So Thunderbird does not have a WYSIWYG editor? problem with linefeeds

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weary flake

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Dec 16, 2020, 6:17:24 PM12/16/20
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A basic need for a newsreader is a What You See Is What
You Get editor. MT-Newswatcher has it, Unison has it,
Thunderbird apparently doesn't. Those newsreaders are
no longer usable in MacOS, while Thunderbird is.

Thunderbirds practice of mixing fake linefeeds with
real linefeeds is not WYSIWYG. However good a message looks
on screen before posting it, it gets ruined by Thunderbird's
formatting errors. It artificially puts fake line feeds
which interrupt my typing and then deletes them when
posting. I don't like to type without the linefeeds I type
myself, and Thunderbird doesn't like it. I'm posting in narrow
columns because I like to and also to try to avoid the fake
linefeeds in Thunderbird.

Is there an adjustment to Thunderbird that I'm overlooking?
Can Thunderbird be made to use another text editor, like the
simple editor that comes with Mac, or vi?

VanguardLH

unread,
Dec 16, 2020, 7:54:58 PM12/16/20
to
Don't confuse line-wrapping with soft or hard newlines. You cannot
guarantee the size of the viewing window or pane in the recipient's
e-mail client will be the same as for your compose window.

If you want physical soft or hard linefeeds, use Shift+Enter instead of
just Enter. Typically Shift+Enter inserts a hard newline in many
WYSIWYG programs, but not always. You could try it in Thunderbird in a
test message you send yourself. Of course, that still won't change the
viewing size in the recipient's e-mail client, so line-wrapping gets
disturbed and the recipient sees a message afflicted with jaggies
(uneven lines). I don't know about Thunderbird (dropped it a couple
years ago after a 6-month trial), but some e-mail clients have an
override on their logical (soft) newlines. They can flag a line as not
getting line-wrapped on send. It's a flag recognized only by the
sending e-mail client. No code is added into the message. It just
makes sure the sending client doesn't line-wrap at a whitespace before
you want, like making sure long URLs don't get line-wrapped.

If you want to ensure the recipient will see lines as long as you
entered them without any line-wrapping, put the lines into a table, and
disable line-wrapping in the cells of the table. To hide that the lines
are in a table, don't show the borders or gridlines in the table. I can
do that in some e-mail clients. Don't know how much tabling support
that Thunderbird has, but hiding borders and cell gridlines is part of
HTML, and supposedly when you're asking about WYSIWYG editing then you
are composing in HTML format, not plain text.

By the way, the Thunderbird newsgroup is over at ---.
.---------------------------------------------------'
'---> mozilla.support.thunderbird (on news.mozilla.org on port 119)

You should find a community there that is more focused on that
particular e-mail client.

Michael Bäuerle

unread,
Dec 17, 2020, 4:45:22 AM12/17/20
to
weary flake wrote:
>
> A basic need for a newsreader is a What You See Is What
> You Get editor. MT-Newswatcher has it, Unison has it,
> Thunderbird apparently doesn't. Those newsreaders are
> no longer usable in MacOS, while Thunderbird is.
>
> Thunderbirds practice of mixing fake linefeeds with
> real linefeeds is not WYSIWYG. However good a message looks
> on screen before posting it, it gets ruined by Thunderbird's
> formatting errors.

Currently you are using format=flowed as defined in RFC 3676 [1].
This format allows a recipient to rewrap the line length to fit,
if the author used the paragraph format with flowed lines (what
was not the case in your article quoted above).

If you want that your articles always use your line wrapping, you
should disable format=flowed in Thunderbird.
Using format=fixed (the default, if nothing is declared) requests
to display the message without additional rewrapping, e.g. with
horizontal scrollbars.

Recipients can nevertheless use forced rewrap, but in this case
they explicitly called for a presentation that was not intended
by the author.


___________
[1] <https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc3676>

weary flake

unread,
Dec 18, 2020, 10:07:46 PM12/18/20
to
On 12/17/20 1:45 AM, Michael Bäuerle wrote:
weary flake wrote:
>
> A basic need for a newsreader is a What You See Is What
> You Get editor. MT-Newswatcher has it, Unison has it,
> Thunderbird apparently doesn't. Those newsreaders are
> no longer usable in MacOS, while Thunderbird is.
>
> Thunderbirds practice of mixing fake linefeeds with
> real linefeeds is not WYSIWYG. However good a message looks
> on screen before posting it, it gets ruined by Thunderbird's
> formatting errors.

Currently you are using format=flowed as defined in RFC 3676 [1].
This format allows a recipient to rewrap the line length to fit,
if the author used the paragraph format with flowed lines (what
was not the case in your article quoted above).

