Note to Apple: Justified text decreases readability.

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    Safari 5's new "Reader" feature makes my site less readable by justifying the text. Flush-left text (aka ragged-right) is demonstrably more readable, especially when the rendering engine doesn't know how to hyphenate. You never, ever justify text without hyphenation.

    Justified text was invented to define columns of text in multi-column layouts (like newspapers). Why they chose to justify the text in a 1-coumn view that's supposed to be more readable is beyond me.

    Please fix.

    gruber, alexanderbain, Tiago S Costa, and 2 other people added this photo to their favorites.

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    1. Neven Mrgan 95 months ago | reply

      So, why does every printed book in the world - including Bringhurst - fully justify text? :)

    2. rosejonescolour 95 months ago | reply

      Is this based on some study that I didn't catch? I'm not claiming to be a design guru, and based on 20 minutes of reading I can't tell which is "easier" to read, but just looking at the justified page is more aesthetically pleasing to my eye. Not looking for a fight, but isn't this just a preference? The more I talk with design types, the more I learn there is no such thing as preferences...

    3. navitronic 95 months ago | reply

      Oh I know, it would be great if it was a) done right first time, b) at least a preference.

      Just a short term fix. Annoying if you use multiple computers also.

    4. DanBenjamin 95 months ago | reply

      I think the issue Derek is bringing to light is that SafariReader doesn't justify intelligently.

      Printed books justify correctly, using hyphenation and smart spacing for legibility. Newspapers use multiple columns, and also hyphenate correctly.

      SafariReader (currently) does not use hyphenation at all, and the spacing its justification creates decreases a site's readability.

      And speaking of readability, I'm sticking with the Readability bookmarklet, which does the same thing to any web page, without the justification.

    5. Gen Kanai 95 months ago | reply

      I'm also a Readability fan. I used to be an Apple fan but these days less so.

      That Jobs is on one hand launching iAds to target anyone who has an Apple device, and then on the other hand putting in crap like "Reader" that strips out the ads on websites, is telling.

    6. pr9000 95 months ago | reply

      Do the ads not show up at all during Reader? They do on my install of Safari 5 ... I wonder how that fact affects sites' revenue streams?

    7. paulmcaleer 95 months ago | reply

      Like you Derek, I'm not thrilled with full justification and more importantly I wonder where it comes from. I'm hoping it's not from a designer who looked at the current Safari Reader and said, "Everything lines up in a neat box!"

      In other words, did Apple put raw aesthetics over usability here?

      (To echo mare's comment, they also killed off those ridiculous title bar tabs from Safari 4 beta - so there's hope.)

    8. HaxMephit 95 months ago | reply

      I prefer the justified text and was extremely and specifically pleased Apple made Reader this way. As I get older, justified text is infinitely easier to read as long as the column width is not so wide that my eye loses track of the left edge. Ragged right text just looks lazy and sloppy, to my eye at least. I realize I may be in a minority.

      Just my 0.02$

    9. xof999 95 months ago | reply

      So, first, I agree with you: ragged-right would be far superior.

      But, um, dude, have you looked at your site in the original? Medium-grey thin sans serif font on a dark background? To anyone with less than absolutely perfect vision, it's pretty much a wavy illegible pattern on dark gray. With Reader, I can actually read your blog, justified right edge or not.

    10. stevebert 95 months ago | reply

      I hate to burst your bubble, but I find the Safari Reader version of your site MUCH easier to read than your version. It may be argued, all other things being equal, that unjustified text may be slightly easier to read than justified. Maybe. But throw in the use of small, low contrast, colored, non-serif fonts, combined with charcoal background and wide margins sends my fingers to the Reader button in 0.5 seconds!

    11. Olivier Roux 95 months ago | reply

      Just one bit of info here: you all react according to your US/UK/English-language countrie/cultures, but in many European countries, text is ALWAYS justified. As French, I'm always hurt to see large articles ragged-right.
      That does not mean I don't think that justified text without hyphenation is ugly, but still...

    12. poisontofu 95 months ago | reply

      @Neven: Because they also hyphenate! Bringhurst does, at least.

      See also:

    13. fvsch [deleted] 95 months ago | reply

      “But in many European countries, text is ALWAYS justified. As French, I'm always hurt to see large articles ragged-right.”

      Yeah, which is why French webdesign tends to suck big time. Of course, by now most French webdesigners have figured out that justified text on websites is evil, especially for narrow or medium-width columns. So it’s getting better.

      I would like to challenge this assertion a bit: it might be that French people tend to prefer justified text, and use justified text a lot in word processors, but i’m not sure Europeans are more inclined towards justified text than Americans. Every single UK- or US-published novel i’ve bought uses justified text, you know.

      Disclaimer: i’m French, and ragged-right text does not hurt my eyes.

    14. fraying 95 months ago | reply

      My site is a personal site. If you don't like it, don't read it.

      My point still stands, though. Apple has made a seriously bad decision here. I hope they correct it.

    15. Mradyfistf 95 months ago | reply

      You know, it would be nice if the word "demonstrably" linked to something which demonstrated what you claimed. I was kind of expecting an interesting article on ragged-right versus justified; I personally would assume that justified text would be less problematic in a full-screen one column situation when compared to smaller columns.

    16. velorg 95 months ago | reply

      @Neven: you can not compare justified printed text column in newspapers and books, text with hyphenation, proper kerning and high ppi density [~1200ppi] to unkerned, unhyphenated justified column on a low-density computer screen. Narrow, properly typeset columns abet scannability in newspapers; a single onscreen unhyphenated, yet justified column defeats the purpose.

      @All of you, who find Reader's justified text "just fine": I presume you all have 20/20 vision and are pretty young. But bump the text size up a couple of steps [Cmd-+], watch the justification take over and create "white holes" in the text flow, sometimes also called rivers. That's how unreadable Reader-transformed text becomes. Also study last line of first para of mare's comment [class over].

    17. hl2run 95 months ago | reply

      You can fix it by yourself, go to


      Edit the Reader.html

    18. velorg 95 months ago | reply

      @Mradyfistf: "kind of expecting an interesting article on ragged-right versus justified"

      This is the wrong forum for that kind of discussion; let's just say that precisely because a text column is unjustified (=right- or left-ragged), the eyes, which scan text lines in saccades of 50-something letters at a throw, find it easier to determine the extent of the scan, the uneven line ends (or, in case of left-ragged, beginnings). This is no laughing matter. Observe that other principles apply to [properly typeset/ hyphenated/ kerned single-column] books, magazines and newspapers than to generally low-density, unsophisticated onscreen typography.

    19. daltonrooney [deleted] 95 months ago | reply

      The new version of iBooks includes support for ragged right text. I don't know if it's turned on by default, but it's definitely in there.

      I prefer Instapaper to Reader anyway. It would be cool if Marco could borrow the feature where all pages in a multi-page article are automatically downloaded, though. Nothing's worse than being on the subway and realizing you only have the first page of a really interesting 5 page article.

    20. j f p 95 months ago | reply

      Agree, no justification please.

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