Column Mode Sometimes Better Than Widespan

This page is about columns being easier to read than widespan text. See also TenWordLine.

ColumnModeSometimesBetterThanWidespan is a page about:

I suspect the main reason with "hard to read widespan stuff" is simply that our eyes can only move and concentrate on a certain length of text, before we lose our position and the eyes get lost.

However, there is a physical aspect to look at too: Our eyes can move horizontally much further than vertically. The shape of our eyes indicate this. Our eyes are more horizontal than vertical (oval opening spans horizontally). This is most likely because we live in a flat world (well, relatively).. rather than a vertical world. For hunting and survival, we'd need to scan the horizon, not look up at the sky.

So one could argue that when reading "source code" or when reading a web page should be more easy if laid out horizontally. According the the physical limits of our eyes, we are designed to scan horizontally. It appears this isn't true, however. Reading seems to be different than scanning a horizon. Scanning a horizon is not as focused and concentrated as reading.

I find it easy to read newspapers, and novel books, for example, compared to reading an essay on wide paper.

I don't find it easy to read essays, compared to say poems, either. It's not just the way the literature is written. It's the mechanical layout on paper, that our eyes have trouble reading. Poems, novels, and newspapers have column-like style. You can whip through a 1000 word article faster if it is written in several columns spanned across a wide page, than you can one long line, or 4 long lines. Yet it's still the same exact article. Just laid out differently.

One can read through a what I call "widespan layout" essay, since it spans across the page, albeit slowly. One finds their eye's getting lost when they go to the next line, continuing from the previous. Or if someone has a really really wide monitor, and that someone sets his/her resolution to 1600X1200, and he/she tries to read a webpage like wiki, he/she has problems. Our eyes lose interest when reading long lines spanned across the whole page. Or you can go to "" and compare it to "" (notice google uses narrow easy to read results, like a column. Alltheweb uses widespan, hard to read results).

The problem with many web pages today out there, is when they use whitespace (like google).. they waste space though, too. That's not necessarily the best answer (think about a newspaper). This could turn into a "how to make our web pages use the most space efficiently" discussion, too.

Whitespace, I know, is not the answer, because:

 this packs a lot         see here how      it is very easy 
 of information           there is more     to read. This text,
 on the page without      than one column   however, just one column 
 using whitespace         on the page and   spanning downward like
                                            this here,
                                            it just goes down
                                            and down and causes
                                            you to scroll down
                                            and down and down, 
                                            is not as efficient.
                                            But scrolling down-
                                            and down and down
                                            going down down 
                                            down and down more
                                            and more is easier than 
                                            reading one long line, even
                                            though the one long line
                                            may be saving space. This long long line that spans horizontally like this here it just goes on and on and on and your eyes have a lot of problems reading the  line efficiently. Think about squares compared to rectangles. Or think about a long line compared to a square with the same perimeter length as that  line.    

Newspapers, use the full page and don't waste any space. They make use of all the whitespace. Er... The whitespace is non existent. So how can we have our computer monitors display web pages the way we want? easy to read.. but not restrictive.. When a web page forces you to read in widespan -restrictive- i.e. html design, layout, structure - you can't just tell them (email the webmaster) to "change their page and make it easier for us to read". It could have other negative results anyway. Column mode websites, or websites with narrow text, for example, does not let us insert code snippets as easily as widespan. Some of the code may wrap to the next line (word wrap, forced wrap, etc.) in a column and muck up our code. I've noticed this on some webpages where they let you insert code snippets.. the page you are inserting the code snippet into, parses the code color syntaxing wrong, because of word wrap problems.

Making use of space, but still easy to read:


 This is easier to read
 because it is narrow and 
 you can whip through
 it very fast. Your eye 
 never gets lost at the
 end of a line


 This is not easier to read because it is not narrow and you can not whip through it very fast. Your eye gets lost at the end of a line. The line spans  quite a long way and you find it hard to reach all the way over to the beginning of the next line.  It is similar to reading's search  results versus's search results. If your monitor is set in 1600X1200 resolution, you may even have one gigantic long line of text here.  

This is not to be confused with websites that do not use tables correctly (percentages rather than pixels) where the line spans the whole page, and then some (horizontal scrolling).


I am working on a tool though that makes your monitor (or window) into "continued" virtual columns, when you want it to - splits the monitor into three, or four, or five columns. If you've ever used a dual monitor set up, it's kind of like that. There are times when dual monitors are for more efficient than a large single monitor, due to the layout and organization of two monitors, and the way the software interacts with the two monitors as opposed to one large monitor. Instead of using your monitor *wide* all the time, or forcing yourself to narrow your browser and waste valuable screen space, this tool I am thinking up would let you split one monitor into three virtual monitors, or virtual frames.. Each frame would be a continuation of the previous frame.. like in a dual monitor set up where you have one monitor "below" the other monitor. So when you resize, extend your browser downward; now instead of the monitor ending off where it does in real life, the monitor virtually extends to another column or frame on the same monitor. So instead of narrowing my browser when you read a "wide span" webpage.. you'd use the browser as if it was long and narrow, but spanned across three (or four, or two, or five, etc.) sections across the monitor -making efficient use of the screen. Really hard to explain. The right tool is the answer - that doesn't restrict things - and let's you attack any webpage that you want to customize on your monitor.

See also: TableOrientedProgramming

EditText of this page (last edited November 10, 2014) or FindPage with title or text search