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California State University, Long Beach

Fonts on the web

When rendering a webpage in your browser's window, it reads the html and displays any text and graphics according to what the code tells it to do. Different browsers interpret the same bit of code in different ways. There are always subtle differences in the way fonts and the layout (the positioning of the elements) of the page are displayed. A web designer can go to great lengths to give explicit commands on a webpage in order to get the page to display similarly in each browser. Even if you set the preferences of your browser to the default settings, a webpage can look slightly different on different browsers. If you change the default settings of your browser, you can override the intended design of any webpage.

Font sizes are also severely affected by platform differences. Browsers running on Windows typically display fonts 2 to 3 points larger than the equivalent font in the Macintosh. Furthermore, different fonts define different letter and line spacing at the same point size, so simply changing fonts may affect the display size.

Complicating font definitions is also the use of style sheets like the one attached to this page. Depending on the resources devoted to the page, style sheets can change the font spacing, face, size and other characteristics depending on the character set, language preferences, browser, operating system, user preferences or any other characteristic that can be defined on a web page.

In other words, don't get too excited about using all your cool fonts on your site.

There used to be an example here showing different font sizes. Instead of that questionable list, visit Sane CSS Sizes over at You are using Style Sheets to define font sizes, right?