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I think one of the things that makes tricky stuff hard to format is that the preview pane uses a different font/size than the edit box.

Could we make these the same, so that we can get those fine formatting details exact?

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I wouldn't want the edit box to switch away from a fixed-width font for editing. I think that would get far more annoying than the difference in fonts. –  jjnguy Jun 16 '11 at 15:41
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I think fixed-width text in the editor is essential for making spacing proper. I'm not sure how I feel about making the text of the preview (and consequently, the posts themselves) be fixed-width, however, but it makes my eyes uneasy to think about it. –  Grace Note Jun 16 '11 at 15:42

3 Answers 3

I think one of the things that makes tricky stuff hard to format is that the preview pane uses a different font/size than the edit box.

Could we make these the same, so that we can get those fine formatting details exact?

So you want a way to make sure that your text says aligned? Am I missing a finer detail here? Because as far as I can see, the edit box and the page use the same font size, for fixed-width fonts.

You know you can force fixed width by pre-inserting four blank spaces before your text? Then you get this:

1234567890123456789012345678901234567890123456789012345678901234567890
1         1         1         1         1         1         1         
Look      Ma        I         Have      Alignment !

The reason for using non-aligning text in the regular body is that it is easier to read non-aligning text than it is to read aligned text. That's why western-scripts have developed a non-uniform-width format as our adopted standard. Additionally, I want you to compare reading this paragraph with the next one.

When all the letters are the same width it causes more stress
on your eyes to read the letters, because we read by taking in clumps
at a time and looking for patterns that we already know. It's
the brains way of getting results faster, and it's why people
who normally read fast can read faster than people who never
try on their own.

Which paragraph was "easier" to read? Did that one jutting out word keep causing you issues while reading?

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It might behoove me to point out that while you can type in fixed-width and get non-fixed-width on the page, it's a lot harder to start with non-fixed-width and align like fixed-width ends up. That's why the answer box is fixed-width to begin with. And a wysiwyg editor would just screw things up. –  jcolebrand Jun 16 '11 at 16:19

I'm sure you (Lance) know, but for other readers:

The regular web sites are not the only way the questions and answers are shown. If formatting is that tricky, then one might be making things hard to read on the mobile site, on screen readers, or on any other usage of the data dumps and API.

(Hence, I don't care for matching fonts.)

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The fixed-width font is better for entering in the information. The font shown in the preview (and thus the answer/question) is much easier on the eyes to read.

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