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The SO sites display with a set width to them. Could we get the display to autosize based on the actual screen display space? Either automatically, or maybe user-configurable?

I'm not a web-programmer, so I don't know how possible this is or not.

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+1 for size of browser window, whereas too many (erroneously) seem to think they should base things on the size of my computer screen. – Arjan Mar 2 '10 at 22:04

2 Answers 2

I'd hate this, for a number of reasons:

  • I like being able to size my browser window to hide the panel on the right without losing question/answer size now and then (mainly when I'm working on two things at once).
  • I like knowing approximately how my answers will look in terms of paragraph size and so forth
  • I like knowing that syntax highlighter wrapped things correctly
  • Mostly, I like that this helps encourage brevity in code samples - if the sample is long enough that you're losing code for nesting reasons, it's time to re-focus your thoughts and pare down to just what's relevant to the problem.
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I never thought of it in terms of getting the answer to look a certain way (which I always work hard on also). I'll have to think about that one. – Lance Roberts Mar 2 '10 at 21:43
I hate scrolling to the right to read long code lines, some of which can't be shortcutted well. – Lance Roberts Mar 2 '10 at 21:45

As suggested in this similar question, this may be a realm for user stylesheets or a greasemonkey script.

Changing the actual design from fixed to fluid presents a number of difficulties, not the least of which is, along the lines of Joel's point, the kind of uglifying stretch that big width tends to give to text content. A reading area too narrow or too wide tends to make reading more difficult and less pleasant, and I think SO has hit on a good balance. That being said, it's not impossible to make an elastic layout that approximates the current layout and still caps the width at a usable level. We have min-width, we have max-width (mostly), and we have math to figure percentages.

But I doubt that will be or will be perceived to be a trivial update. Fixed width sites have a sort of stability and ease (using percentages means stopping to figure percentages when you update/edit, and worrying about how browsers might screw it up) that is hard to rival. On the other side of things, a user-stylesheet solution has the advantage of only being concerned about one browser (typically), and one user's preferences.

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