The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

19 March 2008

Portrait of a dilemma

The landscape is littered with the souls of those who have faced this question:

Why can't we have documents formatted for the computer screen?

Blogger, for instance, does a nice job of formatting a page to fit the width of the screen, but it does nothing about the height. Of course, screen widths come in a variety of sizes, so something that will fit completely on one screen is going to be too tall or long for a narrower screen. Still, I would like to see some attempt made to deal with this. Pictures get cut in the middle. You have to scroll down some variable amount to be able to see the whole picture. You shouldn't have to do this. There is a reason God (or IBM) made the Page-Down key: that is so you can move to the next screen of data as efficiently as possible.

Our Department of Document Production, or whatever they're called this week, used to have vertically-oriented monitors that displayed a full page at once, but these seem to have gone out of style. A 24-inch screen can probably siamese a pair of A4-size documents at once, but if you want something closer to 8½ x 11 — or, God forbid, legal size — you might be better off rotating both display and screen 90 degrees.

If we had to deal with an Organization of Paper Exporting Countries that could jack up the price at will, we'd probably see movement toward standardizing documents at sizes that fit nicely on computer screens. (And we'd also have mass suicide where I work, but that's another story.)

Posted at 6:58 AM to PEBKAC


He seems to be grumbling more about web pages than printed documents. IIRC, you can adjust for screen layout at the server by extracting the screen resolution information from the user-agent portion of the HTTP request and then serving different code for different page sizes. Unfortunately, most bloggers don't seem to have access to that, and most web designers don't seem to care (too busy designing Flash animations, I expect). (I'll mention that my host - mee.nu - compensates automatically, adding left and right borders if the screen width is greater than 800px.) His Page-Down issue is browser related, maybe he should try a different one?

If it's documents, the 17" CRT monitor I'm using has a usable area of about 8.75" (including the Windows taskbar and the window titlebar) by 12.75", which is close enough to 8.5x11 landscape. Unfortunately, humans don't like long lines of text-- I suppose a 2-column layout would work. (Would have been a nuisance in the days of typewriters, but easy with a word processor.

I remember those rotated monitors. There was one (can't remember the mfr) that had fancy driver software and a pivot: You could rotate it for portrait or landscape, and driver would compensate. Hey, here's a utility!

Posted by: Old Grouch at 11:45 AM on 19 March 2008

you can adjust for screen layout at the server by extracting the screen resolution information from the user-agent portion of the HTTP request and then serving different code for different page sizes.

I wouldn't mind putting something like that to use if it were available -- at least on a trial basis.

(I'll mention that my host - mee.nu - compensates automatically, adding left and right borders if the screen width is greater than 800px.)

I do that too (though my limit is more than 800) with simple HTML formatting. Table tags, in fact. Though, I'd have to see whether Mee.nu also manages to narrow the text area when the screen rez is under 800px wide (assuming there are still smaller-rez monitors in use out there). My approach won't do that.

Posted by: McGehee at 12:29 PM on 19 March 2008

My own layout here is both antiquated and flexible: the sidebar has a fixed width, and the column where all the posts go floats as needed. (One person I know has some screen width out in the 1800-plus range; the background graphic shrinks to upper and lower bars under those conditions, which leads me to contemplate revising or removing it.)

Posted by: CGHill at 5:35 PM on 19 March 2008

Just fired up the Win98 machine and checked (the one running XP won't go below 800x600). Answer is: No, at widths less than 800 you have to scroll. (BTW, there's a slight horizontal scroll on my page at 800x600 because when Pixy generated the .1 templates he reduced the template width to 750px to accomodate the right-hand scrollbar. I didn't understand why he'd done it, and since it screwed up some of my sidebar art, I changed it back. Minor fail.)

I haven't looked at the code and so don't know how Pixy has mee.nu adjusting the layout.

Posted by: Old Grouch at 6:48 PM on 19 March 2008