Re: columns

David Woolley wrote:

>> as the window. When there's more content than fits onto the page, 
>> columns would overflow to the right of the window and if 'overflow:auto' 
>> is in effect, the user would scroll horizontally to see the content. But 
>How would this work with print media?  There is already quite a serious
>problem (more than half the pages that I try to print) of pages that 
>get cropped at the right when printed.
Agreed. Print media would need different style rules. For many pages, 
the best layouts for screen reading and printing are likely to be different.

>Moreover, it seems to me that the potential requirements to either
>scroll backwards or sideways, both of which are fairly unnatural for
>users, represent serious problems in any use of reflowable multi-column
>formatting on screen media.  I find the need to do a combination of
>both directions of scroll one of the main annoyances in reading many
>PDF documents at a reasonable zoom level.
Ideally one would only need to scroll horizontally, not vertically. I 
agree this may feel unnatural to users, at least at first. However, uses a horizontal scrolling column layout and, anecdotally, 
people seem to like it.

>To me, the only sensible reason for doing reflowable multi-column layouts
>on screen media is control the length of lines for ease of reading.

>I believe that is why newspapers and magazines use multiple columns and
>why novels are normally smaller paper sizes than A5.  In that case:
>- the number of columns should be dependent on the number of characters in
>  the overall width (and unlikely to exceed 2[a], degenerating to 1 when a 
>  large font is selected, or a small window used);
>- the number of columns should fit the available horizontal space - there
>  should be no horizontal overflow;
>- overflow should be handled the way that multi-column printed magazines 
>  handle it, i.e. by starting a new column when the bottom of the available
>  screen height is reached (other features may make parts of the screen 
>  unavailable) and a new screenful started when the width would overflow.
I've thought of that option and I'd like to be able to support it too, 
but it's both harder to implement and harder to specify in CSS, and it 
may be less natural for an environment with scrolling, because there are 
more discontinuities in the layout:

0**** 3**** 6**** 9**** 12*** 15***
1**** 4**** 7**** 10*** 13*** 16***
2**** 5**** 8**** 11*** 14*** 17***


0**** 3**** 6**** ^
1**** 4**** 7**** |
2**** 5**** 8**** V

9**** 12*** 15***
10*** 13*** 16***
11*** 14*** 17***

In the former layout, you can always view two items at the same time if 
they're no more than 6 apart. In the latter layout you can view two 
items at the same time if they're no more than 2 apart (e.g. 8 and 11 
can't be on the screen at the same time).

I guess you could get the latter layout with the current columns spec by 
having a mode where the UA treats the screen as paged media, which would 
have other uses too. But then we'd need CSS support for that.

Regardless of which layout you or I think is better, it would be nice to 
be able to express these things in CSS if that's not too hard.


Robert O'Callahan <>
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word
was God. ... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We
have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the
Father, full of grace and truth." 1 John 1:1,14

Received on Thursday, 27 May 2004 09:41:12 UTC