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From: Miro Jurisic (macdev_at_[hidden])
Date: 2005-04-03 23:19:29

In article <uhdin48mv.fsf_at_[hidden]>,
 David Abrahams <dave_at_[hidden]> wrote:

> "Jeff Garland" <jeff_at_[hidden]> writes:
> > On Sun, 03 Apr 2005 17:35:02 -0400, David Abrahams wrote
> >> "Jeff Garland" <jeff_at_[hidden]> writes:
> >>
> >> > On Sat, 02 Apr 2005 23:33:31 -0600, Rene Rivera wrote
> >> >> Allen wrote:
> >> >> > The width is fixed, I think that's bad.
> >> >>
> >> >> Why?
> >> >
> >> > I agree with Allen -- fixed width is bad. Basically it wastes space on
> >> > my monitor and forces me to scroll when I shouldn't have to.
> >>
> >> But without a fixed width the lines of text tend to become unreadably
> >> long.
> >
> > Unreadable for you, but maybe not for me -- if the page is designed to just
> > flow then everyone can set the browser size however they wish and the page
> > will wrap to fit. This is how the current pages work.
> True. It's just a shame that browsers maximize to this silly horizontal
> aspect ratio all of our screens use.

Fixed width is not bad, if it is fixed in ems (rather than pixels). The reason
why newspapers are set in columns and books are printed in the
line-length-to-letter-width ratio that they are printed in is that human eye has
a very hard time scanning from end of one line to beginning of next line if
lines are too wide. This is a well-understood principle in typesetting and is
used by numerous tools (such as LaTeX) to achieve typesetting output that is
comfortable to read.

People who insist on saying that fixed width wastes spaces are usually trying to
solve the wrong problem. If you are reading text, how much space is wasted is
usually irrelevant -- the relevant qualities are your ability to quickly scan
for important information and to read the content efficiently. Making lines
arbitrarily long compromises your ability to read efficiently even though it
makes more text fit on your screen.

There are times when making lines arbitrarily long is a good thing; they
generally involve cases when the ability to scan from the end of one line to the
beginning of next is not important or is supported by some other visual cue
(e.g., alternate shading of table rows). However, text should generally not be
set in arbitrarily wide paragraphs.

My opinion is that the text should by default be set to a maximum width, because
I believe that the default layout should emphasize readability, not spatial


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