a companion discussion area for blog.codinghorror.com

Font Rendering: Respecting The Pixel Grid


I’m agree with Iman, about fonts rendering of Safari on MacOSX is better than in Safari on Windows


“The old assumption that displays are 72dpi has been rendered obsolete by advances in display technology. Macs now ship with displays that sport native resolutions of 100dpi or better. Furthermore, the number of pixels per inch will continue to increase dramatically over the next few years. This will make displays crisper and smoother, but it also means that interfaces that are pixel-based will shrink to the point of being unusable. The solution is to remove the 72dpi assumption that has been the norm. In Leopard, the system will be able to draw user interface elements using a scale factor. This will let the user interface maintain the same physical size while gaining resolution and crispness from high dpi displays.” No comment,here you are http://xopca.com/search.php?q=Bjorkx=27y=14 here and there


Always use the BCI for my fonts in KDE. I feel sick when I’m using a Windows computer with Cleartype! It’s just wrong!


Sorry, you lost me there:

“Typography, if you haven’t figured this out by now, is really complicated. It’s one of the few areas of “computer science” that actually justifies the title.”

First, (computer) typography is not “area of computer science”, and second, there are many areas of computer science (complexity theory, programming language semantics, parsing, etc.) that definitely justify the title. Computer science is a branch of mathematics dealing with the well-defined, mathematical notion of computability, and has little to nothing to do with “coding”.


Can you please use title instead of/together with alt for images? Some info are lost in the alt text when images are displayed, e.g. the “imagination, 9ppem Helvetica, FontFocus on” here.


Apple’s approach to anti-aliasing works better for animated text. Since ClearType fiddles with the shape of the glyphs, you get a weird “glittlering” effect when the text moves in increments less than a pixel-width. Apple’s rendering results in glyph shapes that are perceptually more consistent in this situation, and so the animation looks smoother. I don’t know whether this had anything to do with their decision or not though.


eff, I think I had a different post on same subject on this…
Just check it. Your previous post was the trigger for my post
Please check-it.
http://sarathc.wordpress.com/2007/06/14/safari-is-better-in-complex-unicode-font-sub-pixel-rendering/ http://moonhouse.org
Anyway I’m not an expert in font and it’s rendering technologies.


I tried some modifictions - as well as setting font smoothing to LIGHT, I then increased font size and then choose fonts with wide spacing as default. Lucida Console 24 and Bitstream Vera Sans Mono 24. Have not tried it on many websites - I guess I will need to go back to a smaller font for most sites.


I’m still on a single 17" 1024x768 monitor, though my laptop screen is significantly better. :slight_smile:


When I first moved to OSX from Windows (which isn’t too long ago. About 1+ years), the difference in the font rendering didn’t bother me much. So I chose to remain neutral in that issue.

Then when I first tried viewing Safari on Windows side-by-side with IE/Firefox, I realised that the font rendering differences are huge. But which did I prefer? No idea. So I chose to remain neutral in that issue.

Couple of months later, when I found myself doing web development and web design, I played around with all the different fonts (Helvetica, Palatino, Georgia) available on OSX and Windows. Suddenly, and unexpectedly, I found myself picking a side. OSX is the clear winner.

Windows’ rendering engine completely thrashed the original typeface of the fonts, especially on some of my favourite fonts, like Palatino. I nearly cried when I saw how ugly a lot of my fonts look on Windows. I have no idea how a beautiful font like Palatino end up looking so different.

But yeah, if you don’t care about fonts, then you most likely won’t understand how I feel. I know, because I didn’t care about fonts 1 year ago.


Ok, enough of this “it looks ugly” crap that people use to judge fonts. Cleartype DOES blurify fonts but it makes them a hell of a lot more readable. Try reading a books on a computer screen without cleartype and you’ll have to get up every 5 minutes from eyestrain. 1280 x 800 LCD laptop screen.


Leaving the differences in font rendering philosophy aside, Microsoft’s font rendering technology is more developed, more researched, and superior to Apple’s. Microsoft built the technology to allow font designers to develop fonts for on-screen reading. With Microsoft’s technology, font designers can specify instructions built into the font on how each character should be fitted to the grid to look best on screen. Apple’s technology cannot do that.

Thus it is wrong to say that Microsoft does not respect the font design in rendering. The companies technology only gave designers more tools and more power in optimizing font rendering for on-screen reading. It is still the designer who decides how fonts should look on the screen. In contrast, Apple does not allow font designers to take into account the screen when they define fonts.

