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Re: Inline h*ll

From: Matthew Brealey <madeup@nonexistent.com>
Date: Mon, 10 Jan 2000 08:41:54 -0500 (EST)
Message-ID: <387A5230.7BAB@yahoo.com>
To: www-style@w3.org
Eric Meyer wrote:
[introduction snipped]
>    The user agent determines which elements and
> glyphs are to be in a given
> line (using whatever mechanism it uses to calculate
> such things).  So let's
> say it has an anchor, some letters, and then a
> boldface element, like this:
>    <A>anchor</A> some angry letters <B>boldface</B>
> In the simplest case of this example, these are all
> the same font and font
> size, there are no box properties set for the inline
> elements, and there is
> no leading due to line-height.  
No. There is no line-height declaration, therefore line-height: normal.
Typically normal = 1.2.

However, let's assume that we have ELEMENT {line-height: 1}

> Thus, the line-box
> is as tall as the font
> used to generate the text

No. The line box is as tall as font-size. Font-size, although
influencing the size of rendered glpyhs does not state its absolute

> , and will enclose the
> descenders in "angry" as
> well as any (hypothetical) capital letters. 
> Correct?
No. Because of the need to place accents, etc., the tallest descender +
deepest descender can > font-size.

The height of the line box is entirely indepdendent of its actual
content (although the number of line boxes required is), but merely by
the line-height value, which in correct authoring practice is related to
font-size [but even then, font-size is not the actual maximum size, but
merely the value used to select a font of a given size].

This issue is outside CSS, and although it might seem bad that fonts can
be larger than their font-size, it really doesn't matter - no-one uses
line-height: 1 anyway.

Furthermore, it is unlikely that differences will result, since even if
the user and author do not have the same font, if they are of the same
language, it is likely that they will overshoot their font-size by
similar amounts.

I can, however, see an argument for line-height: set-solid, which would
use the physical maxima of the font to set line-height to such a value
as to ensure that the tallest and deepst glyphs touch the bottom of
their line box. This is not something I personally would use, although
other people might find it useful.

>    Let us now introduce a change in font size for
> one of the elements.
> We'll set the anchor to be 200% the size of
> everything else.  We'll denote
> this in ASCII by making it all uppercase.
>    <A>ANCHOR</A> some angry letters <B>boldface</B>
> Now, how are the various pieces of the line
> positioned vertically?  I would
> argue that they all align on their baselines, since
> that's the default
> value of 'vertical-align'.  Correct?
Yes. But vertical-align: baseline aligns with the parent box, so
vertical-align: baseline in this case means text baseline = line box
baseline [I think it should always mean line box baseline so <span
style="vertical-align: sub">text<span style="vertical-align:
baseline">text</span></span> aligns the inner span with the line box
baseline, not the parent box (see my two posts on this subject from

>    Let's add a 'line-height' value to the line. 
> We'll make it '12pt',
> which we will assume to be the same size as the
> letter and boldface text.
> This means that the anchor also has a 'line-height'
> of '12pt', because
> 'line-height' is inherited.  

:linebox {font-size: 12pt;
line-height: 12pt}

> However, its text is
> 24pt (200% * 12pt) in
> size.  So how tall is the line-box, really?  12
> points or 24 points?  
12 points - as I said above, "The height of the line box is entirely
indepdendent of its actual content".

The line box does not represent a container outside which glyphs cannot
go, but rather a device for alignment - each line box will be stacked
one on top of another without separation, each 12 points high. When each
line box is placed, the text is placed on its baseline.

Perhaps the best way of picturing it is in two separate planes - 
1. a 1/6inch (i.e., 12pt) line box is drawn
2. the baseline of the line box is determined [not defined at CSS 2 -
but this doesn't actually matter - if a UA takes it as the bottom of the
line box, all that will happen is each and every line of text will be a
couple of pixels too far down, but the separation of lines will still be
the same]
3. the glyphs' baselines are placed in a separate vertical plane from
the line box, but perpendicular to its baseline
4. another 1/6 inch line box is drawn, its top aligned the same as the
bottom of the previous one.
5. determine baseline, etc.
6. etc.

This emphasises how the height of a line box is independent of the
actual size of its textual content

> If
> the latter, how can out-sized text "bleed" out of
> the line into other
> lines, since line-boxes don't overlap?
Indeed not - the line boxes are still 12pt, but the line box doesn't
represent a barrier for text, a point made especially clear by the
separate planes demonstration above.

