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RFCs make me want to smoke crack

Paginating RFCs is fun, fun, fun. This is me using ctrl-enter in Word to pagebreak draft-ietf-xmpp-core-24:


"On the other hand, they require two spaces after a period, which is vile, but is is actually just a symptom of the IETFs misguided insistence on publishing key documents in a format (66-line 80-column ASCII) that is outdated, unusable, and offensive. Outdated because it sneers at the ability of computers, for some decades now, to use proportional fonts, which have been shown repeatedly to improve the efficiency of information transfer from page to brain. Unusable because a substantial proportion of people, including me, can never get the bloody things to print properly with the right page breaks (well, they say, use the PDF of the ASCII... argh, words fail me). And offensive because it restricts its character set to that of English speakers. " -Tim Bray

August 17, 2004 05:58 PM


J Yu
(August 17, 2004 10:42 PM #)

I always thought you guys have a special software to do that kind of formatting...

Randy Charles Morin
(August 17, 2004 11:35 PM #)

Is that an AOL icon I see? Yuck!

Bill de hra
(August 17, 2004 11:59 PM #)

"Is that an AOL icon I see? "

It is, in deference to some colleagues who are using it until they're assimilated by Jabber.

(August 18, 2004 04:36 AM #)

You just jig the font to fixed-width of the right point size, or setup your margins to get one page per page, no?


Bill de hra
(August 18, 2004 08:51 AM #)


No. Changing the font size will mean silly sizes when the document is printed and page margins don't work too well either.

No doubt there's a tool for this, but I don't know what it is.

(August 18, 2004 09:43 AM #)

There is an RFC for this: "RFC 3285 - Using Microsoft Word to create Internet Drafts and RFCs" http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc3285.html

Asbjrn Ulsberg
(August 18, 2004 02:07 PM #)

I agree with Tim in his complaints about RFC's. Plain ASCII text sucks.

PS: Gaim for Windows works just perfectly with the AOL protocol afaik. It works great for Messenger and Jabber, at least.

Damian Cugley
(August 18, 2004 03:28 PM #)

On the other hand there are good reasons for preferring plain text to other forms of mark-up when it comes to RFCs.

There are advantages to sticking to the same format. Imagine the mess if RFCs created in the 1980s were in TeX and troff, and those created in the 1990s in a mixture of HYTIME, SGML and HTML/0.9, some of which had been hand-converted to XHTML1.0 in 2001 and then mixed in with some WordML examples from 2004. Working out how to read an RFC once you had found it would be very annoying.

As for character sets... not all computers can process documents containing arbitrary Unicode character data, so restricting RFCs to ASCII means they can be read more widely. ASCII is not ideal for reproducing any language (not even English) but it is the most interoperable option.

Fixed-width fonts are a requirement for the block diagrams used in some of the more low-level specifications. Without that you would presumably be struggling with pic or eqn notation instead!

The 66-line layout is a little inconvenient, but again, I think changing it risks making RFCs unavailable on some obscure Unix box somewhere. On the other hand, Unix 'man' pages have finally found a way to suppress the page headers and footers after all these years. You could try finding a friendly Unix user who will print RFCs for you with enscript -L66 -2r ... :-)

Bill de hra
(August 18, 2004 03:58 PM #)


"The 66-line layout is a little inconvenient"

I guess that's the sum of it for me. If the 66 line break was gone I could just stream this stuff into any older print spool.

Perhaps the best thing to do to rip out the headers and footers pre-printing with a regex hack...

(August 19, 2004 02:07 AM #)

I didn't see a satisfactory answer to why you're not using xml2rfc. Am I missing something?

Bill de hra
(August 19, 2004 11:46 AM #)

"I didn't see a satisfactory answer to why you're not using xml2rfc"

Maybe I missed it because it's not called rfc2xml. Will it munge RFCs as ASCII to something usable for print?

In the meantime, I'll be sharpening my sed axe.

Robert Sayre
(August 19, 2004 03:07 PM #)

Grab draft-ietf-xmpp-core-24.xml from http://www.jabberstudio.org/cgi-bin/viewcvs.cgi/ietf/.

Process it with the xslt that comes with xml2rfc for HTML output.

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