Default font size in gnome

Chris Cheney ccheney at
Fri Feb 27 01:15:28 UTC 2009

On Thu, 2009-02-26 at 17:33 -0600, Ryan Hayle wrote:
> On 26/02/09 14:31, Felix Miata wrote:
> > On the contrary, preference is about the difference between acceptable and
> > unacceptable.
> >    
> There are two separate issues here.  You seem to be arguing that the OLD 
> size is too small, and want it to be larger.  Fair enough--but that is a 
> separate issue.  What I am arguing for, is consistency with previous 
> versions now that the DPI is set correctly.  I am not a usability 
> expert--maybe you're right and the default should be larger, but that is 
> a separate issue.

Actually the old font size will cause the font to actually become
smaller on screen in many normal desktop cases. Even with the current
selection of wide screen monitors the highest dpi screen I see that
Samsung makes is 102 dpi, and they are fairly representative of the
market at least in the USA. That is up to 15% smaller font size on
screen on the low end of current desktop monitors and 6% larger on the
high end of desktop monitors.

17" - 1280x1024 - 94/100 dpi 4:3
19" - 1280x1024 -  84/89 dpi 4:3
19" - 1440x 900 -     89 dpi 16:10
20" - 1600x 900 -     92 dpi 16:9
20" - 1680x1050 -     99 dpi 16:10
22" - 1920x1080 -    102 dpi 16:9
22" - 1680x1050 -     90 dpi 16:10
24" - 1920x1200 -     94 dpi 16:10
27" - 1920x1200 -     84 dpi 16:10
30" - 2560x1600 -    101 dpi 16:10

As far as I can tell the 200 dpi desktop monitors I mentioned before in
the thread have been EOL'd and are no longer being produced.

> > Intended by whom, mousetype lovers? My point was those who find it
> > inappropriately large can easily manage to fix it. Those who find
> > inappropriately small have to somehow manage to overcome a legibility
> > obstacle to fix it - a chicken/egg situation.
> >    
> Intended by whomever set the default in previous Ubuntu 
> releases.Real-world DPI has been steadily increasing from release to 
> release. What may

I don't see this to actually be the case. Even with laptops it seems
that ~ 130 dpi is the maximum that most manufacturers are doing. I had a
laptop about 5 years ago that was 133 dpi and even today it is hard to
find laptops with higher than 133 dpi screens. Even most netbooks with
their tiny screens are below 130 dpi.

> > have been intended two years ago, when due to DPI fixed at 96 resulted in
> > arbitrary sizes, can't necessarily be related to a "correct" size now that
> > DPI is no longer arbitrary.
> >    
> Yes, and DPI will continue to increase.  This should result in sharper 
> fonts, NOT larger or smaller fonts.  That's the whole point of this 
> effort.  We need a sensible default which looks good "out of the box" on 
> the majority of systems.

As noted above I do not see that this is the actually case.

> > The larger of those was here preferable to the smaller, even on my 
> > lowest DPI
> > system.
> >
> > The "oldest of low-resolution screens" still in use is probably 800x600 13"
> > visible/14" advertised CRT - about 77 DPI. Lowest resolution desktop display
> > in stores today is probably 20" 1440x900 - about 85 DPI. That's only about
> > 10% DPI difference.
> >
> > "Ugly" is in the eye of the beholder. To some, the definition of ugly is the
> > functional equivalent of too small, just as well as others to whom it equates
> > to too large.
> >
> > In any event, and regardless what nominal size is ultimately released as the
> > default, it's still much easier to for a user to fix too large than it is to
> > fix too small, which is the entire point of my original thread reply.
> >    
> I believe a sensible default needs to appeal to the majority of users, 
> not cater to the visually impaired.  I support accessibility 100%, but 
> the majority of users with good eyesight should not have to decrease 
> their fonts in order to accommodate those who need extremely large fonts 
> to see.  You're absolutely right that it's an easy change, however the 
> 1st impression people get of Ubuntu (and all the screenshots which will 
> be posted to the web) is extremely important.  And sadly, defaults are 
> more about marketing than usability.  I think we all agree that we want 
> the system to be as usable and customisable as possible.
> Like I said before, perhaps we need a script to set the default font 
> depending on the DPI and screen size.

A script might work here but it would probably need to be one that the
user could check the settings and automatically revert if they could no
longer read the text.

Don't forget distance from the screen has a large effect on whether a
font is too big or not. Distance from the screen on a laptop is
typically much smaller than distance to the screen on a desktop monitor.

> FYI--It seems to me like there might possibly be another issue here.  At 
> high DPI, it seems as if the font rendering engine makes larger fonts 
> (by that I mean 10pt) appear more "bold" than they should (in my 
> opinion).  Is this the intended behaviour?  I really know nothing about 
> this or typography in general, I just wanted to raise the idea.  I often 
> choose smaller fonts simply to get rid of this "bold" look, which is 
> evident in this screenshot:
> Ryan

Yes there is a known bug there that has already been filed against
freetype over 6 months ago.


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