Ems are a great unit to use when specifying the size of divs. It is a source of great frustration to me that ems are not more widely supported in Freeway - in particular, it should be easy to specify divs and tables in ems.
The reason for this is that when the dimensions of a container, eg a div, are specified in pixels, and if the container is tightly filled in Freeway with text of a given font size, it will only look the same in a browser if the user viewing the page has their base font size set the same as yours. This is not always the case; some systems and some users prefer larger default font sizes in pixels, and others set a smaller default font in their browser. For these users, either the text overflows the div, or it fails to fill it correctly - either way, it won’t look right.
On the other hand, if the div size is specified in ems, and all font size declarations in the document are ‘relative’ to a base font size that is (ideally, but not essentially) defined for the page container div, then should the user increase their browser’s default font size, then all enclosed containers will proportionally increase in size as well, keeping everything in ‘normal’ appearance - by this I mean that if the text gets bigger by say 20%, then the enclosing divs (all of them) will also expand by the same amount.
People on this list have said, “Yes, but how many users change their default font size?” The answer is that many systems come with preset default font sizes different from yours or mine, depending on pixel density. Default browser fonts can be anything from 11 or 12 pt to say 14pt or even 16pt, and this can have a huge impact on how your page will look if the menus and divs are dimensioned in pixels.
Just quickly draw a few divs on screen, some inside others with dimensions in pixels, then fill them with text and give them a background colour, and then see what happens when you make the font bigger or smaller in the browser. Not nice. If ems could be used to specify all these div sizes, there would be no such problem.
Freeway really needs to move ahead a bit. There should be a page or site wide ‘units’ preference so that the default behaviour is either:
(a) pixels for dimensioning (with font size specifications in points) or alternatively
(b) ems or % for dimensioning with font sizes in relative terms (eg +1, or +120% etc).
The former is the current way Freeway works, but this does not make good layouts all the time.
The latter is ideal for liquid layouts that look good no matter how much font zoom is applied.
It is possible in Freeway to set dimensions for some objects in ems, however Freeway has a bug in that it draws each em as if it was one pixel wide, when it should be typically 10 or 12 or so, depending on base font, so it really looks silly. You can use extended attributes as an alternative. Neither approach is WYSIWYG.
It is incorrect to say that one should not mix units in a page. There is nothing bad or wrong about specifying the dimensions of some objects on a page in %, others in pixels, and others in ems. Modern browsers know what to do with them and all have their uses.
There is, however, a lot of problems and limitations in Freeway when it comes to using anything other than pixels.
Softpress have realised that an em based approach is required for the CSS menus to look good regardless of browser zoom. It’s time this was better implemented more generally in the application.
If Softpress were to allow pixel specifications as an alternative to ems for the CSS menus, unless you want your menus to totally stuff up on a number of platforms, you should take care to ensure that the pixel dimensions are generous rather than tight or else your menus won’t look good once the font size increases in some browsers.
If on the other hand Softpress allowed all things including base div sizes to be set properly in ems, then the whole page would look great, with all menus in proper proportion to the whole page, regardless of text zoom.
There are problems with all dimensioning strategies - ems and px and % - but in Freeway there is no option, you’ve got to do it the way Softpress decide - ems for menus and pixels for divs. People who don’t really understand this stuff find it very confusing, but if the defaults were as I suggested above it would all just work and most people would quickly find that the em approach worked better.
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