IDLE fonts

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IDLE fonts

kirby urner-4
When I first start a Python class, e.g. for Saturday Academy, we go to
the configure IDLE screen.  I often do this while projecting, as I'm
also blowing up the projected font to something more pedagogically
large (suitable for reading from the back row).

Understandably, once students see they're free to choose a different
font, many of them do so.  I tend to make noises about how some are
more readable than others, am definitely a proponent of fixed width,
although I'm willing to bow to personal preferences.

When I move around from one computer to another, helping students with
bugs, I'm often confronted with an assortment of different typefaces.

I'm thinking next time to go in the other direction and encourage
experimenting with some truly different looking fonts -- but not so
different that the code becomes unreadable (not ding bats).

I think we're all somewhat attuned to the psychological attributes of
different fonts, e.g. Comic Sans has a different "atmosphere" than New
York Times or Courier New.

Before I show off what I consider to be a fun and useful IDLE font,
suitable for future classes, I'd like to poll other subscribers as to
whether they do anything unusual in the fonts department, either for
the benefit of new students, or for themselves.

I'll follow up on Monday.

Kirby
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Re: IDLE fonts

David MacQuigg
At 04:59 PM 7/11/2008 -0700, kirby urner wrote:

>When I move around from one computer to another, helping students with
>bugs, I'm often confronted with an assortment of different typefaces.
>
>I'm thinking next time to go in the other direction and encourage
>experimenting with some truly different looking fonts -- but not so
>different that the code becomes unreadable (not ding bats).
>
>I think we're all somewhat attuned to the psychological attributes of
>different fonts, e.g. Comic Sans has a different "atmosphere" than New
>York Times or Courier New.
>
>Before I show off what I consider to be a fun and useful IDLE font,
>suitable for future classes, I'd like to poll other subscribers as to
>whether they do anything unusual in the fonts department, either for
>the benefit of new students, or for themselves.

I have tried a few of the dozens of fonts in IDLE, but found none better than the default Fixedsys.  This must be the one they optimized for IDLE.  In other tools, like TextPad, I prefer Courier New, but it is surprisingly BAD in IDLE!  I guess there really is no standard line weight, or whatever, for "Courier New".  It all depends on how it is tweaked for a particular program.

As for offering students dozens of fonts, I say too many fonts are at best a distraction, at worst a source of ambiguity as to what symbol is actually intended.  Find a font that will clearly distinguish the characters O0l1Z2S5, and stick with it.  We are teaching programming, not website design.  Fixed width is the most readable, and essential for tables and indented code, but a compact (proportional-spaced) font like Arial, can add 50% more text on a page.  The gain for code is much less, because most lines are shorter than the page width.


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Re: IDLE fonts

michel paul-2
In reply to this post by kirby urner-4
I also show students how to change fonts and colors - and like you say, they LOVE doing it.  But other than to tell them to be careful in changing syntax coloring, as you don't want to lose useful distinctions of keywords and so on, I don't really do anything special with it.  I'll be interested in your follow up on this.  I thought your iChing unicode demo from awhile back was amazing.

Now here's something weird I've noticed along the lines of changing fonts - there's no way to do that using 2.5.2 in OSX?  I've been using 2.5.2 on both my home computer (OSX) and my school-issued computer (Windows).  I just happened to notice one day in OSX that I couldn't find any options or preferences listed anywhere in the menus, and I was quite used to having it.  I found that weird.  And just now I'm double-checking it, and, nope!  Nowhere.  Nada.

But here's a weird twist on that - I recently downloaded VPython for OSX.  They finally created an OSX installer, and I'm grateful.  I was having trouble trying to get VPython going on my Mac using Fink.  For some reason I just couldn't get it to happen.  So now, when I open VPython, the version of Idle also says 2.5.2, but, just like you'd expect, there is an Options section in the menu bar.  So, I change my font there, and then when I open the standard Idle, yep, the font has changed accordingly!  Bizarre.

On Fri, Jul 11, 2008 at 4:59 PM, kirby urner <[hidden email]> wrote:
When I first start a Python class, e.g. for Saturday Academy, we go to
the configure IDLE screen.  I often do this while projecting, as I'm
also blowing up the projected font to something more pedagogically
large (suitable for reading from the back row).