>    Moving on, let's assume that the entire line is
> enclosed in a SPAN.
>    <SPAN><A>ANCHOR</A> some angry letters
> <B>boldface</B></SPAN>
> Furthermore, let's put a border on the SPAN.  Is the
> border is drawn around
> the outside of the text, 
Yes, at CSS 2.
> or around the ghost box
> implied by the value of
> 'line-height'?  
I think this should be the state of affairs for CSS 3 - the rendering is
ugly and illogical otherwise - if borders are allowed, so must margins
be, but at CSS 2 margins can have no effect : to allow margins
(logically necessary if borders are allowed, since margins are nothing
more than transparent borders), they must affect the whole line box.
[See my two messages in December for more on this]
> Does the top border cut through the
> middle of the ANCHOR,
> since it's twice as tall as the 'line-height' of its
> parent and itself?
It must do with CSS 2; at CSS 3, it shouldn't
> Does the border surround the box implied by the
> 'font-size', 
The border must go on top of the glyph size implied by the font-size
> or by the
> 'line-height', 
This doesn't seem to work at CSS 2 - at CSS 2, borders are associated
with text rather than line boxes - if the border went on top of
line-height at CSS 2, borders would always overflow the line box.
> or around the line-box? 
> Does it
> change if we explicitly
> assign a 'line-height' to the SPAN, or not?

I don't think so at CSS 2.

To return to the two vertical planes metaphor:

[old stuff]
1. a 1/6inch (i.e., 12pt) line box is drawn
2. the baseline of the line box is determined [not defined at CSS 2 -
but this doesn't actually matter - if a UA takes it as the bottom of the
line box, all that will happen is each and every line of text will be a
couple of pixels too far down, but the separation of lines will still be
the same]
3. the glyphs' baselines are placed in a separate vertical plane from
the line box, but perpendicular to its baseline
[/old stuff]
4. borders are placed on top of the top of the position implied by
font-size (i.e., fonts that have very big accents may overlap the

This means that borders can also overflow (technically be
perpendicularly above in an independent plane) the line box above or
below. This is necessarily implied by CSS 2.

Thus P {line-height: 18pt; font-size: 12pt}, then SPAN.insideP
{border-top: 4pt} would overflow the next line box above, since the
bottom edge of the border is (line-height - font-size)/2 + font-size
[note no baseline calculation needed], that is to say its top edge would
be (18-12)/2 + 12 + 4 = 19pt.

>    For even more fun, let's set the anchor to
> 'vertical-align:text-top'.
I proposed a minor amendment to this where text-top = line box top
rather than parent box top, but this irrelevant for present purposes.

I also added the necessary proviso that all text-top and text-bottoms
should be aligned simultaneously, but after the performance of all other
v-align, so that there isn't a loop.

However, to attend to the matter at hand. It'll be easiest if I return
to the planes again:
[old stuff]
1. a 1/6inch (i.e., 12pt) line box is drawn
2. the baseline of the line box is determined [not defined at CSS 2 -
but this doesn't actually matter - if a UA takes it as the bottom of the
line box, all that will happen is each and every line of text will be a
couple of pixels too far down, but the separation of lines will still be
the same]
[/old stuff]
<new stuff - 3 is changed>
3. all vertical-align: baseline text is placed in a separate vertical
plane from the line box, but perpendicular to its baseline
4. v-a: sub, super, %, length = same as baseline except  move baseline
up/down - trivial to implement [though I would like to see CSS changed
so that these values are clipped to fit the line box rather than, as at
present, them extending the line box if their top/bottom is, as a result
of v-align, above/below the position implied by the line's line-height
5. vertical-align: top text is placed thus: use font-size value of text.
Say font-size: 16px. Place its bottom (NB. not baseline) on (line-height
- font-size). Say line-height: 20px, place its bottom 4px from the
bottom of the line box.  The reason for this is that you can only place
the bottom of a glyph, not the top, but the idea is that the theoretical
top (i.e., that implied by font-size - too slow to use max (ascent of
glyphs actually used)) of the font should be at the top of the line box,
thereby implying its bottom is font-size below it [again won't
necessarily be actually at the line box top - dependent on the
CSS-independent font characteristics]

