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Created: October 09, 2003.
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W3C Publishes Draft Guidelines for Authoring Internationalized XHTML and HTML.

The World Wide Web Consortium has issued an initial Working Draft for Authoring Techniques for XHTML & HTML Internationalization 1.0. Produced by the Guidelines, Education & Outreach Task Force (GEO) of the Internationalization Working Group, the document describes and illustrates authoring techniques for the creation of "internationalized HTML using XHTML 1.0 or HTML 4.01, supported by CSS1, CSS2 and some aspects of CSS3."

Most of the techniques for completed document subsections are implemented in the latest versions of popular Web browsers, so readers can inspect the source code and observe the visual behaviors, where relevant. In this initial WD, sigla are represented for implementation support in three user agents (Internet Explorer 6, Netscape Navigator 7, and Opera 7).

The document is organized according to "tasks that a developer of XHMTL/HTML content may want to perform." Document sections at least partially complete include: Document structure and metadata; Character sets, character encodings and entities; Fonts; Specifying the language of content; Handling bidirectional text; Handling data that varies by locale. Subsequent versions of the document will document authoring techniques relating to: Handling vertical text; Text formatting; Lists; Tables; Links; Objects; Images; Forms; Keyboard shortcuts; Writing source text; Navigation; File management; Supplying data for localization.

The Working Draft is presented in a full (detail) view, collapsible outline view, and resource view. In the resource view, bibliographic citations are hyperlinked to relevant standards from W3C, IANA, IETF, Unicode Consortium, etc. Icons in the document margins help the reader switch between the detail, outline, and resource views.

The W3C GEO Task Force "encourages feedback about the content of this document as well as participation in the development of the techniques by people who have experience creating Web content that conforms to internationalization needs."

Bibliographic Information

Authoring Techniques for XHTML & HTML Internationalization 1.0. Edited by Richard Ishida [WWW] (W3C). W3C Working Draft 9-October-2003. Version URL: Latest version URL: Also in outline and resource views.


The document is designed for "all HTML content authors working with XHTML 1.0, HTML 4.01, CSS1, CSS2 and CSS3. The term author is used in the sense described by the HTML 4.01 spec, i.e., as a person or program that writes or generates HTML documents. This document provides guidance for the development of HTML so that it will support international usage. This is the responsibility of all content authors, not just the localization group, and is relevant from the very start of development. Ignoring the advice in this document, or relegating it to a later phase in the development, will only add unnecessary costs and resource issues at a later date."

"The document provides practical techniques that HTML content authors can use to ensure that their HTML is easily adaptable for an international audience. These are techniques that need to be addressed from the start of content development if unnecessary costs and resource issues are to be avoided later on. They are aimed at the developer as well as the localizer."

The initial Working Draft makes reference to implementation of authoring techniques by user agents -- in this context meaning "a number of mainstream browsers. The scope may grow as resources and test results become available for other user agents... In an attempt to make the task of tracking browser applicability manageable, we have chosen a 'base version' for each of the user agents we are tracking for applicability. This base version represents a fairly recent, standards-compliant version of the browser. Where a browser operates in both standards- and quirks-mode, standards-mode is assumed (i.e., you should use a DOCTYPE statement). The base versions considered for this version of the document include: Internet Explorer 6 (Windows), Netscape Navigator 7, and Opera 7... Plans exist to provide information relating to the following additional user agents as work on the document progresses: Internet Explorer 5 (Mac), Safari, and Mozilla... Detailed information may also be provided from time to time about behavior of a user agent in an earlier version than the base version, or about some particular aspect of the behavior of a base version or later user agent. This is provided in a special boxed section within the body of the text..." [excerpted from the 2003-10-09 draft, detail view]

EdNote: This promises to be an excellent tutorial document when it's finished. The completed section 6.4 "Changing the directionality of a block element" provides a simple example of the effect of adding the directionality attribute dir="rtl" in a block element (e.g., <p dir="rtl">); justification and textual component ordering are both changed within the right-to-left paragraph. This illustrated technique also shows the effect of RTL (right-to-left) in the flow of columns in a table.

Document Plan: Authoring Techniques for Internationalization

Display outline (flat). Items preceded by * indicate incomplete subsections in the 2003-10-09 draft.

