Justified text, not left-aligned

I’m a LaTeX user and I can’t see all my Joplin notes with left align. Could you make text justified by default? LaTeX does it! Otherwise, is there a way I can tweak it by myself for all my notes?

I managed to change it by myself following this post https://discourse.joplinapp.org/t/customising-your-notes-with-the-help-of-the-development-tools-and-css/.

Anyway, I still propose to make text justified and images centered by default (even in PDF exporting and in printing)

You can most likely use userstyle.css for this, but I don’t know what the CSS would be.

Edit: sorry didn’t see you had already found.

The custom CSS is:

body {
  text-align: justify;
img {
  display: block;
  margin-left: auto;
  margin-right: auto;

Anyway, I still propose to make text justified and images centered by default (even in PDF exporting and in printing)

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Changing this kind of defaults should not be done lightly of course. We need to have some consensus here, or maybe usability study showing that one way is objectively better than another. Personally I don’t mind either way.

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Personally, I’m all for Justify as the default but… that kinda, sorta goes against the spirit of monospace fonts and writing the notes in markdown… I really don’t know on which side I’d fall. Personally I’d love justify for note writing… but then we get back to the markdown and monospace stuff and I’m torn about it.

I don’t think this should be the default. The whole reason for a userstyle.css is that people can adjust the syle to their needs.
Hopefully there will be a consensus on how to implement a solution across desktop/mobile. We had a good discussion going, but it died down, so we never created a separate topic nor did we come to a decision how to implement it.

The thing about the user style css is how many people will actually make use of it as opposed to people that just want a note taking app and will just use the defaults 99.9% of the time - with maybe the occasional dark mode turned on through settings.

I’ll pitch in less subtly: think justified text by default is a horrible idea. It’s more difficult to read and has no real advantages, especially if we’re talking about things like notes.
I’m sure you’ll find enough articles about typography that confirm this, if you wanted. (Random link off Google that basically says as much. There’s plenty more.)

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From the link you yourself provided:

Justified type, when done well, can look neat and crisp, and support a design with its more formal, symmetric appearance. It allows for more copy in an allotted space, as characters fill the full line length. But when justification is applied to a narrow column, or to one with too few characters per line to allow the text to flow without undue stretching and/or squeezing, it can compromise the color and texture of the type. This can result in spotty type with rivers of white space (gaps between words that create vertical patterns) and too many hyphens, both of which can reduce readability as well as distract from other design elements.

Well yes, but I don’t get your point?
I liked that article because unlike the first two I clicked, it tried to list both pros and cons.
I’m not saying there’s never a reason to justify text - but, as that article points out, you have to think about it and take care. If you just make it the default, it’s ugly as hell (yes, even in default latex settings) and harder to read, because your eyes won’t keep track of lines as effectively as they do when you’re scanning over right rags.

And since Joplin is a note-taking app, where the availability and legibility is a priority, and nobody would bother typesetting their notes even if that were possible, justified text just isn’t a sensible default. (And yes, it’s great that the few people who actually want this can use the userstyle. To each his own.)

You linked a Google guideline that says X can happen as proof for your assertion that X will happen. And you don’t see a problem with doing that… yeah, so, if you don’t like justified text say so - it’s honest and nobody will mind, you are entitled to an opinion - but don’t try to trick anybody here into believing your nonsense. Especially when you actually link to an outside source that doesn’t support your assertions as proof. Someone like me might come along and actually read your reference and call you out on you BS.

Well, I wish more people actually read the references.
If you read the text (and maybe my post as well) more carefully, what it actually says is: X will happen, unless you take care to do Y.
The part that technically is just my opinion is where I say most of the Joplin userbase wouldn’t bother with Y even if they could, therefore X will happen.

If you’re willing to read a few more references and find words like ‘can’[^1] obscure the point, here are some others that don’t use them:

This article, aptly named “Justify text with HTML/CSS? Don’t do it!” puts it nicely:

Justified text is harder to read

Those “jagged” text block edges that text-justifiers are trying to get rid of actually make the text easier to read. Besides the obvious reason that big gaps between words interrupt the reading flow, there’s a less obvious reason. While the reader’s eye is scanning each line, it’s easier for her to find the next line if the lines are of uneven length. This is especially true for dyslexic readers.

(The next two sections in that article are called “It’s just bad typography” and “Just say “no” to justification”, incidentally.)

This one sums it up with:

Avoid justifying text. Readability is the priority.

I guess that should be enough links.

So, to sum up:

  • Saying justified text is harder to read and should be avoided: consensus of people who know more about typography and making text legible, not just my opinion.
  • Since this discussion is about the suggestion justification should be the default in Joplin, the important part is: there seems to be plenty of reason not to do that, and I don’t see a single one in favor of it.

[^1]: that are there purely to allow for the specific case where you’re taking care to make your (printed, most often) materials look good, anyway

No, no your post is pretty clear. Also, nice cherry picking.

