Three out of four major Web browsers now support FullScreen mode

I’m grateful to Richard Fink for tipping me off to the fact that Beta 2 of Google’s Chrome browser now supports a FullScreen mode (keyboard shortcut F11) in which you can make all browser chrome disappear, leaving only the content you want to read.

It may seem trivial to you, but it’s clear to me from all the experiments I’ve done over many years that when you really want to read something, anything which appears on the screen other than the actual content is a distraction.

You can’t help it – none of us can. We’re all Homo sapiens Version 1.0, with a hunter-gatherer perception system which uses foveal vision to read, but whose peripheral vision remains highly sensitive to data – especially from the extreme left and right edges of our visual field.

Think about it. Anything appearing in those areas has the potential to be a serious threat to our safety in the natural environment in which our perception developed. Our brains have developed a hair-trigger for data appearing here, so that our “fight or flight” response can be tripped in order for us to act quickly enough to avoid danger.

The problem with FullScreen today, though, is that almost no content exists which has been optimized for it. Full Screen on the laptop on which I’m writing this means 1440 x 900 pixels. On your screen, it could be 1024 x 768, 1920 x 1200, or some other configuration.

Even worse, the pixels themselves are not absolute measurements. They could be 1/96th of an inch square, 1/147th of an inch square, even 1/208th of an inch square. What that means is that any area described in pixel dimensions by a designer assuming 96ppi could actually end up being only one-quarter of the size on someone else’s machine!

This is why I’m so insistent on the need for adaptive layout on the Web. We need a layout system which:
  1. Uses absolute, not relative, measurements.
  2. Interrogates the operating system and determines actual screen size and pixel pitch.
  3. Translates the absolute measurements of the original design into pixel dimensions for the actual display being used.
  4. Determines the optimum number of columns for best readability on that particular display given the text-size the user prefers for reading.
  5. Has much more granularity than today’s browser “Text size” options (you should be able to pick 10 point or 11 point for body text, for example).
  6. Lays out the content accordingly – in pages, not in a bottomless scrolling window.

It all sounds like a tall order, and a lot of work. But it isn’t rocket-science, and much of it has already been done in proprietary formats like Windows Presentation Foundation and Adobe AIR. It’s time we had the same thing on the Web.

FullScreen support is only a small part of what’s needed. But it’s another brick in the wall. I hope Safari will get on board soon. It should be easy, since it’s using the same Webkit as Chrome…


11 thoughts on “Three out of four major Web browsers now support FullScreen mode

  1. Bill Hill

    @bowerbird:I’ve looked at your work, and I realize you dislike viewer programs which switch number-of-columns. Perhaps this is because you are very focused on books; the wiki is certainly totally concerned with them.I would argue that – especially on many of the wide-screen laptops – a three-column layout might improve the readability even of books.I think there is a generally-agreed optimum range for line width (so long as it’s adjusted to take account of reader text-size preference and other factors).I’d like to be able to build some real examples. Maybe I could change your mind – or my own 🙂

  2. bowerbird

    bill-i’ve built 3-column viewer-apps as well.and you’re right, with a wide screen,they can be acceptable.but i want to be able to have the control.if i want to specify 2 columns, or 3, or 9,that’s fine.what i have find disconcerting is whenthe viewer-program changes it on me.of course, it probably doesn’t help thatthe most recent example — adobe’s”digital editions” — is so _bad_ at it…its decisions about “optimal” are…well, let’s just say it and i disagree.-bowerbird

  3. Bill Hill

    Please don’t judge the principle of adaptive layout by what you see as a poorly-executed example.Fact is there’s a major disconnect on the Web – no designer can possibly know up front the characteristics of the screen on which her site is being viewed.I think this is a good single-subject for a blog post. I’ve done a lot of thinking around this issue. I’ll try to write this up this week.

  4. bowerbird

    bill said:> Please don't judge the > principle of adaptive layout > by what you see as a > poorly-executed example.i'm not. i'm judging it bythe fact that i've never seena well-executed example…nor been able to make onemyself, despite trying…i can get kinda close, butnot without the naggingfeeling that it would bemuch better to simplylet the person decide,rather than decidingfor them. i will sayit is _imperative_ thatyou give the user an"override" capability,for when your routinesfail their preferences…> Fact is there's a major > disconnect on the Web – > no designer can possibly > know up front the > characteristics of the > screen on which her > site is being viewed.but "digital editions" isprogrammed under "air",so i believe it _does_indeed know all that…-bowerbird

  5. Richard Fink

    I’ve posted a sample of the kind of desktop eReader I’ve been posting about:ereader-fink1.zipPoints of interest:It uses two kinds of font-embedding. The first is EOT linking using the CSS @font-face spec. The second uses VML rendering via javascript with the Cufon font-replacement system.The foundation of the pages is a two-column template – reworked by me – of a template featured on the site of artist and designerMatthew James Taylor(Does some interesting, off-beat work.)The demo is crude. A first shot. But the foundation for what I envision is all there.I will let it speak for itself except to say that there are many features necessary to a finished product missing and, of course, a clunkiness and lack of visual polish that always shows on a first try.The main thing to me, was a proof-of-concept. Building a standards-based foundation conducive to book-like material and friendly to progressive enhancement, and graceful degradation.To install:Unzip to a folder created on the C: drive of your machine. (Necessary for the EOT files to work.)Just click on the .exe and follow the alert prompts.All should work. Windows only. The app uses whatever version of IE is installed on your machine. IE7 is OK. IE8 even better. IE6 iffy – didn’t check for that.There is also a readme file.@Bowerbird:For some reason the comments on this thread breezed right by me and I wasn’t aware of your Wiki.I’ve looked over briefly, your specs. Will go deeper.@BillThere’s also some stuff you’ve posited here that’s certainly begs for more discussion.Later…

  6. Richard Fink

    @bowerbirdFor starters, I want to be able to read “Moby Dick” on my laptop and actually enjoy it because the experience isn’t hampered by poor typography and layout.That’s good for starters, but there’s much, much more.The reading experience I envision will be much better than reading from paper could ever be.As Jakob Nielsen puts it, Better Than Reality

  7. bowerbird

    richard-that’s too vague for me.are we just swapping demos here?that would be fine.i’d prefer to be more constructive,but demo-swapping is fine too…if we’re going to do more, though,we need to decide on a corpus,so everyone uses the same text,and we need to decide on whatconstitutes poor layout/typography.-bowerbird


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