01 June 2008

Screen Productivity

* The Following does not necessarily apply to code (as I do like nice wide code lines)*

So I was wondering why my girlfriend has been using her tablet-pc in wide screen mode instead of collapsing it to portrait. Not just wide screen mode but collapsing the power point presentations she studies off of to 1/4 of the screen. This seemed an odd behavior to myself who has at any given time made it a point to take up as much screen real estate as possible for the task I am on. So i asked her (this post is a retrospective on that conversation)...

Why do newspapers still use Column Typography? And what do those narrow columns have to do with your screens real estate. Well as it turns out your eyes get tired of moving back and forth over too long a line. Also if a line is too long, as your eyes scan the line and move to the next, it is more challenging for them to find the correct next line (don't you just hate when a large list of information is not alternate-highlighted). This effect impacts the amount you take back from the viewing area in question. The same concept in perspective is why I have always chosen to sit toward the back edge of a theater, so that my eyes are not constantly scanning the action on the screen and that the screen is confined to a particular viewing area. This allows one to "take in" all of the information simultaneously.

It has a lot to do with character recognition: Pretend you are zoomed in seeing a farmer walking through a "folded corn husk" phenomena. As you zoom out you see plainly that he's standing in a crop circle. When you read a word like "board" your brain processes the "b" first and then the "d", the "oar" is filled in by you brain as you read rapidly. The "oar" does not even need to be complete. When you read "b[]ard" quickly and move on to the next word you don't even feel the letter "o" changed to "[]" affecting your speedy read.

The spacing matters because the horizontal span of the word has to be small in your visual field in order for you to recognize these letters ("oar") as a character group and preform a rapid recognition of that word ("b" + "d" + "oar"), if the horizontal span is too long (i.e. the letters/spacing is too big: " b o a r d ") you are forced to sound out the word letter by letter or at very least group character recognition is slowed.

The moral of this story is that if you are trying to take in a large bit of information quickly shrink that pdf window down to a readable scale (small book print, or whatever your eyes are good with) and don't rely on your full screen 17 laptop let you soak it in quickly.
So let come the time of smaller fonts (but not too small), higher resolutions (but not to high), higher dpi screens (way way higher!), and tiny screens (but not too tiny)!

A little further proof:

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