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Subject: Re: (Fwd) Re: [MHTML] Good usage of HTML in e-mail
From: Jacob Palme <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:IETF working group on HTML in e-mail <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 3 Feb 1999 11:18:56 +0100

text/plain (82 lines)

At 13.32 +0100 99-02-01, Martin J. Duerst wrote:
> First, if you want to do anything in that direction, please
> use CSS. Second, you should only use that if you want to
> indicated that something is smaller (or bigger) than normal.
> Using size=2 for the whole page is complete nonsense, except
> for e.g. a "small print" page of some contract.

I do not agree at all! You seem to base your conclusions
on the theory of what is said in the standards, not on
the reality of how web browsers work.

(1) CSS in general

CSS should not be used except for non-important things or
when you know that all recipients have browsers capable
of handling the CSS constructs you use. There are much
too many users who have browsers which cannot handle
CSS good, and even the latest browsers are still not
always good on all CSS features.

In KOM 2000 ( we started using
CSS, but have had to remove almost all usage of CSS because
it caused erratic behaviour, mainly in some versions of

(2) CSS for font sizes

CSS allows both relative and absolute font sizes.
Absolute font sizes should not be used except for small,
unimportant segments or when you know that all readers
are young and have good eye sight.

The whole idea of relative font sizes is that the
recipient can set his default font size according
to his wishes. The sender does not force, upon the
recipient, a too small font size for the recipients
eye sight capabilities.

Now, I know that CSS is intended to allow the recipient
to override the absolute font sizes set by the sender,
but this is not practical in reality the way CSS is
used today.

(3) Why use size=-1

(a) Many web pages require 640 pixels width to avoid
    horizontal scrolling.
(b) So people set their web browser windows to at
    least 640 pixels width to avoid horizontal
(c) But since there are quite a lot of "simplistic"
    web pages which employes HTML as mostly a logical
    language, such web pages do not employ any line
    length restriction.
(d) With 640 pixels width, such pages are very
    difficult to read with small fonts, because
    the lines will contain very many small characters
    in one line.
(e) So most people set their browsers to a rather
    large default font to be able to read such pages.
    Thus, their choice of default font is governed
    not only by their eyesight, but also by the
    wish to avoid difficult-to-read long lines.
(f) This means that those web pages which do employ
    line length restrictions, will often be rendered
    with uneccesarily large fonts.
(g) "size=-1" is a good way of correcting this.
(h) Note that almost all major web pages, like
    Alta Vista, Microsoft, Apple, Netscape, Yahoo,
    etc. use "size=-1", often in combination with
    a non-serif font, when handling text which has
    a limited line length. Are all these web
    pages wrong? Are they all made by people who
    do not understand how web standards work?
    How would you recommend them to format their
    web pages, and why?
Jacob Palme <[log in to unmask]> (Stockholm University and KTH)
for more info see URL:

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