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Understanding type measurement unit options

From: Typography with CSS in Dreamweaver

Video: Understanding type measurement unit options

When specifying type for a web site, one of the first decisions a designer must make, is which kind of measurement unit to use. Pixels, percents and ems, are among the most common choices. Although there is a trend in particular a direction, designers are really all over the map on this question. This chapter will explain the differences in the various measurement units, and explore the options, so you can make an informed choice. Type measurement units fall into two camps, Fixed and Percentage.

Understanding type measurement unit options

When specifying type for a web site, one of the first decisions a designer must make, is which kind of measurement unit to use. Pixels, percents and ems, are among the most common choices. Although there is a trend in particular a direction, designers are really all over the map on this question. This chapter will explain the differences in the various measurement units, and explore the options, so you can make an informed choice. Type measurement units fall into two camps, Fixed and Percentage.

Generally, Typeset in fixed measurement units like pixels, do not scale, while type defined in the percentage-based unit, like Ems, do. Pixels are an absolute measurement that defines the size of the type, based on the screen resolution. Besides Pixels, other Fixed Measurement Units include Points, Inches, Centimeters and Millimeters. Among Percentage Measurement Units, are Percent, Ems and Exes. Ems are based, on the width of the widest letter of the alphabet, which as you may have guessed is the M. Exes, as you've probably figured out, is based on another letter X, although it's the height of the Exe, and not the width.

Under Fixed, the almost universal choice is Pixels, to the disheartened size of print designers everywhere, who wish points were a more common selection. The Percentage options are more open. You can either use the Percents themselves, typically with a percent symbol, rather than the initials pc, or Ems; both have their adherence. One generally accepted practice, is to set the overall text size to a Percentage in a CSS rule for the body element, and Ems for the more targeted selectors.

We'll explore that topic more in the defining a Percentage-based page with Ems video, later in this chapter. Both Fixed and Percentage Measurement Units, have their pros and cons. Most graphic programs allow you to work in Pixels, so converting a comp's text size, is easier with Pixels than Ems, although it can be done. Ems are always scalable, whereas Fixed Measurement Unit won't scale in browsers like Internet Explorer6, should the user decide to set their browser font size to anything other than medium.

Pixel sizes work the same for all elements, unlike Ems, which can have a problem with nested elements, and must be specifically addressed. High-resolution devices, including iPhones with 300 pixels per inch can make Pixel sizes too small to be read. Ems on the other hand, tend to scale effortlessly for a wide range of resolutions. So the question remains, which to use? In the remaining videos in this chapter, we will dive deeper into each of the options, to help you decide the measurement unit that suits your design style and work ethic.

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This video is part of

Image for Typography with CSS in Dreamweaver
Typography with CSS in Dreamweaver

36 video lessons · 8199 viewers

Joseph Lowery
Author

 
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  1. 3m 52s
    1. Welcome
      1m 19s
    2. Using the exercise files
      2m 33s
  2. 19m 16s
    1. Working with the Property inspector's HTML tab
      2m 0s
    2. Making the most of the Property inspector's CSS tab
      4m 57s
    3. Defining and changing type with the CSS Rule Definition dialog
      6m 16s
    4. Modifying type directly in the CSS Styles panel
      6m 3s
  3. 19m 45s
    1. Understanding type measurement unit options
      2m 50s
    2. Working with pixels
      2m 34s
    3. Defining a percentage-based page with ems
      6m 51s
    4. Letting users set page type size
      7m 30s
  4. 17m 36s
    1. Getting to know the basic font categories
      1m 32s
    2. Employing web-safe fonts
      3m 20s
    3. Defining new font families
      3m 22s
    4. Exploring CSS3 typeface options
      3m 9s
    5. Setting up @font-face
      6m 13s
  5. 9m 39s
    1. Dispelling the myth of web-safe colors
      1m 13s
    2. Applying color to type
      4m 52s
    3. Incorporating semi-transparent type
      3m 34s
  6. 19m 46s
    1. Setting the font-weight
      3m 48s
    2. Mandating font case
      2m 25s
    3. Exploring font variants
      1m 50s
    4. Utilizing white space effectively
      3m 40s
    5. Changing letter and word spacing
      2m 20s
    6. Defining first-line variations
      2m 19s
    7. Inserting drop caps
      3m 24s
  7. 20m 17s
    1. Applying CSS3 text effects
      5m 26s
    2. Designing type gradients
      8m 27s
    3. Rotating text with CSS transform
      6m 24s
  8. 15m 21s
    1. Implementing advanced headings with HTML5
      3m 11s
    2. Preparing CSS3 multiple-column layout
      4m 50s
    3. Future type: Defining CSS Regions
      7m 20s
  9. 24m 51s
    1. Styling unordered lists
      6m 51s
    2. Specifying a sequence with ordered lists
      5m 14s
    3. Applying definition lists
      7m 19s
    4. Targeting list items with CSS3 nth child
      5m 27s
  10. 20s
    1. Next steps
      20s

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