Put it another way, it would be very easy to change Microsoft’s rendering to look like Apple’s (by tuning a few internal Windows parameters), but it would be impossible for Apple to emulate Windows font rendering without a complete redesign of MacOS font rendering. This really shows which technology is better.

Instead of redesigning its font rendering system, Apple chose to play marketing, and claim that it is just a matter of font rendering philosophy – people are free to choose what philosophy they like. However, it is also a matter of technology, and Microsoft’s font rendering technology is by far more developed and mature.


@Adrian: Sorry, but your claims are simply wrong –I really wonder about your (dis-)information sources… E. g. font designers are able to “specify instructions built into the font on how each character should be fitted to the grid to look best on screen” equally on both Windows and OS X (Fabrizio Schiavi’s excellent Pragmata font might serve as sufficient proof). AFAIK there is no such thing as OS specific TrueType instructions.

As a designer with strong roots in typography (who happens to have some CS education, as well) I strongly oppose your (Adrian’s) notion of MS’s technology being “far more developed”. As a matter of fact, typography cannot be simply reduced to the “optimal” way of rendering single glyphs in one medium or another. ClearType has some advantages over OS X on rendering single glyphs with higher contrast on low res devices –at least for fonts that have not been purposefully designed for low resolutions (i. e. 96 dpi). OTOH that advantage is lost again when taking into account other important typographical parameters like spacing, gray tone etc. – in which cases ClearType happens to behave more like a bull in a china shop. Quite acceptable if you are e. g. writing code –definitely not so acceptable when dealing with text on a “page”. People just don’t read letter by letter. And spacing matters more in that case. In the end, I currently prefer OS X’s font rendering, amongst other reasons because it behaves more predictably and scales better. Still, I would sometimes prefer ClearType for code work – at least, if I would not be using Pragmata (with antialiasing turned off in my editor of choice). :wink:


Well, to me Apple is a clear winner here. The difference is that the guys at Apple give more importance to design, aesthetics and also (arguably) to users’ comfort.
I guess it is a matter of personal preferences, but when it comes to reading text, Apple’s font rendering to me is so much more pleasant that I can’t even imagine why someone could prefer MS’ one. Seriously, no possible comparison. And notice I am NOT a mac user.


I was directed to this site upon trying out Safari and receiving a massive dose of pain from the chubby fuzzy font. I questioned the Apple user who reminded me to try it out (I have no brand loyalty) as to why the hell Safari was making me feel like I had had my eyes jabbed. He couldn’t tell the difference. Eventually we figured out the problem: He’s near-sighted, and more or less blind, while I’m far-sighted, and have overall supreme vision unless something is closer than six inches from my eye. :stuck_out_tongue:

Too bad, too. I was hoping to eventually get a MacBook, but I’ll have to wait for their technology to match their philosophy so I can look at the screen without being in pain, or else wait until I start losing my sight in thirty years or so.


well, i came to this site when looking for a way to improve windows font rendering. i was sitting here on my mac thinking how darn beautiful the fonts look, wishing i could have the same on my vista machine in the other room.

it is a subjective choice, but i vote for beauty every time.


Incenjucar - was that win safari or mac safari? win safari seems to be trying to render fonts as if it was on a mac, but it just doesn’t work properly. so i agree it makes your eyes hurts on a win box, but on a mac it looks great imho. but then, i’m using mac firefox right now, and that looks beautiful too. it’s the OS that determines the quality of the font rendering more than the application i would say. win safari tries but fails to get a ‘mac look’ on a win box. i also think it’s buggy as hell and doesn’t respect web standards, but that’s another story.

in general, fonts on the mac look more like they’re on paper than on a screen. for me, that’s a good thing.

as a web designer, i wish i could get the beauty of mac-rendered fonts for people viewing on windows. but there’s no way apart from using images.


The Japanese on Windows looks like something out of dot-matrix days–almost unbearably bad.


It Seems that you don’t have taste either :smiley:


I tried some modifictions - as well as setting font smoothing to LIGHT, I then increased font size and then choose fonts with wide spacing as default. Lucida Console 24 and Bitstream Vera Sans Mono 24. Have not tried it on many websites - I guess I will need to go back to a smaller font for most sites. http://www.dllempire.com/