Is there a de facto standard algorithm for finding good places to put line breaks in a paragraph of text rendered in a monospace font (e.g. to a text console)?

The algorithm should aim to output lines of an equal length (which is given as an argument), inserting a variable number of spaces between each pair of adjacent words on the same line to produce a pleasing result.

The TeX algorithm (Breaking Paragraphs into Lines, Knuth & Plass 1981) is the go-to algorithm for fancy typesetting with variable-width fonts. It should be usable with fixed-width fonts by treating them like variable-width fonts, but is there a simpler algorithm tailor-made for monospace fonts?

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    Do you have an issue using that algorithm with a variable-width font where every character just happens to have the same width? Dec 1, 2020 at 19:46
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    What are your requirements: maximum line size? equal sized lines for the whole para? do you neeed to block-justify the lines adding spaces?
    – Christophe
    Dec 1, 2020 at 22:02
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    – jmoreno
    Dec 2, 2020 at 0:58
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    @jmoreno: asking for an algorithm is not generally off-topic. In this case, the OP mentioned a complex algorithm for a specific problem and asks for a simpler one for an even more specific problem. That is IMHO focussed enough for making the question a good fit for this site, and I find it pretty ridicuolus that it already got 4 close votes.
    – Doc Brown
    Dec 2, 2020 at 7:18
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    ... it seems to me parts of the community here seem only to seek for reasons to close a question, instead of thinking about constructive ways to keep more of them open.
    – Doc Brown
    Dec 2, 2020 at 7:22

1 Answer 1


How about:

  • Scan forward in the text X characters.
    • While scanning forward if you encounter a line break, stop immediately and respect it.
    • While scanning forward count how many sections of white text there are as white space sections.
  • If the current character is not white space, or a breaking character (such as -)
    • walk back and count as white space to insert till a whitespace or breaking character is encountered
    • if its a white space keep walk back till discovering a non-whitespace character, and subtract 1 from white space sections
  • Return to the start of the line.
  • walk forward printing each character
    • if the character is a whitespace keep printing till the first non whitespace character.
    • print floor(white space to insert / white space sections) spaces.
    • subtract that number from white space to insert
    • subtract 1 from white space sections
    • keep walking forward

This is a rough algorithm.

  • You could count the total amount of whitespace and rejustify each time you encounter any amount of it. Just count each string of whitespace as a single section, and don't emit any when walking forward normally.
  • I didn't account for the size of tab, depends on whether you want it to be aligned, or just a fixed size.
  • You could add in auto justification for tab such that following lines align to it till a return is encountered. You will need to track the tab depth, and shorten the length of string walked forward.

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