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Q. about absolute/relative FONT SIZE and BASEFONT

From: Alan J. Flavell <flavell@mail.cern.ch>
Date: Mon, 2 Nov 1998 16:38:25 -0500 (EST)
To: www-html@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.HPP.3.95a.981102221644.12529A-100000@hpplus01.cern.ch>

Recent discussion on usenet has reminded me that there's a widespread
belief about that "absolute" FONT SIZE values give authors the ability
to more closely specify the size of what the reader sees.  When
challenged, supporters of this belief typically assert that readers are
able to vary the BASEFONT and thereby affect the size of "relative" FONT
SIZEs.  They also ask what the heck was the point of having "absolute" 
and "relative" sizes at all, if this is not so (a question to which,
quite honestly, I have no satisfactory answer). 

I've tried hard to get them to give some concrete demonstration of their
assertion, but without success: over and again the assertion is repeated
in various forms, but never a demonstration.  So I'm almost sure that
I'm right and they're wrong, but there's always this nagging thought
that I'm missing something.  I decided to appeal to the real experts via
this list (I'm not signed up, so if you don't cc: your reply to me, I
will have to make do with the mail archive via its web page.  Thanks) 

It's my contention that the "absolute" and "relative" FONT SIZE
values are connected precisely via the BASEFONT value, which is either
what the author specified, or if they specified none, it is 3.

One worry is that the HTML4.0 spec says:

  "If BASEFONT is not used, the default base font size is 3."

That says that, in the event that the author does not specify a BASEFONT
(the usual situation, for many HTML authors, I think), its _default_ is
3, suggesting that there _might_[*] be some other mechanism available
(e.g a user configuration) for varying its value.

However, all my experiments with browsers seemed to show that
reconfiguring the font size, by any of the available dialogs, would
change both the "relative" and the "absolute"-sized texts together,
rather than varying the size of the "relative" texts while keeping the
size of the "absolute" texts fixed - as the opposing camp seemed to be
claiming would happen. 

So it seems that the [*]supposition mentioned in the previous paragraph 
was likely a misinterpretation.

Many thanks for any light on this subject.

p.s yes, I'm well aware that this stuff is all deprecated in favour of
stylesheets.  And rightly so, IMO.  But I'm still interested in an
answer.
Received on Tuesday, 3 November 1998 09:36:01 GMT

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