fonts: what is a "point" in Linux/Gnome?

Richard Gaskin ambassador at
Sun Feb 28 16:57:28 EST 2010

The font prefs in Ubuntu (Gnome) show "10" as the default point size for 
most applications, including the fonts used in menus.

Yet in Rev, setting the textSize to "12" is still much smaller, and only 
when I bump it to "14" does it get even close to what Ubuntu considers "10".

So what is a "point" in font sizes in Ubuntu/Gnome, and why does it 
differ so radically from Rev's rendering of font sizes?

I suspect that Rev is using pixels for points, while Gnome is following 
a more resolution-independent definition of "point".  But note that on 
Win and OS X, both of which are resolution-independent OSes, Rev's point 
sizes match those of the OS almost perfectly.

This lends itself to a follow-up question:

Since the days of Motif, *NIX UIs have tended toward very large controls 
compared to their counterparts on Mac and Win.  While I appreciate the 
benefits of a larger target size, on balance it also seem a poor use of 
space, requiring common UI elements to take up much more of the screen 
real estate than they do on Mac and Win, and to that degree they take 
away focus from the user's content.

What accounts for this tendency toward uncommonly large control sizes?

And is there any hope that over the long term, as Linux become ever more 
gentrified, end-users will demand more of the screen space back and 
those making window managers will satisfy their audience with more 
conventional control sizes?

  Richard Gaskin
  Fourth World
  Rev training and consulting:
  Webzine for Rev developers:
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