I didn't quote anything, it was my own typing.

> If you want that your articles always use your line wrapping, you
> should disable format=flowed in Thunderbird.
> Using format=fixed (the default, if nothing is declared) requests
> to display the message without additional rewrapping, e.g. with
> horizontal scrollbars.
>

I don't recollect changing it, and in Preferences / Config Editor
it was set as format-flowed, the apparent default. I changed it to

mailnews.send_plaintext_flowed;false

I don't understand it but what really bugged me was the
linewrap so I changed it to

mailnews.wraplength;0

and that seems to be the only thing that works to prevent
the editor from inserting what appears to be newlines but are all
silently deleted and all lines messed up in the posted message.

And I see I need to restart the message or Thunderbird for
the change to take effect.

weary flake

unread,
Dec 18, 2020, 10:19:52 PM12/18/20
to
On 12/18/20 7:07 PM, weary flake wrote:
> On 12/17/20 1:45 AM, Michael Bäuerle wrote:
> weary flake wrote:
>>
>> A basic need for a newsreader is a What You See Is What
>> You Get editor. MT-Newswatcher has it, Unison has it,
>> Thunderbird apparently doesn't. Those newsreaders are
>> no longer usable in MacOS, while Thunderbird is.
>>
>> Thunderbirds practice of mixing fake linefeeds with
>> real linefeeds is not WYSIWYG. However good a message looks
>> on screen before posting it, it gets ruined by Thunderbird's
>> formatting errors.
>
> Currently you are using format=flowed as defined in RFC 3676 [1].
> This format allows a recipient to rewrap the line length to fit,
> if the author used the paragraph format with flowed lines (what
> was not the case in your article quoted above).
>

I messed up the quoting there, the above paragraph should
have double quotes instead of single.

When reading posts can Thunderbird be prevented from replacing
the display of the original quoting character ">" with "|" ?
Unison did that also and I never saw a need for misleading readers
about what quote character is being used.

On second thought, never mind. It's useful to show a different
character to help distinguish between reading and posting.
But it's be nice to have the option to change it to show
the original quoting ">" or whatever other character is being
used.

J.B. Nicholson

unread,
Dec 18, 2020, 10:20:08 PM12/18/20
to
Michael Bäuerle <michael....@stz-e.de> wrote:
> If you want that your articles always use your line wrapping, you
> should disable format=flowed in Thunderbird.

Without disagreeing with what you wrote, I'll also add that this issue
is a bit more complex because Thunderbird's editor is basically broken
in multiple ways which makes editing needlessly difficult:

- It's not clear where the newlines are in the editor. Sometimes lines
break at points one didn't specify and it's not clear why that
happened. Even saving a draft of an email, closing the draft, and
reopening that same draft sometimes shows different newlines than
one saw just before closing the draft.

- Reformatting a selected region is harder to use than it should
be. I've had a more consistent experience in this if I select from
the start of the region to the end (as opposed to selecting in the
other direction) and selecting more newlines on the end than I
should have to. But it makes no sense to me why the directionality
of my selection should matter.

- There's no option to see more about the underlying formatting. This
makes it very difficult to understand what you are editing or what
you need to alter to make the text flow as desired.

You're not likely to notice certain problems in Thunderbird's editor
if you only edit simple paragraphs which you type in yourself (as
opposed to quoting from another source like a parent
email/newspost). Typing in text anew generally flows according to
format=flowed. But restructuring text by breaking apart paragraphs and
joining other paragrphs together doesn't work well. So I can
understand the original poster's frustrations with that editor. I've
had much better GUI editing experiences with Evolution's editor and I
prefer either GNU Emacs or jed for editing in a terminal emulator.

I'd get into more details about this, but the place for those details
is either a Thunderbird newsgroup or Thunderbird bug tracking entries.

Adam H. Kerman

unread,
Dec 18, 2020, 10:41:28 PM12/18/20
to
Michael Bauerle <michael....@gmx.net> wrote:
>weary flake wrote:

>>A basic need for a newsreader is a What You See Is What
>>You Get editor. MT-Newswatcher has it, Unison has it,
>>Thunderbird apparently doesn't. Those newsreaders are
>>no longer usable in MacOS, while Thunderbird is.

>>Thunderbirds practice of mixing fake linefeeds with
>>real linefeeds is not WYSIWYG. However good a message looks
>>on screen before posting it, it gets ruined by Thunderbird's
>>formatting errors.

>Currently you are using format=flowed as defined in RFC 3676 [1].
>This format allows a recipient to rewrap the line length to fit,
>if the author used the paragraph format with flowed lines (what
>was not the case in your article quoted above).