This could still result in overlap if the tallest glyph is taller than
6. v-a: bottom is placed 0px from the bottom of the line box
7. v-a: text-top, the bottom of each such glyph is placed at its
font-size below the top of the position of the highest (theoretical)
font-size in the line box. This differs from top insofar as text-top
doesn't take into account replaced elements that extend the line box
height, and top uses the line box height [technically at CSS 2, it is
the parent box - I want this changed to line box; but they are
equivalent 99% of the time], and top therefore doesn't take into account
the font-size of other elements, only line-box-height (which is
max(line-height, height of replaced elements), subject at CSS 2 to
extension by v-a: sub/super/length/%). Thus P {line-height: 20pt;
font-size: 12pt} SPAN.insideP {font-size: 22pt} SPAN.insideP2
{font-size: 14pt; vertical-align: text-top} means that the bottom of all
the text is 1pt below the bottom of the line box (common bottom, used to
find common baseline of a line, = (line-box-height - max-font-size)/2
above the bottom of the line box, so common bottom = (20-22)/2 = -1pt -
1pt below the bottom of the line box. As a result, SPAN.insideP's
theoretical top is 21pt (22-1) above the bottom of the line box. We use
this to find SPAN.insideP2's theoretical top, which is the text-top.
This implies that SPAN.insideP2's theoretical bottom (i.e., assuming no
glyphs are bigger than font-size; note the theoretical bottom cannot be
directly used, it is only a step towards finding the baseline, which
should be calculated for top, text-top, text-bottom and bottom (the
other v-a values relate to the common baseline, which is based on the
whole line box) based on the element's font-size (line-height is no
relevant)) is 14pt below the top of SPAN.inside, therefore 7pt above the
bottom of the line box.
</new stuff>

> Now how is the line laid out?  Where is the SPAN's
> border drawn?
We have
:inlinebox {line-height: 12pt; font-size: 12pt}
A {font-size: 24pt;
vertical-align: text-top}
SPAN {border-top: thin}

What happens is:

common bottom is (12-24)/2 = -6pt below bottom of line box. The v-a:
baseline text is done first, and SPAN's theoretical top is therefore
12+(-6) = 6pt above the bottom of the line box. Since the large A is
aligned with this, its theoretical top is 6pt above the bottom of the
line box, thus meaning its theoretical bottom is 18pt below the bottom
(6-24 (font-size)) of the line box.

This would therefore extend the line box height down to this point (but
not under my proposal) [please note I may have omitted to mention that
where a finished theoretical glyph is rendered outside the line box, it
extends the box - read this in if I omitted it earlier].

This would be the same regardless of whether, as now, t-top refers to
the parent box or to the line box, since t-top is performed after bottom
[Note an omisssion, common baseline calculations _do_ take into account
differently v-aligned text].

SPAN's border is placed on top of the top of the theoretical outer SPAN
at CSS 2, disregarding the inner content.

And, with:

:inlinebox {line-height: 12pt; font-size: 12pt}
A {font-size: 24pt}
SPAN {vertical-align: text-top;
border-top: thin}

Ordinarily, the theoretical top of SPAN is font-size above the bottom of
the line box's text. The bottom of the line box's text has been
calculated as 6pt below the bottom of the line box. Therefore, A, which
has v-a: baseline (performed prior to v-a: t-top) has its top 24pt above

The theoretical top of the SPAN is aligned with this point, 24+(-6) =
18pt above the line box bottom, and its theoretical bottom follows
logically - 12pt below = 6pt above the bottom of the line box. We do not
need to find the baseline at this moment, but would do if we were to
actually put the glyph on the screen.

As to the border, that is placed on top of the theoretical top of the
element with which it is associated (although I belive it should be on
top of the line box - see previous posts), and therefore it is placed
18pt above the line box bottom.

>    Now replace the anchor with an image which is
> 24pt tall, but is still
> text-top aligned:
>    <SPAN><IMG> some angry letters
> <B>boldface</B></SPAN>
> Once more: how is the line positioned vertically,
> and where is the SPAN's
> border drawn?  
The line box height is increased to 24pt by the replaced element
(non-baseline v-aligned elements must be taken into account for
max_descent and max-line-height/max-height), and therefore the line box
is 24pt high. The common bottom is (max(font-size, height of
replaced)-max(line-height,height of replaced)) [I've just realised a
necessary change is that the height of replaced elements =
height+max-descent in a line, i.e.,
height of line box = max(line-height, height) + (max-descent) +
(max-ascent). Without this, given font-size: 24pt; line-height: 24pt IMG
{ height: 24pt}, the height of the line box is 24pt, but the baseline is
max-descent up, so the IMG goes out the top (better is
line_box_height=(max(line-height, height)))>=(max-height) +
max_descent)?max(line-height, height):max(line-height, height) +

is a necessary change, since , i.e., 0pt from the bottom of the line
box. Therefore, SPAN's text-top is 12pt above, meaning the IMG bottom is
12pt below the normal line box bottom, extending it thereby (but not
under my proposal).

