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    • CommentRowNumber1.
    • CommentAuthorBruce
    • CommentTimeMay 22nd 2009
    You may have noticed the nLab is sporting a serif font scheme for text and math, for one day! I installed this in the CSS just to raise awareness of what's possible. You can override it in Firefox.

    The math fonts it tries to select are, in this order:
    Georgia, DejaVu Serif, BitStream Vera Serif, Linux Libertine, Constantia, Cambria Math, STIXNonUnicode, STIXSize1, STIXGeneral, Symbol

    The text fonts are, in this order:
    Georgia, DejaVu Serif, BitStream Vera Serif, Linux Libertine, Constantia, Cambria, Times New Roman

    I personally find this a more pleasing scheme; the Stix math fonts look terrible on my system (very dim). No doubt others will think differently! How does it look to you?
    • CommentRowNumber2.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeMay 22nd 2009
    I don't know how it looks, since I installed your Stylish styles for the Café and Lab as soon as they came out, so any changes to the defaults are overridden.

    And then I immediately changed the order of the fonts, on the grounds that neither you nor Jacques can do it right. (^_^) I use DejaVu Sans for text and DejaVu Serif for math; these look great, except that bold text looks a little … goofy.

    • CommentRowNumber3.
    • CommentAuthorBruce
    • CommentTimeMay 22nd 2009
    Ok, let me quickly try out Toby's scheme...
    • CommentRowNumber4.
    • CommentAuthorBruce
    • CommentTimeMay 22nd 2009
    Well Toby, I think you need to see the Style Doctor, heh heh. Anyhow, I've noticed there are big differences between the way the fonts are displayed on my computer at the office and my laptop (the Georgia font for instance looks much nicer on my laptop). Anyhow, it's obviously good that everyone is free to customize it to their choice. That's what I'm wanting people to realize. Wouldn't want first-time visitors to the nLab to get chased away by thinking "this looks horrible", because you -can- make it look nice if you put a bit of effort in. Have to make it easy for people though.
    • CommentRowNumber5.
    • CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
    • CommentTimeMay 22nd 2009

    Have to make it easy for people though.

    Hmmm, not sure that I want anyone to be able to change the fonts for how I see the 'lab. Presumably you're editing the global CSS, which also presumably is not editable by just anyone (or is it? not sure I like that!). What is really needed is a way to alter one's own view of the 'lab. The difference in view between different computers is because the fonts being used are local. Thus what one machine thinks of as a "Georgia" font may not be the same as another machine. Many operating systems have a complicated system of aliases for fonts to map "standard" fonts to ones that the designer of the OS thinks is a suitable replacement.

    • CommentRowNumber6.
    • CommentAuthorBruce
    • CommentTimeMay 22nd 2009
    Hi Andrew,

    Indeed, I edited the global css via the "Edit web -> Stylesheat tweaks" feature; it requires a password. If you would like a password it is quite possible to email Urs about it. I have removed the css font styling now, so everything should be back to normal.

    I agree one would like people to be able to alter the CSS for themselves; it would be nice to have a way to do that in Instiki but it would require a fundamental redesign since there is no concept of a "user" at the moment. Thus we must resort to things like Stylish. Thus we need to decide on a default style which presents our best possible face to the world. I'm not sure the corrent font system is that best possible face. Anyhow, things are back to normal now.

    I don't think your characterization of how OS work with fonts is correct. I thought it happened totally at a browser level. If the CSS requests eg.

    font-family: Georgia, DejaVu Serif, BitStream Vera Serif, Linux Libertine, Constantia, Cambria, Times New Roman

    Then the browser will go through the list, trying to see if that font is installed on the system. If everything fails, it selects the default font (which can be changed under Options in Firefox). Is that how it works, or is there actually also a semi-intelligent font-substitution happening behind the scenes? I haven't seen evidence of that when I bugger around with Firefox.
    • CommentRowNumber7.
    • CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
    • CommentTimeMay 22nd 2009

    Ah, but the browser gets its font information from the OS. The browser requests the font from the machine but it's up to the machine what font it actually supplies. It is, at least on a Linux system, possible for the user to completely override the fonts supplied without the browser having a clue what's going on.

    This is often necessary if the font requested is not available. Some distributions are more restrictive on what they include than others and so have to define replacement fonts for the standard ones.

    That's why the same page can look completely different on different computers. And that's why it can be very difficult to get webpages to look right - which leads back to the whole TikZ and SVG stuff.

    • CommentRowNumber8.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeMay 22nd 2009
    This comment is invalid XHTML+MathML+SVG; displaying source. <div> <blockquote>This is often necessary if the font requested is not available.</blockquote> That is a bit wonky. If the font requested is not available, then please go to the next font on the list, not the font that some Debian geek decided was close enough! (Although I can see the Debian geek's perspective as well; this really requires more intelligent communication between the OS and the browser.)<p><blockquote>Have to make it easy for people though.</blockquote> I'm pretty sure that Bruce means to make it easy for people to change their <em>local</em> stylesheet. And making this easy is part of what Stylish is all about.<p>Also Bruce, does that 90em-high edit box really look good on your machine? I had to chop it in half to get it to fit without scrolling! In the end, you did almost everything wrong; you just showed me how to do it right for myself. (^_^)</p></p> </div>
    • CommentRowNumber9.
    • CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
    • CommentTimeMay 22nd 2009

    Well, okay, I was being a bit simplistic. Mainly because I'm not an expert on these things, but have just poked around a bit under the bonnet and have gotten a vague idea. Sometimes font substitutions are due to preference, sometimes due to licensing, but mainly because of the old "You say Times New Roman, I say -adobe-times-bold-i-normal--0-0-100-100-p-0-iso8859-1" problem. Saying 'Georgia' just isn't enough to specify an actual font.

    There's no problem with the communication between the browser and the OS. There will only be an alias defined if the Debian geek has actually decided that the given font is a suitable stand-in for the requested font. And that will only happen if it really is a stand-in, they won't say "Times New Roman? Let's give them a fixed width font instead.". It's more like "Times New Roman? Well, we've got one of them from adobe and one from Monotype. Let's run with the Monotype one as it looks cleaner.".

    Just remembered another reason all this substitution goes on. Some fonts are designed specifically for LCD screens, some for CRTs, and some for printing. Obviously you want the OS to choose which one of these should be provided because only the OS knows what's really going on (well, with LCD and CRT at least).

    This also feeds into Toby and Mike's discussion on the other thread. On the web, it ought to be that the website is as non-prescriptive as possible and leaves it up to the user and browser how best to display the information. It shouldn't be that a webpage doesn't display correctly because the browser is the wrong width (the BBC site really irritates me on this), and I should be able to override any silly settings that the author has chosen to make it easier for me to use their website. If everything has to look "just so" then HTML (and its derivatives) really are the wrong protocol. Make a movie and stick it on YouTube instead.

    • CommentRowNumber10.
    • CommentAuthorBruce
    • CommentTimeMay 23rd 2009
    Andrew, I sit corrected on the issue of whether OS sometimes choose replacement fonts behind the scenes. Toby, ok the 90em high textbox was a bit of an overreaction, I've changed mine to saner values too now, it was more like "FREEDOM!".
    • CommentRowNumber11.
    • CommentAuthorTim_Porter
    • CommentTimeOct 19th 2011

    I have been trying to get my personal homepage editing to use the larger subwindow by using the nLab style. I cannot make it work! :-( Can someone give me ’helpful advice’? Ta!