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Points of Difference

Next came early CSS implementations such as that of IE3, thrusting the cross-platform problem into even greater relief. Points (pts) are a unit of print, not of the screen, but designers are familiar with points, and many chose to specify their web text using this unit. In the Windows world, 7pt type was 9px tall, which is the lowest threshold of legibility. On the Mac, 7pt type was 7px tall, making it illegible, and as useless as a beard on a baby.

In 1997, Microsoft.com chose 7pt type [13.2] to ballyhoo the CSS prowess of their new IE3 browser for Windows and Macintosh. This was like inviting folks to a movie premiere and de-focusing the projector before screening. The type was equally illegible in IE4.x and in Netscape 4 on the Macintosh, not because of browser problems, but because of platform differences. Todd Fahrner, soon to be the father of DOCTYPE switching (see Chapter 11, “Working with Browsers Part I: DOCTYPE Switching and Standards Mode”), posted Figure 13.2 on his personal site, annotating it to show that points were a useless unit of CSS in terms of screen design (although they are fine for print style sheets).


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