responders!
    > This seems like a friendly group!
    >
    > On Aug 19, 12:11 am, "Jukka K. Korpela" <> wrote:
    >> I can confirm that too: on the page
    >> http://fabpedigree.com/s061/f004932.htm
    >> I see backslashes as struck-out "W" on IE 8 (Windows Vista).
    >>
    >> Using e.g. font-family: xxx, "Times Roman", "Times New Roman" where
    >> xxx i

    > s
    >> the serif font that you really prefer would be better.

    >
    > I've just now modifed the "qstyle.css" as you suggested.
    > (But omitted the "xxx," as I don't have any particular preference.)
    >
    > Perhaps kind readers will click again and verify problem
    > has gone away.


    Hmm, I checked last night and got the w-thingy in ie8. Now I don't get
    it. Yet another replier known for his persnicketiness states that he
    does still get it. That's a mystery to me.

    --
    Neredbojias

    http://www.neredbojias.org/
    http://www.neredbojias.net/
    Neredbojias, Aug 19, 2010
    #8
  9. Ouch! I think I changed the wrong element in the .css file;
    I hope it works now.

    <Excuse follows> I'm fairly competent with simple Linux tools,
    but no good on Windows. My only Internet connection
    is via Windows. Usually I reboot into Linux
    to do anything, but with only one computer this is a big
    slow-down during "emergencies." Thus, in a hurry, I
    edited the .css file using "Notepad". Lack of carriage-returns
    in my files made that difficult for me (especially since I'm
    frazzled with unrelated virus problem). :-(
    </Excuse>

    On Aug 19, 3:18 am, "Jukka K. Korpela" <> wrote:
    > James Dow Allen wrote:
    > > This seems like a friendly group!

    >
    > We are, at times... but beware of the Dark Side of alt.html! :)
    >
    > (I admit that I accidentally tried http://fabpedigree.com/s061/qstyle.css
    > first - and saw the funniest 404 error pages ever, though I'd hesitate to
    > use such a page on a business site!)


    I was going to apologize for wasting everyone's time, but
    maybe my 404 page will pay the admission charge for me!

    > Saving a few characters is really immaterial.


    I make an exact copy of the website available on 700 MB CD-Rom,
    and am at that 700 MB limit now, making minor reductions as the
    database
    continues to grow so it will still fit. I've not tried to add up what
    all the </td>'s and </small>'s are, but think it's in the MEGABYTES!
    (Rather than upgrading to larger-capacity CD, I wonder if distributing
    via Flashdrive makes sense??

    dorayme wrote:
    > <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN">


    I'll use that line exactly. (One reason I didn't add Doctype before
    is
    that the examples I saw were more complicated and inexplicable
    to me in my ignorance.)

    > If you are interested in saving space and gaining elegance in
    > markup, maybe utilise more CSS. You will eventually give up stuff
    > like
    > <font color="#68ECFC"><strong>&amp;</strong></font>
    > for something like
    > <strong>&amp;</strong>
    > strong {color: #68ECFC; background: #fff;}


    I'll look into this!

    > Just a taste of the delights awaiting you.


    Oh, you sweet-mouth, you! :)

    James
    James Dow Allen, Aug 19, 2010
    #9
  10. Jukka K. Korpela wrote:
    > I don't think the use of "\" in the construction of "Ascii graphic" is
    > particularly advanced, but the late Bob Bemer, the inventor of the
    > backslash, probably wouldn't object to it. After all, part of the
    > motivation for this character was to make it possible to write the
    > symbols for logical disjunction and logical conjunction, as defined in
    > the Algol programming language, as pairs of Ascii characters: \/ and /\.
    > So the particular visual appearance was more or less part of the idea.
    >


    SERIOUSLY? I'd always wondered how the damn thing had gotten introduced.
    Not quite as creative as the APL symbol set, though.
    Harlan Messinger, Aug 19, 2010
    #10
  11. Jukka K. Korpela, Aug 19, 2010
    #11
  12. Harlan Messinger wrote:

    > Jukka K. Korpela wrote:
    >> I don't think the use of "\" in the construction of "Ascii graphic"
    >> is particularly advanced, but the late Bob Bemer, the inventor of the
    >> backslash, probably wouldn't object to it. After all, part of the
    >> motivation for this character was to make it possible to write the
    >> symbols for logical disjunction and logical conjunction, as defined
    >> in the Algol programming language, as pairs of Ascii characters: \/
    >> and /\. So the particular visual appearance was more or less part of
    >> the idea.

    >
    > SERIOUSLY?


    Yes, seriously, see
    http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/latin1/ascii-hist.html#5C

    Some fonts still have "/" and "\" designed so that when they occur in
    succession, in either order, they form a continuous symbol. See
    http://www.cs.tut.fi/cgi-bin/run/~jkorpela/string.cgi?code=/\
    This might be partly a coincidence, because a very simple design creates
    that phenomenon.

    Of course, if someone really need logical disjunction or conjunction symbol
    these days, he should consider using U+2228 LOGICAL OR and U+2227 LOGICAL
    AND, even though this implies some need for font considerations.

    --
    Yucca, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
    Jukka K. Korpela, Aug 19, 2010
    #12
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