Re: space

Scott E. Preece (preece@predator.urbana.mcd.mot.com)
Thu, 26 Sep 1996 08:21:34 -0500


Date: Thu, 26 Sep 1996 08:21:34 -0500
Message-Id: <199609261321.IAA20929@predator.urbana.mcd.mot.com>
From: "Scott E. Preece" <preece@predator.urbana.mcd.mot.com>
To: nakor@glasswings.com.au
CC: walter@natural-innovations.com, www-html@w3.org
In-reply-to: Stuart Young's message of Wed, 25 Sep 1996 20:54:32 +1000 (EST)
Subject: Re: space

   From: Stuart Young <nakor@glasswings.com.au>
| 
| I personally would NEVER want to see source code in a proportional font.
| 
| Ever seen Assembler source printed in a proportional font? It loses all 
| the hard-formatting it has, and simply makes something harder to understand.
| 
| Some constructs are 'better' in a mono-spaced font.
| 
| However, wether it's legal to use <I>, <B> or the like in a <PRE> block 
| is another matter, as I can DEFINATELY see a use for Italics and Bold 
| text in this sort of way. 
---

Well, there's research that indicates you're simply wrong - source code
is more readable and understandable in pretty-printed form, based on
studies of actual human performance in understanding code.  See
Baecker and Marcus, "Human Factors and Typography for More Readable
Programs", for example.  Even assembler can benefit from effective
styling (setting comments in a distinguished font, using styling to
tag internal vs external symbols, etc).  Basically, anything that helps
your mind chunk the data more effectively helps improve comprehension.

Now, some people argue that code examples need to be in monospaced type
simply because some readers expect to be able to type it into a file and
are confused because they can't figure out how to do the font changes.
This is a real problem, exacerbated by the fact that even computer
scientists can't always guess right (there have been compilers that
*did* expect keywords to be distinguished in input files).  So you need
to consider your audience and whether you can explain the typographic
conventions adequately to their level of knowledge.

I never try to read code without pretty-printing it first, if I have any
option to do so.  When I start using a new language, one of the first
things I do is write a vgrind definition for it.  It's just better that
way.

scott

--
scott preece
motorola/mcg urbana design center	1101 e. university, urbana, il   61801
phone:	217-384-8589			  fax:	217-384-8550
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