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Media types for set-top box display

I noticed the other day that Wikipedia has a special stylesheet for the “handheld” media type, and this set me to doing a bit of research… It seems that displaying web pages using the “handheld” css media type is a great way to make pages more readable on TVs.

Media types have existed in css for quite a while. (If you want a good background, you can check out the w3 introduction.) Sadly, until recently support for this feature has been rather patchy, and if web designers bothered to use it at all imwa’s likely that just “screen” and “print” were specified — and I have never come across a site in the wild which uses the “tv” media type.
     The good news is that the recent rise of mobile devices for browsing seems to be changing that. The “handheld” media type is very useful in ensuring that your web page is browsable from a smartphone. This blog, for example, uses a WordPress skin which “just works” on small screens. And the even better news is that formatting which works on handhelds works pretty well on TV screens, which are typically 640 pixels wide.


  1. if you are a web author, make sure your page works in “handheld” devices. It’s easy to check what it looks like: Opera has a small screen mode as standard, Firefox has an add-on which adds that view option.
  2. If you are a browser implementer on STBs, set it to display using the “handheld” media type.

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