His article's headers claimed to be format=flowed, but I checked and
found no trailing spaces as required by standard.

Thunderbird should have be able to parse for format=flowed before
declaring that the article is format=flowed.

Several times I tested format=flowed with Thunderbird in followup and it
usually breaks. I have never found a client that gets format=flowed
correct in followup.

I agree with you; don't use it.

>. . .

weary flake

unread,
Dec 18, 2020, 10:57:10 PM12/18/20
to
On 12/16/20 4:54 PM, VanguardLH wrote:
> weary flake <weary...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>> A basic need for a newsreader is a What You See Is What
>> You Get editor. MT-Newswatcher has it, Unison has it,
>> Thunderbird apparently doesn't. Those newsreaders are
>> no longer usable in MacOS, while Thunderbird is.
>>
>> Thunderbirds practice of mixing fake linefeeds with
>> real linefeeds is not WYSIWYG. However good a message looks
>> on screen before posting it, it gets ruined by Thunderbird's
>> formatting errors. It artificially puts fake line feeds
>> which interrupt my typing and then deletes them when
>> posting. I don't like to type without the linefeeds I type
>> myself, and Thunderbird doesn't like it. I'm posting in narrow
>> columns because I like to and also to try to avoid the fake
>> linefeeds in Thunderbird.
>>
>> Is there an adjustment to Thunderbird that I'm overlooking?
>> Can Thunderbird be made to use another text editor, like the
>> simple editor that comes with Mac, or vi?
>
> Don't confuse line-wrapping with soft or hard newlines. You cannot
> guarantee the size of the viewing window or pane in the recipient's
> e-mail client will be the same as for your compose window.
>

I was only talking about my own newsgroup posts being formatted
different to what it appeared was going to be posted. I want to
see exactly what I'm going to post before I post it. The default
setup makes a mess by making no visual distinction between
newlines I type and newlines that are automatically inserted
while typing and editing and later silently deleted by the editor
after I hit "Send".

This seems to work, changing Preferences / Config Editor to:

mailnews.wraplength;0

The Mozilla support pages and the rest of Thunderbird was
no help at all. I don't like Googling and playing guessing
games just to try to turn the editor into the normal way I've
used in every other editor, but the default is such a mess.

> If you want physical soft or hard linefeeds, use Shift+Enter instead of
> just Enter. Typically Shift+Enter inserts a hard newline in many
> WYSIWYG programs, but not always. You could try it in Thunderbird in a
> test message you send yourself. Of course, that still won't change the
> viewing size in the recipient's e-mail client, so line-wrapping gets
> disturbed and the recipient sees a message afflicted with jaggies
> (uneven lines). I don't know about Thunderbird (dropped it a couple
> years ago after a 6-month trial), but some e-mail clients have an
> override on their logical (soft) newlines. They can flag a line as not
> getting line-wrapped on send. It's a flag recognized only by the
> sending e-mail client. No code is added into the message. It just
> makes sure the sending client doesn't line-wrap at a whitespace before
> you want, like making sure long URLs don't get line-wrapped.
>
> If you want to ensure the recipient will see lines as long as you
> entered them without any line-wrapping, put the lines into a table, and
> disable line-wrapping in the cells of the table. To hide that the lines
> are in a table, don't show the borders or gridlines in the table. I can
> do that in some e-mail clients. Don't know how much tabling support
> that Thunderbird has, but hiding borders and cell gridlines is part of
> HTML, and supposedly when you're asking about WYSIWYG editing then you
> are composing in HTML format, not plain text.
>

HTML doesn't belong in news posts.


> By the way, the Thunderbird newsgroup is over at ---.
> .---------------------------------------------------'
> '---> mozilla.support.thunderbird (on news.mozilla.org on port 119)
>
> You should find a community there that is more focused on that
> particular e-mail client.
>

I don't have mozilla.support.thunderbird on my newsserver

Searching is much better on Thunderbird than Unison, Unison
allowed searches on subject lines only, and missed when thread
titles are changed.

