Thursday, January 18, 2007

Setting Your Browser's Font Size

With more and more people nearing the bifocals stage of life, the size of the type on a page begins to become a concern. Though we can't make the characters on the eye chart at your doctor's office bigger, the characters displayed by your internet browser are largely adjustable.

As irritating as it might be to find the type on a web page too small to comfortably read, don't blame the web site or its webmaster. If you read your email on a web site, don't blame the person who sent you the email either. True, the webmaster and, in some cases, the sender of an email can set a specific font size. But after all said and done, all the email sent to you and all the web sites you view with your browser are simply data which has been sent to your machine from the internet. What happens with that data once it's on your computer is under your control. The person sending the email or creating a webpage can't possibly set one particular font size which is going to please everyone. So in the end, the recipient of the email or reader of the web page is responsible for setting the display how he or she wants it.

If Firefox is your web vehicle, you can change the font size a few different ways. If you want to increase the font size of a browser window (just for the current tab) and really fast, but have it last only for the current session (i.e., until you shut down Firefox and then start it up again), you can open the View menu, select Text Size, and click on Increase. Even faster is to use the shortcut, Ctrl-+ (hold down the Ctrl key and press the plus (+) key). To make the displayed font size smaller, there's a Decrease option in the menu right below the one for Increase. Or you could use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-- (hit the minus (-) key while holding down the Ctrl key). To get back to the unadjusted setting— the default setting prior to any changes of the type above— select the Normal option below the Decrease option mentioned above; or do Ctrl-0 (the Ctrl and the number zero keys used together).

You can also set a mandatory minimum font size globally and permanently— i.e., for every web page you view and which will persist even into future sessions. Setting this mandatory minimum font size will ensure that the "print" on web pages and in your webmail is easy on your eyes and won't burn holes in your glasses. All the instructions performed below are done by clicking on menus so you can even eat a sandwich while you're doing this.

Begin by clicking on the Edit menu. From the dropdown, click on Preferences. This will bring up a new window in which you want to click on the tab entitled Content. In the section labeled "Fonts & Colors" you can click on the bar for Default font to select a font style and on the Size button to select a default font size. Generally, though, the defaults are fine. If you want to make sure the text of those web pages and webmail will always be comfortably large enough, set the minimum font size. Click on the next button in this same section, the one labeled Advanced. This will open up another window. You can play around with any of the many settings here, but only two are of concern here. Click on Minimum font size and use the examples below to help select the smallest font you want to permit your browser to display. Make sure that the option Allow pages to choose their own fonts... is not checked.

The selection dropdown bars show a range of numbers, but without units. Firefox doesn't tell you the typographic unit corresponding to these numbers because it might possibly be "points" or it might be "pixels". Which of these typographical units of measure is used by your browser depends upon your system, its default settings, and other factors all too complex for even a good browser to trace out. Providing both units of measure, the table below should help you select which font sizes are available and which will work best for you. Note also that not all font styles are available in all the possible sizes.

This is 8-pixel font.
This is 8-point font.
This is 9-pixel font.
This is 9-point font.
This is 10-pixel font.
This is 10-point font.
This is 11-pixel font.
This is 11-point font.
This is 12-pixel font.
This is 12-point font.
This is 13-pixel font.
This is 13-point font.
This is 14-pixel font.
This is 14-point font.
This is 15-pixel font.
This is 15-point font.
This is 16-pixel font.
This is 16-point font.
This is 17-pixel font.
This is 17-point font.
This is 18-pixel font.
This is 18-point font.
This is 20-pixel font.
This is 20-point font.
This is 22-pixel font.
This is 22-point font.
This is 24-pixel font.
This is 24-point font.
This is 32-pixel font.
This is 32-point font.
This is 36-pixel font.
This is 36-point font.
This is 40-pixel font.
This is 40-point font.

You won't see any changes in the fonts in your browser until you click on the Font window's OK button. When you're satisfied with your selections, close these two configuration windows and have a look at your handywork.

Some folks aren't satisfied just having readable fonts. They want or need characters on the "page" to be typographically accurate; e.g., a 12-point font must measure exactly one sixth of an inch. If the settings made to Firefox don't provide font sizes of the desired accuracy, you may want to see for a deeper look into how the more primitive graphics specifications are defined on your system. If, on the other hand, the sole goal is to be able to read the text, we can proceed to our next dream.

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