Re: Headers, footers, and tab stops for formatting

Subject: Re: Headers, footers, and tab stops for formatting
From: Martin Sevior (
Date: Thu Mar 22 2001 - 18:23:48 CST

On Thu, 22 Mar 2001 wrote:

> I appreciate all of the work that Martin has done on
> editable headers and footers. But I think a change to
> how AbiWord formats headers and footers should be made
> before 1.0. When AbiWord creates a new header or
> footer, it should set a center-justified tabstop in the
> middle of the page and right-justified tabstop at the
> right margin. This would allow the user to create 3
> part headers and footers quickly and easily. For
> example:
> Left Aligned Text<TAB>Centered Text<TAB>Right Aligned
> Text

This makes assumptions about what the user wants that is not neccessarily
justified. I would not want that myself. I think it is better to leave AW
in an obvious state and leave it to user to adjust things to their

Perhaps want would be better is to have series of "template" files. Some
of which have headers similar to what you want. Then people could choose
to modify an existing doc with much less effort than hard wiring a default
behaviour into Abiword.
> The current approach of justifying the whole paragraph
> doesn't allow for this. Multi-part headers and footers
> are so common, that I think the bahavior I have
> described should be the default.

We should provide a template with this. Dom is working on templates and
I'm sure if you provided him with a template of the behaviour you want he
would include it in his collection.

> The Insert Page Numbers dialog (or a
more general > replacement) would need to respect the same convention.
> So when the dialog is used to insert a centered page
> number in the header, the backend code will actually
> insert a <TAB> and then the page number field.
> When the Page Number dialog is used to insert a page
> number (or other field type) into an existing header or
> footer (which, to complicate matters, may already
> include a page number), the h/f would need to be parsed
> to ensure that it is handled properly. This is more
> complicated than the current scenario, but more likely
> to respect the user's actual intentions. For example,
> consider the case of inserting a centered page number
> into a header that already includes right-justified text:

I would argue that someone who has done this knows

> CURRENT BEHAVIOR: AW inserts a new, centered paragraph
> with the page number before the existing header
> paragraph. Probably not what the user wanted.

But it makes sense.

> PROPOSED BEHAVIOR: Before inserting the page number, the
> paragraph will look like this:
> <TAB><TAB>Right aligned text
> After inserting the page number, it will look like this:
> <TAB>Page Number<TAB>Right aligned text

In this particular case the you might guess right 70% of the time. I
submit that it is better to have an obvious behaviour that does not make
assumptions about the users desires unless it absolutely obvious.
> A more elegant solution would be to allow different text
> in the same paragraph to be justified differently.
> WordPerfect can do this, but MS Word can't. MS Word
> uses the technique I described above. I think AW has
> the same limitation.

Abi provides just one justification per paragraph. We would have to use TAB's
to get the behaviour you describe just as you say.
> An alternative implementation could use columns. But
> this two disadvantages:
> (1) Navigating and editing text in separate columns is
> not as keyboard friendly.
> (2) If a section of the header exceeds the column width,
> it would wrap to the next line. This is probably not
> the user's intention.

We do not support columns in headers at this time. Given that there is one
week till we close the tree for new features and this will be challenging
(but interesting) to support I won't attempt it. To actually implement
this I would generalize the concept of virtual cotainers and and allow
them to contain columns.

This would provide a nice way to implement Frames and maybe Tables

In any case there are currently crash bugs in the header/footer code and
we're way behind on the styles dialog. Only the gtk/gnome Abi has a lists
dialog. I think these are more pressing issues and where I will devote
what time I have over the next week.



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