Posts tagged ‘Chrome’


And now, Chrome changes fonts on some numerals

14.12.2010

When I run a temperature or am sick, I try to find “lighter” things to do at work. Updating the information pages at the company website seemed to be the best thing: it’s not mentally taxing, but it has to be done.
   And in doing so I found even more problems with Chrome.
   I’m sure others have discovered this. Opera might change fonts when displaying quotation marks, apostrophes and ligatures, but, in situations that I cannot single out, Chrome has a problem with displaying numbers in the same font. Common-garden numbers in the oldest ASCII slots there are.
   Below are some excerpts from screen shots of pages where Chrome changes fonts for sevens and eights. That’s not the fonts doing this: one lot is the Lucire family, the other is Linotype’s Neue Helvetica. The latter is far more common than ours, and it’s installed on a lot of computers out there.
   These are from the Sitelevel search results’ pages. Your eyes are not deceiving you: those 7s are not Helvetica.

Changing fonts on Chrome

Changing fonts on Chrome

and from our own site, check out the 8:

Changing fonts on Chrome

   Fortunately, after redoing our page, Chrome seems to have changed its mind (although the body type is in a different weight of Lucire):

Chrome screen shot

   Andrew pointed out in one of his comments on this blog that some of our pages lacked a doctype for HTML, which helped with some layout issues (thank you, Andrew). Our old information page also lacked a doctype spec, but I can’t speak for the Sitelevel pages. Whatever the case, I can’t see why numerals will change for this much-favoured browser. It, and Opera, might be quicker than Firefox and IE, but these little things keep creeping up that I’m sure typographers will dislike.

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Duck Duck Go adds a Lucire bang

03.12.2010

Aside from writing a branding report today (which I will share with you once all contributors have OKed it), I received some wonderful news from Gabriel Weinberg of Duck Duck Go.
   Those who are used to the Duck will know that you can search using what he calls bangs—the exclamation mark. On Chrome, which has a minimalist design, I have set my default search engine to Duck Duck Go. But what if I wanted to search on Google?
   I can either do what is built in, and what Google suggests, by beginning my typing in the search box with the word Google. Or, I can simply add !g to the end of the query, which, I might add, is something you can do from Duck Duck Go itself, too.
   Of course, Google would prefer that I put all searches through them, but having Duck Duck Go as a default isn’t a bad idea.
   There’s a huge list of bangs that you can use at the Duck Duck Go website, which include !amazon (which will take you directly to an Amazon.com search), !gn (for Google News—this one is a godsend, especially for Chrome, which has made it much harder to search the news section, even if programmed into the search settings), !video (for YouTube), and !eb or !ebay (for Ebay).
   I’m glad to announce that Gabriel has taken on board a few of my suggestions for motoring and fashion publications, such as !autocar, !vogueuk, !jalopnik, !randt (Road and Track) and !lucire (had to get that one in).
   We’ll announce this on Lucire shortly, but readers already saw me announce, on Thursday, a nip–tuck of our Newsstand pages. That’s not really news, so I chose to complement it with a few other announcements.
   Since we were already fidgeting with that part of the site, Gabriel’s announcement prompted me to do some changes to the search pages, which were woefully out of date.
   The community home page was last designed four years ago, and that time, we just shifted the content over. Never mind that that content was also out of date, and included some letters to the editor that are no longer relevant. It had a link to the old forum, which only results in a PHP error. So today, I had all the old stuff stripped out, leaving us with a fairly minimalistic page.
   I didn’t plan on making a blog post out of it, so I never took screen shots of the process. But at left is one of the old page from Snap Shots, and long-time readers will recognize this as the website design we had many years ago. When we facelifted other parts of the site, this was left as is: it’s old-fashioned dynamic HTML and hasn’t been moved over to a content-management system.
   The new one may be a bit sterile (below), but it takes out all the extra bits that very few used: the Swicki, the Flickr gadget (we haven’t added anything to it since 2008), and a complex sign-up form for the Lucire Updates’ service. It’s been stripped to basics, but it now includes the obligatory links to Twitter, Facebook, Vkontakte and the RSS feed.

   Which brings us on to the search pages. These also have the updated look, but, importantly, I fixed a bug in the Perl script that kept showing the wrong month. Regardless of whether it was March or December, the script would show January:

   This is probably nothing to the actual computer hackers out there, but for a guy who has used an ATM only three times in his entire life (mainly because I lacked the local currency), this is a momentous occasion.
   It was one of those evening-tweaking cases where it was simpler for me to do it myself than to ask one of the programmers, and I managed to remedy something that had plagued our website for 10 years.

