Site Technical Notes

Type Size

I find the default display of my site’s body text is too large for easy reading of long sections. I began forcing it to smaller point sizes which looked perfect to me on my own computer, but I quickly discovered that each browser, operating system, and display screen gave different results. And that by forcing the type to my personal taste, I was preventing viewers from being able to change the display to fit their own needs. So the site is now back to the simplest default text sizing.

Browsers default to making normal (<P>) body text a 12-point font, however tall that may appear on your system. If the type on my pages (and most other pages) is too small or too large for your liking, you can set your browser preferences so that most type in normal web pages will be larger or smaller than the default size. If you choose a different body text size, other text sizes that have been specified relatively will follow in proportion. (Text on other sites that has been forced to a specific font and size using obsolete point size tags or current fad CSS stylesheets will refuse to change, unless your browser has an overall page “magnification” choice like Opera’s.)

In Opera7, Choose  File/Preferences/Fonts_and_colors  where you can set the base font and size for “Normal” text. The sizes of all relatively-specified type will follow. You can also set specific preferences for several header and CSS styles, and an overall minimum type size.

In IE6, choose  View/Text_Size  which gives you a quick menu of five steps for the base size - the default “medium” plus two steps larger and two smaller. You can also add a toolbar popup to make this choice even simpler.

In classic Netscape, choose  Options/General_Preferences/Fonts/Choose_Font  where you can select the font and size for both proportional and fixed base fonts.

For an in-depth exploration of font sizes on the web, and why Windows and Mac typically provide different results, check out this TidBITS article.

Curly Quotes

Maybe I’m a relic of the print age, but I really miss “curly quotes” when I’m reading long passages of thoughtful text. Unfortunately it turns out that support for proper quote symbols is a rather recent arrival on the web. Some older browsers fail to recognize the curly quote escape values - showing the “&ldquo;” or “&#8220;” literally in place of quote symbols.

At the risk of offending the part of my audience with antique browsers, I’m choosing to use a few features that may cause them problems. In my main site, I’m using frames, a bit of JavaScript, and curly quotes. If any of these aren’t interpreted properly in your browser, you can get essentially the same content in a simpler format by choosing the “text-friendly version” of the site.

Having read all that, you’re probably wondering why some of my pages still use ordinary ASCII non-curly quotes. As I said above, it is in dense passages of thoughtful text that I miss curly quotes the most. In the interest of getting more real pages done sooner, I’m foregoing curly quotes on “housekeeping” pages - both versions of the site see the same plain pages.

For more than you ever wanted to know about curly quotes on the web, begin exploring at David Wheeler’s site.

Internal Links

In the “frames” version of this site, links to specific positions (“anchors”) in other pages of the site use JavaScript. If your browser does not support JavaScript, or you have it turned off, or you have popups blocked, nothing will happen when you click on these links. You may complain, enable JavaScript, select the “text-friendly version” of the site, or read on.

You can recognize such links by the “javascript:jPop(page.html#anchor)” message that appears in your status bar or tooltip when you hover over them. If you like, you can select the corresponding link from the TOC, and use “find in page” to search for the word following the ‘#’ symbol.

The “frames” version of this site has been created using framesets to associate the (apparently) static Table of Contents with the dynamic text pages. In order to keep the window titles and bookmarked addresses consistent with the displayed content, each text page is actually in a new frameset of its own. One limitation to this scheme is that an internal link to another page of the site cannot open the new page in its new frameset to an anchor.

The “pure HTML” choices are to abandon the “title and bookmark follow the text” principle, and open internal links in the calling page’s frame, or to open them as independent full pages without a frameset and TOC. Both seem too ugly. There are JavaScript tricks to pass anchor locations to new framesets or iframes, but they seem less portable than the chosen popup scheme.

I actually like the popups in action. Typically these internal links are just defining a word or reminding you of a page you have already read, and it is easy to glance at them and then close them to return to what you were reading. In case you want to continue reading the popup, they are supposed to display as resizeable and with scroll bars; please let me know if they don’t. If you bookmark one, there is a link at the bottom which re-enters the frame system.

Table of Contents

Revised 9 April 2003