Resolution indpendence

Nicolas Mailhot nicolas.mailhot at
Sun Jun 29 01:59:54 PDT 2008

Le samedi 28 juin 2008 à 23:13 +0100, Glynn Clements a écrit :

> If you have both poor eyesight and a good monitor, then presumably you
> have already crossed the threshold where physical size is the limiting
> factor. So far, I haven't, and won't until the only systems which I
> have to use have at least as good a resolution as my main desktop
> system.

The apps need to work in more than just your system and your eyes.

> > > It's not just programmers; it's anyone for whom the use of text
> > > outweighs the use of graphics 
> > 
> > Stop thinking you're the only one who reads text
> > 
> > > (and DTP is primarily "graphics";
> > 
> > Stop thinking this is all about DTP
> What other applications care about the exact dimensions of text (where
> "exact" may be relative to something else, not necessarily physical
> dimensions)?

Humans that switch workstations in a lab and expect their settings to
produce about the same text size regardless of the workstation and its
screen capacities. And who do not want to change their settings each
time their last station is taken and they have to move a few places.

> For most purposes, it wouldn't really matter if the application used a
> font which was 25% larger or smaller than the "correct" value. 

It does, your preferences are not representative of the whole

> And that
> may well be an improvement over using the exact size, e.g. being able
> to use a hand-tuned bitmap,

Fantasy. What you mean is being able to use the hand-tuned bitmap
default, because there are few of them and 3/4 of the apps that use them
can't work with anything but the default bitmap font at its default size
(because if they could adapt to different font sizes they wouldn't
require bitmap fonts in the first place).

And this bitmap font is also typically restricted to a small encoding
range, which make it unsuitable for a large part of the world.

It only works with people like you who have the eyesight to adapt to the
bitmap default, and who only use simple encodings.

>  or allowing an image which has to be scaled
> to match to be scaled at 1:1 or 2:1 instead of by some irrational
> number.

You're the only one who insists it must be irrational number scaling.

> In many of the cases where it does matter, it only matters because the
> format makes it matter, i.e. using hardcopy-oriented formats such as
> PDF or MS-Word for documents which will typically never reach a piece
> of paper.

Again you're extrapolating your own use-cases to the rest of the

> I'm not opposing it; but I am saying that it's not as simple as
> including an option to use pixel sizes in the font selector.

By and large the font rendering engines work in pixel dimensions in
their last stage. So yes it's not as simple as including this option,
but no the code to process it already largely exist.

> So long as pixels are large enough to matter, trading the use of
> specific pixel sizes for specific physical sizes is just swapping one
> bug for another.

So, let people choose their own poison.

> Failure to acknowledge this is one reason why pixel sizes persist. If
> you use pixel sizes throughout, you get a form of resolution
> independence that works perfectly in at least one sense. If the pixel
> grid changes by 23%, *everything* changes by exactly the same factor. 
> Text is 23% larger, icons are 23% larger, lines are 23% thicker. Any
> measurement that was an integral number of pixels before is still an
> integral number of pixels afterwards.

You have not the faintest idea of how modern text scaling and
grid-fitting works.

> If you use physical sizes, all of that breaks. That isn't the end of
> the world, but it *does* need to be addressed, not swept under the rug. 
> Piling on anyone who points out the problems won't make them go away.

You don't point out problems you deny other people needs.

> > > If the user specifies 12 point, and the monitor's DPI means that
> > > equates to 11.9 pixels, should you use:
> > 
> > I know what I'd chose. Do what the user specified.
> Huh? Is there a checkbox for "this is an absolute requirement, not a
> guideline"? If not, why assume the former? Because, lets face it, the
> latter is more likely to be true, even if it's easier for the developer
> to pretend otherwise.

Go use windows. I like a system that does not try to second-guess me for
my own good.

> Asking the user to select a specific physical font size regardless of
> any and all other factors isn't really giving them a meaningful choice.

Asking the user anything, then doing something else isn't really giving
him a meaningful choice.

Nicolas Mailhot
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