Understandably, once students see they're free to choose a different
font, many of them do so.  I tend to make noises about how some are
more readable than others, am definitely a proponent of fixed width,
although I'm willing to bow to personal preferences.

When I move around from one computer to another, helping students with
bugs, I'm often confronted with an assortment of different typefaces.

I'm thinking next time to go in the other direction and encourage
experimenting with some truly different looking fonts -- but not so
different that the code becomes unreadable (not ding bats).

I think we're all somewhat attuned to the psychological attributes of
different fonts, e.g. Comic Sans has a different "atmosphere" than New
York Times or Courier New.

Before I show off what I consider to be a fun and useful IDLE font,
suitable for future classes, I'd like to poll other subscribers as to
whether they do anything unusual in the fonts department, either for
the benefit of new students, or for themselves.

I'll follow up on Monday.

Kirby
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Re: IDLE fonts

kirby urner-4
In reply to this post by David MacQuigg
On Sat, Jul 12, 2008 at 3:29 PM, David MacQuigg
<[hidden email]> wrote:

> I have tried a few of the dozens of fonts in IDLE, but found none better than the default Fixedsys.  This must be the one they optimized for IDLE.  In other tools, like TextPad, I prefer Courier New, but it is surprisingly BAD in IDLE!  I guess there really is no standard line weight, or whatever, for "Courier New".  It all depends on how it is tweaked for a particular program.
>

Then there's the whole discussion of fonts, what's TrueType (ttf), can
you use those in Linux, how to install, what's different on Mac and so
forth.  Programmers concerned with fonts in end user documents, such
as when synthesizing PDFs on the fly with ReportLab, need to know
which fonts do or don't support which Unicode codepoints.  Python is
legitimately invested here, so depending on the type of programming
course, we might justify the time.

> As for offering students dozens of fonts, I say too many fonts are at best a distraction, at worst a source of ambiguity as to what symbol is actually intended.  Find a font that will clearly distinguish the characters O0l1Z2S5, and stick with it.  We are teaching programming, not website design.  Fixed width is the most readable, and essential for tables and indented code, but a compact (proportional-spaced) font like Arial, can add 50% more text on a page.  The gain for code is much less, because most lines are shorter than the page width.
>

I'm finding it easier to bring a new TrueType font into IDLE on
Windows than on Ubuntu, despite having added a softlink from a
subdirectory returned by xset -q into
/usr/share/fonts/truetype/ttf-misc, where I've got my font.  Wing-101
and OpenOffice are having no trouble finding it.  I'll keep noodling.
Getting more font savvy is an important step when coding mostly
outside of Latin-1, a favorite way to get into Python in some schools
and/or math labs.

Kirby
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Re: IDLE fonts

John Posner-3
In reply to this post by kirby urner-4
> ... Find a font that will clearly distinguish the characters O0l1Z2S5,
> and stick with it.

Amen to that, David. I'm a tech-writer in my day job, and just to make sure,
I sometimes document a command option like this:

  -l ("dash-ell")
or
  -1 ("dash-one")

This reminds me of the escape sequences for one of the font cartridges used
by the original H-P LaserJet printer (mid 1908s). The sequences were
absolutely "pessimal": full of zeroes, capital "O"s, lowercase "l"s, and the
digit "1"s. It's like they were trying hard to discourage you from using
their product!

-John

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Re: IDLE fonts

kirby urner-4
In reply to this post by kirby urner-4
On Fri, Jul 11, 2008 at 4:59 PM, kirby urner <[hidden email]> wrote:

<< SNIP >>

> Before I show off what I consider to be a fun and useful IDLE font,
> suitable for future classes, I'd like to poll other subscribers as to
> whether they do anything unusual in the fonts department, either for
> the benefit of new students, or for themselves.
>
> I'll follow up on Monday.
>
> Kirby
>

OK, so here it is Monday, and my font of choice for future classes,
for projecting especially, is Akbar font, patterned after the
handwriting of Matt Goening.

However, I should make sense of this by reminding folks of my
audience:  future cartoonists in ToonTown (PDX), learning about
animation pipelines, real time and render time, and MVC thinking.

