tiistai 24. marraskuuta 2009


The browser, called MicroB (Get it? Microbe!) is advertised as being the best on any mobile device anywhere. I agree to a certain extent. I've used the iPhone for years and then had a brief run in with a HTC Hero, before the N900 was released.

The screen on the N900 is very wide (800 x 480). This obviously allows the browser to show webpages as they were designed to be shown. It's not long ago when everyone was still designing their sites for 800 x 600. Herein lies a problem: Any webpage that is 800 pixels wide and fully zoomed out, has text that is too small to read on the N900. So, of course we zoom in. But if the site has columns that are wide enough to cover almost the entire 800 pixels, we have to start scrolling sideways the minute we start to zoom in. So it's a choice between sideways scrolling or text that is too small to read.

The iPhone has a portrait-mode screen, so if the site uses a relative layout, making the text column for instance 80% of the browser width, the columns still won't be very wide. The HTC Hero reflows all textareas so that sideways scrolling is (almost) never required. The N900 does neither and I ended up sideways scrolling on quite a lot of pages.

The best solution, it would seem, is to choose a larger font. You can change this from the "easily" accessible Menu -> options -> adjust view -> text size -> Large. This won't make the columns wider, so the text can be made big enough to read without side scrolling.

Another solution would be to demand kindly ask for reflowing of lines in a future update, like other mobile browsers do, but hey, this is supposed to be the real desktop deal, so changing the layout to make webpages easier to read, might not be part of the plan.

Another irritating thing, that will probably be fixed in the future is the issue of kerning. Take a look at this screenshot:

I've underlined some pretty bad parts, but you can easily see the problem for yourself. The distance between letters seems random at best and deliberately horrible at worst. The browsing experience feels slightly amateurish, this way and I have no solution for it yet. I tried the Fennec Beta build, but it is close to unusable on my N900 and it doesn't fix the kerning issues. So, let's just be good early adopters and wait for a fix. (Or perhaps a hack, where we swap the font file on the device for something better).

Scrolling up and down
Here I might have a useful, albeit slightly tainted, hint for you. Coming from a line of capacitive screens, I find it quite hard to get the kinetic scrolling to work as smooth as I'd like on long web pages.

My solution then, is to use the arrow keys on the physical keyboard. That allows for really smooth scrolling and a level of control that is much closer to what I'd like. The only problem is, that you have to press Fn (Blue key) together with the arrow, to hit "arrow down" (or up). In text fields you can lock the Fn key by double tapping it, but not while browsing. I hope Nokia / Maemo could find it in their hearts to implement that in a future update, because it would be close to ideal to just open up a long webpage, double tap Fn and then scroll up or down with a single long click on one of the arrow keys.

2 kommenttia:

  1. Whaaa?!
    No portrait mode? No one-button scrolling?

    Those sounds like *really* bad flaws.
    Surely they must exist - if not built-in, then as some kind of hack or app or something?

  2. Hyvää tekstiä, asiapitoista mutta mukavasti luettevaa.
    Alussa snadi typo:
    "Left from time.." pitäisi varmaan olla "Right.."