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Chapter Thirteen. Working with Browsers ... > The Smallest Unit: It's Absolutely R...

The Smallest Unit: It's Absolutely Relative

At a resolution of 1200×870, a single pixel looks hefty on a 22” monitor and petite on a 17” one. CSS considers the pixel a relative unit because monitors and resolutions vary. This is true. It is also true that 10px is 10px, from one corner of a screen to any other corner of that screen, and from one screen to the next. The pixel is always the smallest unit of a given screen, making it the atom of new media design. Most designers and most users thus think of the pixel as an absolute unit. Unlike most other units, the pixel is familiar to all web users regardless of their level of sophistication. They know the pixel from years of watching TV.

If the CSS standard views pixels abstractly (remember that “average length of the web user's arm” business), the makers of most browsers do not. They understand the pixel unit the way the rest of us understand it: as the smallest dot on the screen.


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