   The searches revealed a few strange links from long-expired pages, and here is where we might get in to a bit of discussion about online publishing.
   Once upon a time, it was considered bad form to have dead links, because people might point to them. Even more importantly, because a search engine might, and you could get penalized for having too many.
   This is why we’ve kept some really odd filenames. The reason the Lucire Community page is at lucire.com/email is that the link to a free email service we provided at the turn of the century was linked from there. Similarly, we still kept pages called content.htm, contents.shtml and editorial.shtml, even though these pages had not been updated for half a decade.
   There are now redirects from these pages, which were once also bad form as far as the search engines were concerned.
   But, given that search engines update so much more quickly in 2010, do we still need to bother about these outdated links? Will we still be penalized for having them? Should we not just simply delete them?
   If you look to the right of this blog at the RSS feed links, you’ll see some dead ones—there were more, but I have been doing online weeding here, too. It almost seems to be a given that people can remove things without warning and if you encounter a dead link, well, you know how to use a search engine.
   To me, it still seems a little on the side of bad manners to do that to your readers, but one might theorize that few care about that any more as many sites revamp on to CMSs to make life easier for themselves.

A side note: earlier this week, when weeding through dead links at Lucire, we noticed that many people had moved to CMSs, with the result that their sites began to look the same. Some put in excellent customizations, but many didn’t. And what is it with all the big type on the news sites and blogs these days? Is this due to the higher resolutions of modern monitors, or do they represent a change in reading habits?

PS.: The search script bug was fixed by changing $month[$mon] to simply $mon. Told you it was nothing, though I noticed that the site that we got the script from still has the bug.—JY

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Giving Chrome a thrashing, including its typography

19.11.2010

My friends Julian and Andrew both provided advice on how to fix the Firefox problems I had been having. Removing and reinstalling plug-ins seems to have solved the constant crashing, though eventually it stopped loading images whenever it felt like it (hit ‘Reload’ enough times and they would return) and Facebook direct messaging stopped working. It did crash a couple of times since their advice and, strangely, on pages without Flash animations (prior to that, it would almost always crash when Flash was around).
   I got rid of my old profile and created a new one (a lot easier than it looks, though some of the Mozilla help pages are lacking) and all seemed to be pretty stable. About the only thing it could not do was opening some Javascript windows, but then, that could be the remote site or the scripting.
   As Karen and I communicate via Facebook DMs during the day, not having the feature is a bit of a pain. I had to go into Opera to read her message to me—I recall how one of my friends had to change browsers just to use the now-dead Vox.com site. So, after some insistence from friends who do know better and are far more expert than me on web browsers (Nigel), I re-downloaded Chrome and gave it another shot.
   I’m going to continue using Firefox, too. It would be unfair after the phone calls from Julian and the DMs from Andrew if I didn’t. I want to see first-hand if their suggestions paid off, and I’m sure they’d like to know, too. But, I gave Chrome a good thrashing beginning 30 hours ago without any crashes (other than a page with a Flash plug-in that failed to load and needed four refreshes), though it must be said that in my first 30 hours with Firefox, it probably didn’t crash, either.
   I tried Chrome before I began my year of Google-bashing, and back then, it was about on a par with Firefox in terms of speed. And since Chrome didn’t have as many useful extensions, I decided that it really wasn’t worth the trouble of switching. After all, Firefox, then, was a fairly stable browser, in the pre-3·5 days. It was since 3·5 that the problems really started …
   Now, Chrome is the speed champion, by some degree. I always have an echo delay on Twitter; it’s unnoticeable on Chrome. Pages load more quickly. And if I dislike Google and I compliment them, you know it’s pretty good.
   There are some differences with the way it interprets CSS and HTML. The column on the right of this blog page is flush on Firefox and Internet Explorer, but there are some entries that jut out to the left on Chrome. (I know which CSS spec does this, too—I have to admit that on this, Chrome is likely right and Firefox and IE are wrong.) My company home page columns are less well balanced on Chrome, down to the way it handles tables—no widths are specified so I can’t really say who’s right and who’s wrong.
   Interface-wise, one pet peeve is the lack of a pull-down address bar. Since this has been part of browsers since Netscape 1, its omission goes against the habits of some web users, I am sure. My father relies on this, in particular: as a relatively new web user he doesn’t like typing URLs again and again. I, too, found myself getting annoyed that it wasn’t there. (Going through the Google forums and in searches, there are others who would like it appear in a future release of Chrome.)
   Andrew had a bit of a joke at my expense when I told him that I still used Google Toolbar, as a Google-hater. It is useful given that it has an “up” button (to go up one directory level), which neither Firefox nor Chrome has. Interestingly, there is no Google Toolbar for Chrome, which has made my Google News searches a bit harder. And with Duck Duck Go as my default search engine, that’s the only one Chrome searches with when I type a query in—though I can always search on Google by typing Google as the first word in my query.
   So functionally, Chrome doesn’t fully work with my habits.
   Now on to typography. Like Opera, glyphs on Chrome appear finer, which I like. And unlike Opera, Chrome doesn’t change fonts on you mid-line. And no sign of bitmaps, either!

