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I noticed that people who post grid puzzles often include a “text version”.

For example, here: Nonorasu - A Nonogram-Kakurasu Hybrid

I have a few guesses as to why but none of them seems to be worth the effort.

  1. It could be for the cases where Imgur, which hosts images on SE, is down? However, such an outage will affect SE seriously anyway because not all images used in questions on SE are substitutable with text.
  2. It could be for people with visual impairments or screen readers? But the “text version” is definitely not more readable than the image or wouldn’t be something a screen reader would be able to read.
  3. It could be for importing the puzzle into certain programs? I do not know of any such programs and I assume that people who post various questions do not follow any particular standard notation when writing the “text version”.

So what is the point of the “text version”?

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    $\begingroup$ I generally use CSV text versions, which are computer-parsable into grids. $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ @bobble I think this is a better option when it's possible. Example of a "CSV version" for anyone wondering how it looks like: puzzling.stackexchange.com/questions/105377/… $\endgroup$
    – hb20007
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 19:09
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    $\begingroup$ Also, I feel that Markdown-table transcriptions (example), while not strictly text transcriptions, deserve an honorable mention: they work extraordinarily well for spreadsheet-copying and the tables play nice with screen readers as well. $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ I often solve puzzles on spreadsheets, and can confirm that any text version is better than nothing for transferring things over. If I have a text version, I can typically get it into my preferred format with find-replace in a text editor within a minute. If it's just the image, I have no easy way to reformat it other than manual transcription. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi Mod
    Commented Dec 14, 2021 at 4:35

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In short, I feel it both preserves the puzzle in a permanent, non-hosted form and is accessible for screen readers.

I'll explain in further detail why I'm rebutting two of the points listed in the question.

It could be for people with visual impairments or screen readers? But the “text version” is definitely not more readable than the image or wouldn’t be something a screen reader would be able to read.

I would like to challenge this point. As someone who has tested out screen readers in the past for my moderate visual impairment, a screen reader cannot parse an image, but it can parse Unicode text - thus the only part of a grid puzzle it would "see" is a text version, even if it's not standardized. Unless there is alt text that fully describes the content of the image, which isn't normally the case because not everyone bothers to write fully descriptive alt text, the text version of the puzzle is the only way that the puzzle can be fully accessible to a visually impaired person who uses a screen reader. It might be a little annoying, granted, because the screen reader (depending on which one you have) will probably read out laboriously "DASH. A. DASH. B. DASH -" and so on, but it's infinitely better than no accessibility at all.

It's also worth pointing out that many grid puzzle images are compressed, artifacted, or otherwise shrunk when displayed by imgur or other image hosting services, depending on whether OP provided a large version of the image or not, and so if the font of the puzzle is literally too small or blurry for me to read without squinting, a text version is incredibly helpful as a clear, unambiguous record of the puzzle that anyone can read. You can zoom or expand the font size of a text version of a puzzle as much as you want, but doing the same with an image might blur the text if the OP didn't provide a large enough image for you.

It could be for the cases where Imgur, which hosts images on SE, is down? However, such an outage will affect SE seriously anyway because not all images used in questions on SE are substitutable with text.

Puzzling has always had an unspoken community rule that puzzles should be preservable, future-proofed, maintainable in their original form, and completely self-contained inside the post, without relying too much on external links to the extent that is possible. This rule exists so that link rot and dead websites don't gradually destroy our treasure trove of puzzles. This is why Puzzling members often comment asking an OP to remove external links, like YouTube videos, from their puzzles - the puzzle should be completely contained within the post so that it can be preserved if the linked video gets deleted and so on.

As a result of this, I think this point of the text version being a permanent record of the puzzle even if the image stops being hosted is much more important than you've expressed! Even if imgur lasts for decades and this will never be a problem, the principle of the fact that the text version of the puzzle will forever be preserved and doesn't need any external hosting, whereas the image does, is something that I feel is worth putting in the effort for.

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  • $\begingroup$ 1. If screen readers will read "DASH. A. DASH. B. DASH -", how will a visually impaired user be able to understand the grid and solve the puzzle? 2. If Imgur stops hosting SE images, and SE still exists, they will find a solution for keeping all the images on the site working. (Also, I'm assuming that the image is not artifacted and the text is visible at a reasonable font size.) $\endgroup$
    – hb20007
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ @hb20007 I didn't use a reader for long enough to call myself an expert, but I could imagine that a smart individual could copy down the text version into a form they can see better as they listen to the reader reading it out. It's also helpful to have a text version to "blow up" the puzzle to see it better, as doing the same with an image might blur the text; similar to why large print books are nice. $\endgroup$
    – Sciborg
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ On a related note I strongly recommend the following 2 puzzles which are audio versions of 'Cross the Streams' grid deduction puzzles by Grant Fikes. I had great fun solving these without the usual visual cues from the off! Puzzle 1 & Puzzle 2 $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, the best written web pages (not only on SE sites) are those that can be read with the lynx browser, which shows exactly what search engines and visually impaired viewers can "see". The linked example shows as "… I hope you enjoy! ¶ [40]Grid ¶ 1 …", where the last part is the same as the text grid in the original posting. Without that, all that could be seen of this most important part of the puzzle would be "[40]Grid". $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 10, 2022 at 0:19

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