Missing from Thunderbird is Unison's listing the number of new
posts on all subscribed newsgroups since I last entered the
particular newsgroup. Thunderbird doesn't, so new posts can
be easily missed.

weary flake

unread,
Dec 18, 2020, 11:24:38 PM12/18/20
to
On 12/18/20 7:41 PM, Adam H. Kerman wrote:
> Michael Bauerle <michael....@gmx.net> wrote:
>> weary flake wrote:
>
>>> A basic need for a newsreader is a What You See Is What
>>> You Get editor. MT-Newswatcher has it, Unison has it,
>>> Thunderbird apparently doesn't. Those newsreaders are
>>> no longer usable in MacOS, while Thunderbird is.
>
>>> Thunderbirds practice of mixing fake linefeeds with
>>> real linefeeds is not WYSIWYG. However good a message looks
>>> on screen before posting it, it gets ruined by Thunderbird's
>>> formatting errors.
>
>> Currently you are using format=flowed as defined in RFC 3676 [1].
>> This format allows a recipient to rewrap the line length to fit,
>> if the author used the paragraph format with flowed lines (what
>> was not the case in your article quoted above).
>
> His article's headers claimed to be format=flowed, but I checked and
> found no trailing spaces as required by standard.
>

My newlines were all inserted by the enter key, to avoid the
mess of mixing real newlines and fake newlines inserted by the
editor.

So format=flowed requires the poster to never
use the enter key? I don't like that.

in Preferences / Config Editor
it was set as format-flowed, the apparent default. I changed it to

mailnews.send_plaintext_flowed;false

My apologies if my headers offended.

the auto-linewrap bugged me so I changed it to

mailnews.wraplength;0

I don't know if these settings are right or not, like usual
with popular tech issues it's a guessing game because the
support for the program doesn't mention these things.

Adam H. Kerman

unread,
Dec 18, 2020, 11:40:57 PM12/18/20
to
weary flake <weary...@gmail.com> wrote:
>On 12/18/20 7:41 PM, Adam H. Kerman wrote:
>>Michael Bauerle <michael....@gmx.net> wrote:
>>>weary flake wrote:

>>>>A basic need for a newsreader is a What You See Is What
>>>>You Get editor. MT-Newswatcher has it, Unison has it,
>>>>Thunderbird apparently doesn't. Those newsreaders are
>>>>no longer usable in MacOS, while Thunderbird is.

>>>>Thunderbirds practice of mixing fake linefeeds with
>>>>real linefeeds is not WYSIWYG. However good a message looks
>>>>on screen before posting it, it gets ruined by Thunderbird's
>>>>formatting errors.

>>>Currently you are using format=flowed as defined in RFC 3676 [1].
>>>This format allows a recipient to rewrap the line length to fit,
>>>if the author used the paragraph format with flowed lines (what
>>>was not the case in your article quoted above).

>>His article's headers claimed to be format=flowed, but I checked and
>>found no trailing spaces as required by standard.

>My newlines were all inserted by the enter key, to avoid the
>mess of mixing real newlines and fake newlines inserted by the
>editor.

>So format=flowed requires the poster to never
>use the enter key? I don't like that.

Nothing of the kind. Ideally, you would set line length. The editor
would subtract one from the line length to account for the required
trailing space.

That's never the client works. I'm just saying that's how it should
work.

>in Preferences / Config Editor
>it was set as format-flowed, the apparent default. I changed it to

>mailnews.send_plaintext_flowed;false

>My apologies if my headers offended.

Thunderbird has problems that never get fixed. I'm just saying there
should be a parser and not to declare format=flowed if it's not.

>. . .

Michael Bäuerle

unread,
Dec 19, 2020, 5:20:32 AM12/19/20
to
weary flake wrote:
> On 12/18/20 7:41 PM, Adam H. Kerman wrote:
> >
> > [...]
> > His article's headers claimed to be format=flowed, but I checked and
> > found no trailing spaces as required by standard.
>
> My newlines were all inserted by the enter key, to avoid the
> mess of mixing real newlines and fake newlines inserted by the
> editor.
>
> So format=flowed requires the poster to never
> use the enter key? I don't like that.

I don't know how the editor of Thunderbird has implemented this
feature, but in general format=flowed allows both, fixed lines and
paragraphs (flowed text).

Because your article only used fixed lines it is likely that the
Thunderbird editor has treated your "Enter" as request to create a
fixed line.

If you write without any "Enter", the whole line likely becomes a
paragraph (the recipient is allowed to rewrap it to any desired width).
RFC 3676 [1] says that Thunderbird should insert "soft line break"s
(SP CRLF) into paragraphs, to limit the line length to 78 characters.
Soft line breaks will be displayed by Newsreaders without flowed
decoder. But this is for backward compatibility only, the intended
behaviour of flowed format is to allow rewrapping by the recipient
and you should expect no defined line length for paragraphs.

If you always want to define the line length yourself, you should
disable flowed format.

> in Preferences / Config Editor
> it was set as format-flowed, the apparent default. I changed it to
>
> mailnews.send_plaintext_flowed;false

The "format=flowed" declaration is no longer present, at least this
setting has worked.


_____________
[1] <https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc3676#section-4.2>
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