An Open Letter to the Web

2 minute read

Dear Web Community,

Hard wrapping is stupid. This is important. Hard wrapping is stupid.

I’m begging everyone to stop doing it. Allow me to be a bit pedantic for a moment and explain what I mean. Essentially one of the first features added to computers when they were being made was to automatically start printing text onto the next line once the current line was overfilled. This is known as wrapping. When people used typewriters, it was necessary to manually wrap and a little bell told one when to do so.

This manual makeshift system was thrown out because it was quickly discovered that computers could compute how many characters long the current line was and if the current word exceeded that bounds, place it on the next line. They even programmed it to recalculate these bounds and word placement when a particular line of text was modified. This amazing feature was updated when variable width character fonts were introduced.

Hell, most kids don’t even know that at one point it was necessary to manually (hard) wrap your lines. They only know automatic (soft) wrapping that is present on every computer out there. That’s why it blows my mind that some people still take it upon themselves to do this work for the computer. This naturally results in text like the following.

To this day, I still have no idea
that computers can do something so
utterly mundane as wrapping text for me.
I will continue to do it as my
father did so before me and 
his father before him.

We naturally end up with the above. The line lengths are nowhere close to correct. We have a nice jagged edge. It makes one look like a complete and utter moron. Making the problem worse, many text entry boxes on web pages are fairly small. In addition to a jagged edge, the lines are extra short. In the case of a forum post, this makes your post look like a haiku.

Hard wrapping is lame

Many think it is correct

It really is not

One must also realize that since the advent of variable width fonts, hard wrapping has become completely obsolete. Something that is perfectly wrapped in a Monaco will look utterly absurd Helvetica. Even something aligned using Geneva is likely to look stupid in Helvetica. People use different fonts to browse the web and the font in a text entry box may not match the end result.

So join the 21st century please. Let the computer softwrap for you. Hard wrapping is stupid.

Your pal,