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4.6. HTML's Expanded Font Handling

We agonized over including this section in a prominent position within this chapter, or relegating it to the end. It belongs here because the various tags associated with the extended font model for HTML were part of the 3.2 standard. And they remain very popular with HTML authors, besides being well-supported by all the popular browsers. Yet they have been deprecated in the HTML 4 and XHTML 1.0 standards, warranting banishing the whole section to the end of the chapter with all the implicit red flags.

We suspect the W3C wants authors to use style sheets, not acute tags, for explicit control of font styles, colors, and sizes of the text characters. That's why these extended font tags and related attributes have fallen into disfavor. We put this section here because we doubt that the majority of HTML authors will stop using, nor that the popular browsers will any time soon abandon support for, tags that are in such widespread use. Just be aware of their precarious position in the language.

4.6.2. The <basefont> Tag (Deprecated)

The <basefont> tag lets you define the basic size for the font that the browser will use to render normal document text. We can't recommend that you use it since it has been deprecated in the HTML 4 and XHTML standards.



Define base font size for relative font size changes







End tag:

</basefont>; often omitted in HTML



Used in:

block, head_content

The <basefont> tag has a single attribute recognized by all current browsers, size, whose value determines the document's base font size. It may be specified as an absolute value from 1 to 7, or as a relative value by placing a plus or minus sign before the value. In the latter case, the base font size is increased or decreased by that relative amount. The default base font size is 3.

Internet Explorer supports two additional attributes for the <basefont> tag: color and name. HTML 4 also defines the face attribute as a synonym for the name attribute. These attributes control the color and typeface used for the text in a document and are used just like the analogous color and face attributes for the <font> tag, described later.

HTML 4 also defines the id attribute for the <basefont> tag, allowing you to label the tag uniquely for later access to its contents. Section, "The id attribute"

Authors typically include the <basefont> tag in the head of an HTML document, if at all, to set the base font size for the entire document. Nonetheless, the tag may appear nearly anywhere in the document, and it may appear several times throughout the document, each with a new size attribute. With each occurrence, the <basefont> tag's effects are immediate and hold for all subsequent text.

In an egregious deviation from the HTML and SGML standards, the browsers interpret the ending </basefont> tag not to terminate the effects of the most recent <basefont> tag. Instead, the </basefont> end tag resets the base font size to the default value of 3, which is the same as writing <basefont size=3>.

The following example source and Figure 4-13 illustrate how Internet Explorer responds to the <basefont> tag and </basefont> end tag:

Unless the base font size was reset above,
Inernet Explorer renders this part in font size 3.
<basefont size=7>
This text should be rather large (size 7).
<basefont size=6> Oh, 
<basefont size=4> no! 
<basefont size=2> I'm 
<basefont size=1> shrinking!
Ahhhh, back to normal.
Figure 4-13

Figure 4-13. Playing with <basefont>

We recommend against using </basefont>; use <basefont size=3> instead.

4.6.3. The <font> Tag (Deprecated)

The <font> tag lets you change the size, style, and color of text. We don't recommend that you use it because it has been deprecated in the HTML 4 and XHTML standards. But should you decide to ignore our advice, then use it like any other physical or content-based style tag for changing the appearance of a short segment of text.



Set the font size for text











End tag:

</font>; always used



Used in:


To control the color of text for the entire document, see the attributes for the <body> tag described in Section 5.3.1, "Additions and Extensions to the <body> Tag". The size attribute

The value of the size attribute must be one of the virtual font sizes (1-7) described earlier, defined as an absolute size for the enclosed text or preceded by a plus or minus sign (+ or -) to define a relative font size that the browser adds to or subtracts from the base font size (see the <basefont> tag, section 4.6.2). The browsers automatically round the size to 1 or 7 if the calculated value exceeds either boundary.

In general, use absolute size values when you want the rendered text to be an extreme size, either very large or very small, or when you want an entire paragraph of text to be a specific size.

For example, using the largest font for the first character of a paragraph makes for a crude form of illuminated manuscript (see Figure 4-14):

<font size=7>C</font>all me Ishmael.
Figure 4-14

Figure 4-14. Exaggerating the first character of a sentence with the size attribute for <font>

Also, use an absolute font when inserting a delightfully unreadable bit of "fine" print -- boilerplate or legalese -- at the bottom of your documents (see Figure 4-15):

<font size=1>
All rights reserved. Unauthorized redistribution of this document is 
prohibited. Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors, not the 
Internet Service Provider.
Figure 4-15

Figure 4-15. Use the tiniest font for boilerplate text

Except for the extremes, use relative font sizes to render text in a size different than the surrounding text, to emphasize a word or phrase, for example (see Figure 4-16):

Make sure you <font size=+1>always</font> sign and date the form!
Figure 4-16

Figure 4-16. Use relative sizes for most text embellishments

If your relative size change results in a size greater than 7, the browser uses font 7. Similarly, font sizes less than one are rendered with font 1.

Notice that specifying size=+1 or size=-1 is identical in effect to the <big> and <small> respectively. However, nested relative changes to the font size are not cumulative as they are for the alternative tags. Each <font> tag is relative to the base font size, not the current font size. For example (see Figure 4-17):

The ghost moaned, "oo<font size=+1>oo<font size=+2>oo<font 

Contrast this with the <big> tag, which increases the size one level as you nest the tags. Section 4.5.2, "The <big> Tag"

Figure 4-17

Figure 4-17. Relative font sizes accumulate

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