Internet Explorer’s font size strangeness

Last week I asked readers to help me work out why some people found the fonts on this site too small to read. In some, if not all, of the cases where this happened, Internet Explorer was set with the Text Size (under the View menu) set to Small. This reduced the text to an unreadable level when the CSS specified sizes in ems, but only reduced it slightly when specified as percentages.

This image shows what was happening. The top two samples have IE’s Text Size on Medium, the default. The left hand sample has CSS sizes specified in ems, the right in roughly equivalent percentages.

If the user then changes their brower’s Text Size to Small, we get the lower examples. The ems sample is reduced far more than the percentages sample. Maybe there’s a logical reason in the complicated world of CSS as to why this is, but it doesn’t seem to make sense to me. Anyway, this site’s fonts are now specified with percentages. Thanks for your help!

Comments

  • I almost always use pixels to spec size, I had heard that was the most reliable way. Of course my CSS knowledge is sufficient to cause problems rather than solve them.

  • I’ve had lengthy arguments with some people about this! On the one hand pixels make it very easy to know exactly what you’re getting. On the other it’s impossible for users to re-size the text on some versions of Internet Explorer if font size is specified in pixels. I also prefer to specify sizes relative to the default text size in browsers (ie, setting font sizes relatively) rather than creating my own new default size.

  • thankyou for helping me with ie font size, i nearly smashed my computer

  • Its really weird. Using IE at home I can see the font sizes change according to how I specify them. Yet when I use IE at work the font sizes are uniform. In other words it seems the IE at home is somehow configured differently than the one at work. any ideas?

  • I have been adding and deleting fonts and trying to figure out what changes I need to make because one day my browser fonts became unreadable on many, many websites.
    Thank you for your help. That simple change fixed it for me. But now I know websites need to consider that when programming their CSS info.

    Thanks again.

  • I have a problem whereby when I print out the finished page is more often than
    not printing out in the largest text size. Once in a while it prints out in
    a very small text, but usually very large, causing me to waste ink and paper. How do I “fix” this? Please
    send answer to my email address. This is
    on IE/OE, the Word Perfect mode works
    fine.

  • I have a problem whereby when I print out the finished page is more often than
    not printing out in the largest text size. Once in a while it prints out in
    a very small text, but usually very large, causing me to waste ink and paper. How do I “fix” this? Please
    send answer to my email address. This is
    on IE/OE, the Word Perfect mode works
    fine. It doesn’ matter what size the “view’ is set, it still prints the
    largest size.

  • This small little post came as such a big boon! I nearly wrecked my laptop, let my dad use it for ten minutes and i couldnt read the font’s anymore..they were that small!

    Thank you so much :)

  • I have searched all over to find out why everything I print off the internet prints out in tiny print. No site I’ve found can explain or correct this do you havea suggestion??? Thank you.

  • RE: web page text small internet explorer
    Not quiet sure what this is all about but if you find your fonts to small to read on Internet explorer try this.

    Hold down the left CTRL key and use the mouse scroll wheel to scroll up or down this will increase the font size on your page.

    I was stuck wondering why many web sites had extremely tiny text on them and remembered about some sort of scaling to do with the mouse.

    Hope this helps some one. it would have saved me many a can’t read webpage day.

    Cheers
    Roger
    email rogerL-gyford.com@friendlycomputers.co.uk
    www.friendlycomputers.co.uk

  • Thank you so much for the tips, I was going crazy trying to figure how my IE font size just changed all of a sudden!


  • I a having trouble reducing the size of the font on YouTube! It used to be ok until recently when it is suddenly so large its almost impossible to read. I have no idea what happened, but all my other sites are fine, just YT. I have tried scrolling with the mouse wheel, altering in view to smallest, but still no joy. Any feedback woould be appreciated. Thanks.

  • So - how do you set IE to open at the medium text size?
    It always opens small and it’s a nuisance to keep having to reset it.
    Is there a registry or policy switch for this?

    Using IE6 - I find no compelling reason to go to something newer and more bloated.

    Thanks.
    MS

  • Thanks so much for the tip (hold down ctrl key and use the mose scroll wheel) it worked and endedmy frustration

    Cheers

  • One way of fixing Internet Exploders issues is to STOP USING SUCH AN ANCIENT & TERRIBLE BROWSER!

    Use Firefox or Google Chrome you out of date dinosaurs!

    For developers wanting to fix the printed version of their sites, use a ‘print stylesheet’ or stop supporting ancient browsers and for gods sake use px as a measurement already, there is no excuse for using percentages of the browsers default and this will become a hassle if someone has set that default as something other than normal…

    If the user is using an old version of IE they basically deserve what they get…

  • Just had to say:

    Marc from 18 Aug 2009…
    “Using IE6 - I find no compelling reason to go to something newer and more bloated.”

    IE6 is just as bloated as any browser dude. And the fact that your using a browser which is almost 10 years out of date proves your incompetence as a web user. Stop posting to websites and buy a color television.

  • @trevor

    +1