[Mailman-Users] Re: Carriage Return in Archives

Will Yardley william+mm at hq.newdream.net
Wed Nov 20 02:53:51 CET 2002

John DeCarlo wrote:
> J C Lawrence wrote:
>> On Fri, 15 Nov 2002 14:22:25 -0500 John DeCarlo  wrote:
> I guess I should have been more precise.  Any decent MUA over the past
> 10-20 years should not insert extra characters in the user's message.
> If the user wants to put in a line break after every word, or only
> after every 1000 word paragraph, that is the user's decision.  If the
> user wants to have a fancy looking poem with words centered, that
> should be a user decision.

What's a decent MUA that *doesn't* wrap at around 72 characters? Whether
or not you like it, at least as far as technical mailing lists and
Usenet go, you're supposed to wrap at < 80 characters for email messages
and Usenet posts.

Pine, Mozilla, Eudora, Apple mail and Netscape, and most other mailers
I've used all do this by default.  OE doesn't always seem to, but we all
know about how great a mailer it is.... Most people don't use the
builtin editor in Mutt, and ELM doesn't have one AFAIK - but most people
who use these mailers configure their editors to wrap.
I had an argument with a co-worker about this -- and in the middle of
the argument pointed out that his mailer (Apple Mail) was (correctly)
doing the very thing he was advocating against.

>> 3) Not all text can be reflowed without losing data.

> Exactly.  You want it reflowed when the MUA creates the email message.
> I disagree.  Let the receiver decide how to view it.  Then the
> receiver can turn on word wrap at 30 characters or 72 or 185 or not
> every turn it on at all.

The only sensible way to deal with this problem is to use flowed text
(like Eudora, Mozilla and Apple Mail). Mutt supports this too, but there
aren't any console based editors which can do this yet AFAIK.

If you read the RFC for format=flowed text, you'll see that it
specifically recommends wrapping at ~72 characters except in certain



    The Text/Plain media type is the lowest common
    denominator of Internet email, with lines of no more
    than 997 characters (by convention usually no more than
    80), and where the CRLF sequence represents a line break

    4.1.  Generating Format=Flowed

    When generating Format=Flowed text, lines SHOULD be
    shorter than 80 characters.  As suggested values, any
    paragraph longer than 79 characters in total length
    could be wrapped using lines of 72 or fewer characters.
    While the specific line length used is a matter of
    aesthetics and preference, longer lines are more likely
    to require rewrapping and to encounter difficulties with
    older mailers.  It has been suggested that 66 character
    lines are the most readable.


    A generating agent SHOULD NOT insert white space into a
    word (a sequence of printable characters not containing
    spaces).  If faced with a word which exceeds 79
    characters (but less than 998 characters, the [SMTP]
    limit on line length), the agent SHOULD send the word as
    is and exceed the 79-character limit on line length.

>>> It is really a kludge to force the sender to put in line breaks
>>> every 72 characters.

>> Nope.  This argument was fought and quite properly lost almost 20
>> years ago.

> No.  The result back then was "it is more polite to word wrap at
> sending time because so many brain-damaged message viewers are out
> there.  But it is still a messy and hopefully short-lived kludge."

Well the convention is still to use the lowest common denominator and
wrap at < 80 characters (generally 72-74).

Will Yardley
input: william < @ hq . newdream . net . >

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