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Then comes the issue, how do you know what font they are using? Arial? I don't have that on my machine. I use Helvetica. You're getting too wrapped up in your particular machine specs.
In short I suggest you don't try to make it all line up perfectly. Just let it be whatever size it wants to be.
I've had good cross-browser/platform results standardizing text appearance with CSS, but it doesn't disable the user's ability to resize text... and it doesn't solve the 'missing fonts' dilemma. If you're careful when specifying alternate fonts, you can almost completely avoid any major problems, but not quite.
Also, when resizing text comes up, the issue of accessibility also rears it's ugly head... unless you're targeting to a very specific audience you know will all have good eyesight and roughly equivalent monitor sizes, some text will simply be too small for some users.
I've found it's generally best to design with "squashability" built into your layouts... otherwise, you'll just drive yourself mad trying to attain uniformity, and probably p!ss off a few users while you're at it.
The vast majority of users will have verdana, arial etc.
As for the minority of people that do resize text I don't think its anything to worry about. The menus will have much bigger text and may not align correctly but they should still work. I zoomed my text to 200% and everything worked how it should :)
I have a friend who's default is usually 16pt...he has limited eyesight...he simply CAN'T read anything smaller...I find a lot of sites have text that I can barely read
IMO, any time you have to specify a fixed text size on a web page it implies some sort of conceptual failure in the design
If the user has specified 16 pt in their own Style Sheet then the text will be 16 pt regardless of wether I specify the size in pixel, points or whatever.
If someone has enough savvy to tamper with the setting then they should have enough savvy to realise why the page may appear a little strange ;)
If they even know enough to use the text size adjustments in their browser, it's probably because they arrived at a site using CSS pixel-sizing, and decided it was too small. Either way, they know they're messing with the site's appearance, and I doubt they'll blame the webmaster for the resulting visual funkiness.
my text wil initially appear as I intended it, but if they click the 'larger' button it will enlarge?
I believe this is how it works...
No--the resolution of the target monitor is still a big factor then. If they have a 640x480 monitor, those 18 pixel letters look huuuge. If they have a 2048x1636 they are squinting.
Of course if I took this attitude to the extreme, the next thing I'd be telling you is that you can't use any graphics at all on your site, since you don't know how big they will relative to the screen size.
One must find a balance, and for many applications CSS pixel-height is just the ticket.
Changing the system font size changes the pixel-sized browser font in a big way, but the point-sized browser fonts are at least closer.
On newer PCs today, the default system font size sometimes IS set to large. This means pixel-sized text gets magnified on those systems, even for users who haven't touched their defaults! I ran into this problem recently when one of my clients replaced all their computers and several pages on their website looked awful to them!
By the way, I did this test with Netscape 4.77 MSIE will scale the point-sized fonts slightly larger. So there really is no hope for absolutely controlling the layout.