Firstly, the original webpage you linked is very clear: X can, and is likely to, happen under certain condition. Not X will happen unless Y.

Secondly, there is surprisingly no scientific study on the legibility of text depending on it’s alignment. There are just opinions as of today.

Thirdly, I can cherry pick articles myself:


There are many good, valid reasons not to use justify, but saying it degrades readability - an absolute - is patently false. It CAN degrade readability.

Your original assertion was false and the rest have only been cherry picking of webpages that support your position, despite no actual scientific study that would come on one side or the other.

Your position seems to be that it’s incredibly hard to do justify correctly and automatically, and that since this is a note taking app and most users won’t go out of their way to correct auto text justification the readability and legibility of the notes will end up suffer. That is a perfectly valid point of view, and one supported by the sites we’ve both now linked.

But the absolute statement that justified text decreases readability has to go. You don’t have anything concrete enough to “justify” it. You have webpages written by people that share your opinion.

And all of the above written by someone that was and still is on the fence about justifying the text automatically because the notes are written in markdown and with monotype fonts.

Ah, if you took that as me taking a stance on justification in general in all its cases, then once again: I'm talking about how it applies to notes in Joplin. Sure, make the leaflet for your lawyer's office more formal this way, why not. That's not the case I'm concerned about here.

Thanks for the links. They seem to mostly say the same things mine did, though. Some random outtakes:

[Fully-Justified Text] May require extra attention to word and character spacing and hyphenation to avoid unsightly rivers of white space running through the text.

Generally, typeset left-aligned is easier to work with (i.e., requires less time, attention, and tweaking from the designer to make it look good).

There is no right or wrong way to align text. Use the alignment that makes the most sense for the design and that effectively communicates your message.

My opinion: right rag is the right default for Joplin.

Although some designers will tell you different, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with justified text, on the web or otherwise. But there’s a lot wrong with poor justification, which is all the web platform has been able to manage.

I'm not sure if you've read the link to Cutting Edge PR you've posted, but that one talks about how justification can maybe improve things "in narrow columns". Also quote:

The above results are quite clear: typesetting justified on left and right clearly works best for good reader comprehension of columns of text in printed publications.

Again, that is the case where someone doing DTP makes sure the text looks good. It also seems to talk about multi-column layout. Neither of those are what the notes in Joplin use, so that article seems irrelevant.

What seems surprising to me is that not only there are studies that study that (and they find justified text hurts legibility, especially for dyslexic or vision-impaired people) - even one of the articles you have linked - this one - spends about a third of its text talking about exactly the issues it causes. :smiley:

Anyway, interesting discussion - I've read some interesting articles while googling for details. Fun times.

  1. the google guideline you linked in your first post mentions narrow columns as one of the places where justify can result in decrease readability. You can’t have it both ways mate.

  2. None, NONE, of the webpages, blogposts and news articles linked in this page are scientific papers or link to scientific papers. Even Wikipedia - which is usually good on the reference front - has a serious problem with references when it comes to justified text criticism.

I have fortunately been able to find a few articles on the topic via google scholar, but most are old, some older then computers. I had a bit more luck on researchgate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/222285103_The_influence_of_line_spacing_and_text_alignment_on_visual_search_of_web_pages

It appears you are right - at least in as far as readability is concerned - if you want to keep making dislexia claims and the like you’ll have to find articles to support those positions yourself. It shouldn’t be up to me to find and link pertinent material to make your point for you.

ResearchGate blocks access for me now, but judging by the URL it sounds like one of those I've seen as well.

Don't worry, I know what burden of proof is. (It means if you say 'this should be the default', you should also say why. :smiley: )

I’m happy that the discussion is so intense.
I must admit that I didn’t think about the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion en­gine. Actually, “the justification engine of a word proces­sor or web browser is rudi­men­tary com­pared to that of a pro­fes­sional page-lay­out pro­gram”.
This is an important point because “the rivers of white” that hurt dyslexic are the product of a bad justification process and can easily avoided with microtype package in LaTeX.
So, from this point of view, given that browsers don’t work as well as LaTeX, it could be right to choose the left-aligned text as the lesser of two evils.

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Yeah. I've seen this issue also with latex, because some people thought "I know, I'll use latex and will look like a pro, problem solved!" but didn't know the first thing about it. The results were... let's say Word did it better. :smiley:
My fave memory: a dude was rephrasing sentences in his thesis, because after hours of fiddling he found it easier than to figure out how to make latex stop letting a single long sentence jut out into the margins on a page that was fully justified everywhere else. :smiley:

More to the point: there seem to be people that don't like the current state of affairs and there are efforts to make well-justified text available in browsers as well. We're not there yet, though.

And I still wouldn't use it, myself - while it might help with making the text less terrible to look at, I still think it would hurt my ability to scan my notes quickly. Basically, plenty of the issues regarding readability and accessibility remain.