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Re: Variable pitch text filling

From: Stefan Kangas
Subject: Re: Variable pitch text filling
Date: Wed, 1 Dec 2021 18:07:33 +0100

Lars Ingebrigtsen <larsi@gnus.org> writes:

> Yes, if we're distributing the extra space on the space characters only,
> we can use space specs.  But usually typesetters don't do that -- they
> also distribute some of the space between other characters, too, to get
> a more even "greyness".  (Or whatever they call it -- it's been a few
> years since I read up on typography last time.)

Graphical design software also hyphenate and use other non-trivial
tactics to get justified text right.

The main problem I see is that unless you go down that road seriously
it's easy to find a solution that'll look rather bad in many cases.
For example, IMHO most web browsers fail pretty badly at this, as does
many word processors.  For starters, they don't hyphenate, but just
add more space between words, which is exactly the thing you'd want to
avoid: you end up with "rivers" of whitespace in the text.

Try this in Firefox or some other web browser to see what I mean:

IMHO, I think we'd at the very least need a hyphenation feature to do
a somewhat proper job.  This is unfortunately hard to get right, as
hyphenation rules differ depending on languages, and there are even
different preferences within the same language (we have two main
methods for hyphenation in Swedish, both equally accepted).
Anecdotally, I have used Adobe InDesign extensively (proprietary
software, sorry) for book and magazine production, and over the years
I have amassed hundreds of custom rules for words where the default
hyphenation engine did a suboptimal job in my eyes.

That said, maybe we don't care to do better than, say, Firefox.  In
that case, the job is of course much simpler.

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