We mostly focus on the relevant mathematics such as how does when
beget rotation among a nest of vectors, but instead of silly
hamster-brained calculators (such as those from Texas Instruments) we
use real computers running Python (such as those from
Hewlett-Packard).

Given Groening is the creator of The Simpsons, that our original Homer
was from Silverton, that we're a Town into toon making (ala O'Reilly's
Make: magazine), it makes sense to dabble in such a locally idiomatic
font.  As a gnu math teacher, I work in a "virtual gulag" of geek
schools, spread around internationally, sharing lesson planning ideas
with my peers in South Africa (or wherever).  So feel free to ignore,
as you may not have any interest in our peculiar curriculum network
(not for everyone!).

See you at OSCON some of you, if my sponsorship comes through,
business deal through Chicago, high level, we shall see...

Kirby

Related reading:
http://worldgame.blogspot.com/2008/07/idle-language-games.html (about
this font I'm enjoying)
http://4dsolutions.net/ocn/pymath.html (the toontown math I'm into)
http://worldgame.blogspot.com/search?q=Homer (some blog mentions of Homer)
http://mybizmo.blogspot.com/2008/06/chronofile.html (Oregonian boast
toonification of PDX)
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Re: IDLE fonts

kirby urner-4
>
> OK, so here it is Monday, and my font of choice for future classes,
> for projecting especially, is Akbar font, patterned after the
> handwriting of Matt Goening.

Um, Groening.

Plus I wanted to extol one of the virtues, which is Akbar isn't
messing up my Chinese characters either, here's a link to a screen
fragment (we tend to do stuff with I Ching around animation, in Tk or
whatever, good intro to permutations and binary, what got Leibniz
going in some ways (a student thereof)).

Link:  http://www.4dsolutions.net/presentations/iching_in_akbar.png

I'd welcome more input on what fonts are good outside of Latin-1,
especially within IDLE though we also plan on continuing to use
Wing-101 on edubuntu in some classrooms.

Re using Akbar font (non-exclusively of course), I think a lot of the
same theories are behind the O'Reilly Head First series, but with
allusions in Knuth, where he draws those perfect squares, then makes
them a little irregular and tilted, somehow looks better, more savvy,
more sophisticated... (volume 3 right?).  As we say around here (zip
code 97214) "Keep Portland Weird" (Austin TX has a similar zip code).

In brief you want fonts and features with a "human touch" (looks more
like handwriting) as a purely "machine look" (everything "done in the
factory") removes that hand-crafted aspect of intelligence, seems more
like some "AI hell" wherein computers rule (i.e. the humans got too
stupid to hold up their side in the equations, like those Eloi in
Wall*E).  Psychologically, it helps to have "that human touch" -- even
if it's all still just bits and bytes at the end of the day.

Kirby

PS:  note the friendly fonts used with these eToys units, Ubuntu in
general good at font friendliness (part of the look and feel).
http://www.kusasa.org/content/etoys/etoys.html

More reading:
http://controlroom.blogspot.com/2007/11/unicode.html (unicode hype)
http://www.slate.com/id/2192535/pagenum/all/ (good on allure of fonts)
http://obfuscators.org/2008/04/obfuscation-weird-languages-and-code.html
(more on aesthetics)
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Re: IDLE fonts

kirby urner-4
In reply to this post by kirby urner-4
On Mon, Jul 14, 2008 at 9:44 AM, kirby urner <[hidden email]> wrote:

<< SNIP >>

> We mostly focus on the relevant mathematics such as how does when
> beget rotation among a nest of vectors, but instead of silly
> hamster-brained calculators (such as those from Texas Instruments) we
> use real computers running Python (such as those from
> Hewlett-Packard).
>

Apropos of this, I've linked to my Chicago talk on the Pycon channel
from edu-sig before, but this ShowMeDo version isn't entirely
redundant, in that it's a sharper encoding, higher bandwidth than on
YouTube:

http://tinyurl.com/5kveyb

It's the sixth in my Python for Math Teachers series, contains
proposals for juggling more technology skills without losing sight of
the relevant abstractions.

A related recent posting (got some good feedback off list, more public
discussion would be welcome):

http://mail.geneseo.edu/pipermail/math-thinking-l/2008-July/001278.html

Kirby
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