  • + Document structure & metadata
  • Internationalizing the page header
  • International layout considerations
  • * Document structure
  • * Sentence fragmentation & reuse
  • * Ordering text
  • * Separating semantics from presentation
  • + Character sets, character encodings and entities
  • Choosing a page encoding
  • Specifying a page encoding
  • Referring to specific characters
  • * Specifying the encoding of a link destination
  • + Fonts
  • Choosing & specifying fonts
  • Dealing with undisplayable characters
  • * Installing multilingual fonts
  • * Pages containing multiple languages
  • + Specifying the language of content
  • Specifying the overall language of a document
  • Identifying language change
  • Specifying the language of a link destination
  • Specifying language codes
  • + Handling bidirectional text
  • Enabling easy localization for RTL scripts
  • General use of bidi markup
  • Basic setup for pages in RTL scripts
  • Changing the directionality of a block element
  • Mixing text direction inline
  • Handling parentheses & other mirrored characters
  • Overriding the Unicode bidirectional algorithm
  • * Enabling mirroring of layout
  • + * Handling vertical text
  • + * Text formatting
  • * Emphasis
  • * Acronyms & abbreviations
  • * Quotations
  • * Ruby
  • * Use of pre text
  • * Applying visual style conventions
  • + * Lists
  • * Implementing language-specific list markers
  • + * Tables
  • * Mirroring tables in bidirectional text
  • * Specifying table dimensions
  • * Alignment issues
  • * (Other issues)
  • + * Links
  • * Keyboard access to links
  • * Using non-ASCII characters in link targets
  • * Including encoding & language information in links
  • * Linking in a multilingual site
  • + * Objects
  • * Determining the runtime locale for an object
  • * Dealing with embedded objects with different encodings
  • + * Images
  • * Creating culturally appropriate graphics
  • * Using text in graphics
  • * Using image maps
  • * Using color
  • * Dealing with directional bias in graphics
  • * Creating localizable graphics
  • + Handling data that varies by locale
  • Date & time
  • * Numbers
  • * Currency
  • * (Other stuff: measurements, addresses, telephone numbers, personal names, paper sizes...)
  • + Forms
  • * Dealing with character sets & encodings
  • * Keyboard access to forms
  • * Creating culturally appropriate forms
  • * Creating buttons
  • + * Keyboard shortcuts
  • + * Writing source text
  • * Writing clear, understandable text
  • * Using metaphors, examples and humour
  • * Using abbreviations & acronyms
  • + * Navigation
  • * Navigating to the preferred localized web site
  • * Implementing international contact pages
  • + * File management
  • + * Supplying data for localization

About the W3C Internationalization Activity

Part of the W3C Architecture Domain, the Internationalization Activity is designed "to ensure that W3C's formats and protocols are usable worldwide in all languages and in all writing systems. The Internationalization Activity Statement explains concepts relating to internationalization, as well as the current situation and the role within the W3C of the Internationalization Activity. The Internationalization Working Group Charter describes how the Working Group comprises three task forces, where the work is done:

  • The Core Task Force is developing the Character Model for the World Wide Web and the Internationalized Resource Identifiers (IRIs) specification. It also reviews specifications produced by other W3C Working Groups.

  • The Web Services (WS) Task Force is investigating the needs and problems in the area of internationalization of Web Services, in particular the dependency of Web Services on language, culture, region, and locale-related contexts. A Web Services Internationalization Usage Scenarios working draft has been published. The scenarios will help to: create "best practices" and tutorial information for Web service implementers and technology providers, inform proposed standards for Web services and related technologies to support international operation, and demonstrate international issues in existing Web services technologies and standards to the groups responsible for their development and maintenance.

  • The GEO (Guidelines, Education & Outreach) Task Force is helping to get the internationalization aspects of W3C technology better understood and more widely and consistently used. A Framework Document for i18n Guidelines 1.0 has been issued. As of 2003-10 the GEO Task Force was working on (1) guidelines related to X/HTML, and CSS (currently in research mode), (2) requirements and plans for the presentational and architectural aspects of delivery - hoping to tie in to WAI plans, (3) weekly question and answer topics, (4) a plan for outreach activities, and (5) providing links to useful resources. [adapted from 'About' and the Task Force pages]

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