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HTML font size: why can't I increase it on some web pages?


My eyes being what they are, I find reading a larger font size on web pages
much more enjoyable than what looks like size 8 on some of them. In Outlook if
I click on “View” and then “Text Size”, sometimes I can enlarge the text. Other
times it doesn’t change. Once upon a time someone told me the problem was with
the programmers that constructed the page. True? If so, is there anything that
could be done to help (minus of course the magnify procedures/software)?

That someone is correct. It’s quite possible, and unfortunately quite
common, to author a web page or parts of a web page in such a way that it
ignores the “View”, “Text-Size” option in Internet Explorer (and by extension,
I believe Outlook and Outlook Express).

Why would a web page designer do that? Typically doing so solves a couple of problems
and makes it easier to make sure that web page is laid out
and displayed properly.

But there are still several ways around the problem.

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If you’re running Internet
Explorer version 6 and change the text size, the text on this page likely won’t change.
For various reasons, pages here on Ask Leo! are encoded to a specific text size.
Unfortunately, that’s a problem for some people – even I have troubles sometimes, and my
eyesight is quite normal for my age. (And I’ll admit that I shouldn’t be doing it, for exactly those reasons.)

There are several work arounds:

Use Firefox: Firefox’s Text Size function does “the right
thing”, and scales or reduces all the text, regardless of how it’s encoded.
Have a look at this page in FireFox, and note how you can resize it.

Consider IE7: I’m not recommending this at this
time, since IE7 is still in Beta.
However I have heard that it currently has a “zoom”-like feature that acts as a
magnifier on an entire web page, not just the text. Remember, though, that it’s
currently in Beta and the feature set may change before release.

Change your System: The font displayed in your browser is
relative to something called the DPI, or “Dots Per Inch” setting for your
display. One way to make everything larger on your machine is to
increase the DPI settings. That’s covered in this article: How can I make the text on
my screen larger?

Now, you mentioned Outlook, and I’m not sure if that was on purpose or not.
Outlook, and Outlook Express are email programs, while Internet Explorer is
your web browser, and what we’ve been talking about so far.

“…HTML formatted email can also be written to restrict
your ability to change the text size, just like a web page.”

However, intentional or not, it’s good that you mention it, because Outlook
(and Outlook Express) suffer the same problem. Why? Because they use the same
“engine” as Internet Explorer when they display HTML formatted email.

And of course HTML formatted email can also be written to restrict your
ability to change the text size, just like a web page.

And the solutions are similar:

Use Thunderbird for email: Thunderbird’s Text Size function
does “the right thing”, and scales or reduces all the text, regardless of how
it’s encoded. Other email clients may also handle this properly.

Consider newer versions of Outlook or Outlook Express:
again, I’m not recommending this at this time, since if they’re
available at all, they’re only in Beta and the feature set is not cast in
concrete. I also don’t know if installing IE7 will affect existing versions of
Outlook or Outlook Express.

Change your System: as above, this works because it changes
the text size for your entire system, no mater what program you’re running.

The last suggestion is one that I tend to avoid, but I’ll throw it out on
the table: even though your display may be capable of 1200×1024 resolution
doesn’t mean you have to use it. Selecting a lower resolution, say 1024×768,
will make everything appear bigger as that resolution takes up the same
physical space that the 1200×1024 did. Now, the downside here is that things
can start to look less sharp – particularly if you’re using an LCD display.
That’s typically why I recommend playing with the DPI settings instead.

Do this

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11 comments on “HTML font size: why can't I increase it on some web pages?”

  1. You forgot another possibility… Some websites use images, rather than text, for some parts of their pages. (Try selecting the text. If you can’t, it may be because it’s not really text.) No amount of “use a larger font” will have any effect on such sites.

    Some browsers, such as Opera, allow you to magnify everything on the page, including images.

  2. A big “Thank You” to Judy T. for that tip which will save me a lot of clicking. Is there as easy way to get back to the original size?

  3. CTRL + wheel does not enlarge fixed-size text when using IE.

    Using Opera, resizing text could not be easier. Simply clicking the + key on the 10-key pad will instantly enlarge everything on the screen about 10% per click, including small fixed-size text.

    To return to normal size, simply click the * key on the 10-key pad.

  4. Re your column about html type sizes. I am using IE 7, and it is well out of Beta. You might want to update this answer. I have also found that it is a snap to increase (or decrease) the size of the type face.

  5. I’m sorry but your blog really sucks on this subject. Changing DPI is NOT acceptable in my situation. It’s up to people like you to change your bad html coding habits, just as much as it’s up to the visitor to find ways around such a lack of consideration.

  6. Thanks to Michael H. This setting works not only for IE6, but also Outlook 2003 where it bothered me the most. I am bound to both apps & versions at work ( not my choice / standard build ). I know this thanks is aobut 2 years late. I found this article via Google. My search was “magnify outlook html”. Hope those keywords help someone else.

  7. >> Thanks to Michael H. This setting works not
    >> only for IE6, but also Outlook 2003 where it
    >> bothered me the most.

    Arrrgg – This setting now breaks the ability to specify a font size on emails I compose in HTML format!!! The only way I can send formatted emails to my customer ( who uses Lotus Notes ) is to use HTML messages. If I send Rich Text messages, they are converted to plain text. Once I “Ignore Font Sizes” — Outlook TOTATLY Ignored font sizes in HTML mail, INCLUDING mail I compose!!!

    So – something I tought I loved just came with a bad aftertaste.

  8. Of a sudden the text overlaps each line of type making the page difficult to read. There is no space between lines.This happens on a lot of pages but not on all. What gives?


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