Proposal: reduce base font size from 10pt to 9pt for Karmic Koala release

Conn subpsyke at
Sat Oct 10 20:01:03 UTC 2009

On Sat, Oct 10, 2009 at 1:15 PM, Felix Miata <mrmazda at> wrote:

> You're making your comparison in the wrong environment: 1024x768. Generally
> at that resolution fonts and other objects are larger than at the higher
> resolutions new systems and displays average. 1024x768, which on a 15" (the
> largest that was ever readily available with that native resolution) flat
> panel screen is about 85 DPI, has gotten hard to find except pre-owned or
> off-lease. Normal minimum in stores today is 1280x800 for laptops (e.g. 108
> DPI on 14") and 1440x900 for desktops (e.g. 89 DPI on 19"). Worse cases
> aren't that uncommon. 1920x1200 goes as low as 15.4" on a laptop, which is
> 147 DPI, and 23" on a desktop, which is ~98 DPI. 1680x1050 isn't uncommon
> at
> 20", which is ~99 DPI.

Most of the hardware I am testing runs at 1024x768 resolution, so I am
biased. However, why is 1024x768 the "wrong" environment? I'm sure that many
people use this resolution, even in 2009.

You're proposing that fonts should be smaller everywhere, while they are
> already smaller just as they are on the average more expensive displays
> (higher resolution = more expensive). The problem is compounded for laptop
> users, since they average significantly higher resolution. Further
> compounding the size of the problem is that laptops outsell desktops,
> meaning
> the average size of fonts and other desktop objects is already too small
> for
> many average users. Then further compounding is the fixation on 96 DPI
> instead of actual DPI on high resolution screens. What you see as "too big"
> 10pt on your 1024x768 screen many will see as too small on their more
> expensive displays running 100 DPI and up.

I understand what you're saying, but there is still an issue present with
our implementation of fonts on-screen. Ubuntu is not auto-detecting the
correct DPI setting for each monitor - it is defaulting to 96dpi. It may be
true that a 10pt DejaVu Sans font may look fine on an expensive display
whose dimensions are 100dpi and higher, but the issue remains that such
displays are /still defaulting to 96dpi in Ubuntu/.

It seems to me that we need to configure Ubuntu to set the appropriate DPI
computed against on the EDID-supplied dimensions of the default monitor. The
EDID-derived values may not match 100% if you physically measure, but it's
better than sticking to the static setting of 96dpi.

Lest anyone forget, it's generally much easier for a user given too large
> fonts to see to figure out how to make them smaller than it is for a user
> given too small fonts to see to figure out how to make them bigger. The
> upshot of that is if you can't make them perfect for everyone (which is
> impossible anyway), it's better to err on the large side than on the small
> side.

I'm sympathetic to accessibility issues, but on the other hand, we don't
ship with the High Contrast theme by default, either. I have some issues
with eyestrain, but a 9pt DejaVu font at 96dpi (or 91dpi) on a 1024x768
resolution does not seem to small for me, personally.

I obviously don't know as much as you with regards to fonts, but I would
imagine that if you take a ruler and measure the height of a 10pt font on
two monitors with different dimensions, ideally the fonts should display
with the same physical measurements on-screen. This is not happening in
reality, as GNOME is not setting the correct DPI for the connected monitor.

Ditto. If those are in fact 9pt and not 8pt something is unusual on your
> comparison XP. Windows UI fonts have usually been ridiculously small (8pt),
> but I have encountered the use of 9pt in W2K & WXP when "large" has not
> been
> selected in settings. The browser and office app document fonts have always
> been 12pt by default. The difference in size is a function of area, not
> nominal size, meaning that 12pt is 2.25 times the size of 8pt (12^2 / 8^2)
> and 1.78 times the size of 9pt (12^2 / 9^2).

I dual-boot between XP and Ubuntu, and use a bookmark synchronization
extension for Firefox. Looking at my Firefox bookmarks toolbar (which is
identical in layout between operating systems), Windows XP can fit about 10
bookmarks on-screen, whereas Ubuntu can fit only 7, or at most 8 with a
short title. The entire interface of Ubuntu looks unnecessarily bloated.

As I posted in my previous comment, my screen should use 91dpi rendering. I
have manually set this value, and while fonts looks slightly more compact
compared to the default setting, /in my opinion/, 10pt is still too bloated.
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