   However, it is lacking in some cases versus Firefox. The font menu (above) is incomplete, for starters. The PostScript fonts I have are gone, which is fair enough, given that PS1 is obsolete. But a lot of my OpenType and TrueType fonts are also missing.
   Granted, I have more fonts installed than the average person, but there’s neither rhyme nor reason for which ones are omitted. Adobe Caslon and Adobe Garamond aren’t there. My Alia and Ætna aren’t there. And that’s just the As. But I can choose from Andale Mono and ITC Avant Garde Book. Not really much of a choice.
   The last two browsers I remember that limited the typeface choice were Netscape 6 and Internet Explorer 5. IE5 also was PS1-free, but there was no OpenType in those days. My choices were limited, but I lived with it. But to have Chrome’s selectiveness over OpenType and TrueType is a bit strange, to say the least.
   I’ve noted this on the Google forums which, as you may recall, was where my whole frustration with Google began. As expected, no one gives a damn. But rather no one than an argumentative a****** whose job, it seems, is to obstruct and disbelieve rather than assist and empathize.
   Funnily enough, even though the Lucire family that we use in-house is missing from the menus, guess what Chrome displays a lot of sites in? You got it: Lucire 1. This is most likely due to the font substitute set I have programmed in to our computers (this is why I found it odd that Opera failed to make the substitution when I tested it). In fact, everything you would expect to be in Verdana comes out in Lucire 1. I’m not sure why Verdana has been substituted (it’s Arial that’s substituted in the registry), but I rather like this serendipity on Chrome. Imagine: all of Facebook and WordPress in a typeface you designed. I simply find Lucire 1 easier to read than Verdana (sorry, Matthew and Vinnie) and that suits me to a T.
   However, this leads to other problems. While IE, Firefox and Opera are quite happy to switch to another font to display non-Latin text, when the chosen font lacks those glyphs, Chrome doesn’t. As I never made non-Latin glyphs for Lucire 1, then everything in Cyrillic, Greek and Chinese—the three non-Latin languages I encounter in a given week—comes out as dots. In fact, the dots seem to emerge in the strangest places (this example from Tumblr):

Chrome displays a lot of dots

I thought they were the hard spaces till I realized that this blog entry’s paragraph indents are made up of them (it’s not a CSS spec!). They appear at the strangest places and I can only assume this is linked to Chrome’s incompatibility with (or omission of) some OpenType fonts.
   For the overwhelming majority of users, Chrome is perfectly fine. Downloading it does not add an extra entry on my Google Dashboard, so, as far as that company is concerned, there’s no immediate connection between my use of this product and the privacy issues that it has suffered from this year. Users can turn off crash reports so Google doesn’t know where you’ve been. Most people also don’t care about typography to the same degree as I do, and again Chrome delivers there, if you want a basic, no-frills browser. It has its quirks, but, then, every browser does. I have always preferred the clean interface in Chrome to the others, so that’s another bonus.
   I’m still not prepared to make it my default browser yet. You can’t get me on to the dark side just yet. The advantage it would have over a crash-free Firefox (if such a thing exists) is speed, and I’m still not 100 per cent seduced by its charms. It’s not like the case for IE5 over Netscape 6—a browser that leapt ahead versus a piece of bloatware. Nor is it like the case of Firefox 3 over IE7. But if Google has improved Chrome’s speed this much since I originally downloaded it, and such a pace continues, it might make a very firm case for itself in the very near future.

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Posted in design, internet, technology, typography, USA | 5 Comments »