> How does it change when the image is
> set back to
> 'vertical-align:baseline'?  
The image's bottom is then the  baseline of the line box
> How is this affected by
> setting 'margin:1pt' on
> the image?  By setting 'margin:-4pt'?  
The vertical margins have no effect, an illogical absurdity that should
be changed.
>    We're still not done, either.  Take the following
> styles, markup, and
> rendering sketch:
>    P {line-height: 14pt; font-size: 12pt;}
>    BIG {font-size: 300%;}
>    <P>This is a paragraph which<BR>contains a
> <BIG>BiG</BIG> element<BR>
>       that will do weird stuff.</P>
>    This is a paragraph which
>    contains a BiG element
>    that will do weird stuff.
> Okay.  The "BiG" text is on the middle line.  Its
> line-height, along with
> everything else, is '14pt'.  How much space will
> there be between the
> baselines of the three lines?  
Always 14pt - the only thing that can change this is v-align overflowing
it, although I think this is absurd.
> How much vertical
> distance will there be
> between the baseline of the "BiG" text and the other
> text on its line, if
> any?
None, lines share a common baseline.
>    Now alter the above example to use these styles:
>    P {line-height: 1.2; font-size: 12pt;}
>    BIG {font-size: 300%;}
> Again, what are the baseline separations, both
> between and within lines?
BIG's line box is 36*1.2 = 43.2pt, the others are 14.4pt. There is thus
1.2+36+3.6=40.8 pt between the lines
>    Once more, with feeling:
>    P {line-height: 1.2; font-size: 12pt;}
>    BIG {font-size: 300%; vertical-align: middle;}
Whoops, I forgot about v-a: middle before. Can't be bothered to do it
now, will probably do it later if someone else doesn't.
> Again, what are the baseline separations, both
> between and within lines?

>   To go back a few steps and mix things up a bit:
>    P {line-height: 18pt; font-size: 12pt;}
>    BIG {font-size: 300%;}
> Again, what are the baseline separations, both
> between and within lines?
>    If I were to add a SPAN to the markup in the last
> few examples, and then
> put a border on it so that the second line had a top
> and bottom border,
> where would it be drawn?  Around the font, the
> 'line-height', or the
> line-box?
> ============================================================================
> In summary, at least these questions need a
> definitive answer:
> * What constitutes a line-box?
A device for alignment purposes.
> * Is the basic unit of a line-box the individual
> character glyphs and
> replaced elements, or the inline elements (anonymous
> or otherwise, replaced
> or otherwise)?
No, the height of the line box does not directly relate to its text
content, but only to line-height and height .
> * How are the edges of the line-box affected by
> content?
They are not - only to height, line-height, and vertical-align - never
to font-size - even with v-align, it is the overflow of the box as
dictated by line-height that causes the alignment. 
> by line-height (leading)? 
> by replaced elements?
If they would overflow the line box, they increase it in size.
> * Where are the (half-)leading spaces placed? with
> regard to what?
They are a bit misleading really - essentially, half the leading goes
above the theoretical top, and half below the theoretical bottom.
> * What is within the line-box, and what is without?
Some, but not necessarily all, of the content. Circumstances under which
overflow can occur at line-height >= 1:
1. Borders
2. Fonts whose glyphs are larger than font-size;
3. At CSS 2, that's it

With line-height <1, content may go outside the line box even without
glyphs bigger than font-size.

> * Where does the border get drawn around inline
> elements?
On top of the theoretical top, i.e., the top as suggested by font-size.
But should be changed.
> * What does font-size have to do with all of this?
> * How is outsized text positioned with regard to the
> baseline? to the line-box?
I.e., l-h < 1 for that text. Its bottom is placed [simplified equation]
(l-h - f-s)/2, which will be below the bottom of the line box. 

However, if outsised text is on a line with smaller text, all share a
baseline (subject to v-a: baseline), so they will all be below the
bottom of the line box - this means the small text will also overlap if
the line below has no big text to affect it.
> * How does vertical-align affect the line-box, if at
> all?
At CSS 2 each element has its own box. The line box is from the top of
the highest to the bottom of the lowest - affected by v-align.
> * In what order is all of this done, in order to
> correctly construct an
> element containing line-boxes?
See above.
> * Are there any differences between CSS1 and CSS2
> when it comes to all this?
CSS 1 was vaguer
Received on Monday, 10 January 2000 10:28:44 GMT

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