Jon Skeet Jon Skeet - 1 month ago 11
CSS Question

What's the best way to represent a stage script in HTML?

I have a sketch that I want to put up on my website, and I also intend to write a short play at some point which I'd also want to make freely available.

I'm trying to work out the best way of representing this in HTML. I basically need two columns - one for the character speaking, and one for the text. Each speech obviously needs to line up with the speaker though. In other words, something like this:


Jeff This sure is a nice website we've got now.

Joel It certainly is. By the way, working at FogCreek rocks.

Jeff Of course it does. Have you played Rock Band yet? It's
a lot of fun.


(Well it's better than lorem ipsum...)

I know how I could do this with HTML tables (with one table row per speech) but that seems pretty ugly, and everyone certainly seems to be keen on using CSS to represent non-tabular data. I can't see how this really counts a tabular data - my use of "row" and "column" earlier was to do with the layout rather than the fundamental data.

So, any ideas? I think most of the script websites I've seen (not many, admittedly) either use
<pre>
like my example above, or don't bother trying to keep the normal script format, instead just prefixing each paragraph with the speaker's name. (See the podcast wiki for an example of this style.) I'm having trouble working out even what HTML elements I should be using to represent this, frankly - a dictionary definition list with the speaker as the term and the speech as the definition is probably the closest I've thought of, but that feels like abuse.

Answer

I second the heresy :-)

Always good to consider CSS before resorting to tables - but often tables really are the best fit. It looks like it in this case.

The only additional consideration would be accessibility. I've heard that tables make it harder for text reader software to process tables, but I don't see why this would be the case (feel free to comment here if you know more).

One other thing - I presume you'd be holding the raw data in some other format first - perhaps a database, or xml or some other structured text?

In any case, getting it into an xml format and tranforming that to html with xslt can be quite liberating when it comes to playing with this stuff.