Re: Portrait vs. Landscape (was Re: THEAD & TFOOT for columns)

Peter Flynn (
16 Aug 1997 12:34:13 +0100

Date: 16 Aug 1997 12:34:13 +0100
From: Peter Flynn <>
In-reply-to: <> (
Message-id: <>
Subject: Re: Portrait vs. Landscape (was Re: THEAD & TFOOT for columns)

Stephen Mack writes:
   There is some confusion regarding what is meant in the current debate
   using the terms "portrait" vs. "landscape" in page display.
   The issue became confused when Neil Laurent extended the idea of
   horizontal vs. vertical scrolling, by metaphor, to talk about pages
   that scroll vertically as "Portrait" layout pages (which is the
   default behavior for all visual browsers), and pages that scroll
   horizontally as "Landscape" pages:

Ah, now I see. Light has dawned. Thank you. 

Pages which need to be scrolled sideways to read material which is off
the initial screenful (rather than having to be scrolled up or down)
wouldn't cause me any problem except that it's counterintuitive after
30 years of scrolling vertically, so maybe it's time for a change.

Don't forget we read horizontally first, then vertically (in the
West), so scrolling vertically _then_ horizontally (think of how you
read a long newspaper article) is the standard convention. Anyone
who wants to change it is going to have a few thousand years of
reading history to change first. I think the last people to scroll
horizontally were the ancient Egyptians.

Forcing the user to change behavior, though, also means the page
designer has decided to obtrude themself between reader and author,
which is usually A Bad Thing. The art of page design (print and
screen) is to make it as easy for the reader to use as possible: the
designer should be invisible. Given the current browser limitations,
page designers who unnecessarily and deliberately make pages too wide
to view at once are merely displaying their own ineptitude as
designers (but there are of course occasions when it cannot be avoided,
or when you might want to do it for some special effect, in which case
it may display the skill of the designer instead).

I see nothing in HTML itself which prevents the horizontal behavior --
apart, as I said, from 30 years of the vertical. If a browser wishes
to enter upon this, it is at liberty to do so, and good luck to it.