June 11, 2007
I had read a few complaints that OS X font rendering was a little wonky, even from Joel Spolsky himself:
OS X antialiasing, especially, it seems, with the monospaced fonts, just isn't as good as Windows ClearType. Apple has some room to improve in this area; the fonts were blurry on the edges.
I didn't believe it until I downloaded the first beta of Safari 3 for Windows and saw it for myself.
Font rendering in Safari 3 Beta:
Font rendering in Internet Explorer 7:
All of these screenshots were taken under Windows Vista. It's easier to see what's happening if we zoom in a bit. These images are zoomed 200% with exact per-pixel resizing. Safari on the top, IE7 on the bottom:
At first I wasn't even sure if Apple was using ClearType-alike RGB anti-aliasing, but it's clear from the zoomed image that they are. It looks like they've skewed the contrast of the fonts to an absurdly low level. The ClearType Tuner PowerToy allows you to manually adjust the RGB font aliasing contrast level, as I documented in an earlier blog post, but I don't think it can go as low as Apple has it set.
I am absolutely not trying to start an OS X versus Windows flame war here. I used the quote above for a reason: there really is no single best way to render fonts; results depend on your display, the particular font you're using, and many other factors. That said, I'm curious why Apple's default font rendering strategies, to my eye -- and to the eyes of at least two other people -- are visibly inferior to Microsoft's on typical LCD displays. This is exactly the kind of graphic designer-ish detail I'd expect Cupertino to get right, so it's all the more surprising to me that they apparently haven't.
Update: I have a followup post that explains the font rendering difference. It looks like neither Apple or Microsoft is wrong; it's a question of whether you respect the pixel grid.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
From 4 feet away, the top one looks better. Can't read it, but it looks better. Nobody does that though, so this is a clear case of Apple getting it wrong, which is a rare thing indeed. I just wanted to make the point that Apple's decision isn't *always* worse... just worse in the average use case.
"just worse in the average use case" - Your clearly apple fanboy material. Its clearly horrible on my LCD and my CRTs. I like crisp and clear fonts that take minimal eye strain to preceive. Anything else is likely to get my boos.
If you sit really close to the monitor, then the Windows way is better. However, if you move back a couple of feet (3 feet or so from the screen to your eyes), then the Apple way seems more readable. The Apple rendering is definitely darker.
I never liked Apple's font rendering -- not on OSX and not in the Safari 3 beta on Windows. I've always felt that Apple's looks blurry.
On all LCD displays I have used (ranging from 1024x768 laptop screens to 20" widescreen displays) I feel that Windows' ClearType is so much better. It might not make your text beautiful to look at, but its readability is miles ahead of Apple's. Again, in my opinion. :-)
We were just discussing this at work...their font rendering is giving me a headache. Safari is getting a thumbs down from me for now.
I actually much prefer the Apple/Safari rendering of these two examples; to my eyes--at the distance from which I'm looking at my monitor--the Mac rendering seems to be closer to the actual letter-forms of the typeface, whereas the Windows rendering looks stepped.
Maybe it's because I'm used to it; maybe it's because I'm using a correctly calibrated LCD; or maybe it's just because on a purely numbers level I fall within the range of users Apple uses to 'test' their output.
I guess it all comes down to subjective choice and allowing control within the OS/App.
"The Apple rendering is definitely darker. "
That could be it. When I look at my IE 7 and FireFox browser windows, with ClearType turned on, they look too light and the slight difference in contrast makes it harder for me to read.
I *think* it may also have to do with the font you are using. OS X uses a different default font than Windows does. But Honestly, by the time the light gets from my broke-ass LCD, through the finger smudges and dust on my glasses, and into my 36 year old eyes... I'm just glad to be able to read anything at all. But it is weird that it would render worse. I wonder if it will get better with Leopard?
Looks awful on my LCD as well.
Yeah, I'm not sure you could say one way is absolutely better than the other. I prefer Apple's font rendering, but I don't think the other viewpoint is invalid.
I'm sure it has a lot to do with how far your eyes are from the screen. I usually have my laptop hooked up to a 23" Cinema Display and have 3-4 feet between my eyes and the monitor. The ClearType text /is/ more crisp looking if I move closer to the display -- but putting your face that close to the display is going to do way more to strain your eyes than either version of the sub-pixel smoothing will be able to compensate for.
I also noticed that if I increase the font size, Apple style anti-aliasing becomes tolerable.
I'm beginning to think that the differences are..
1) Apple doesn't hand-tune the font aliasing hints for smaller font sizes.
2) Apple chose a much, much darker contrast level for its anti-aliasing algorithm.
In Safari, go to Edit/Preferences... and then select the Appearance tab. For "Font smoothing", choose Light (the default is Medium). Much better now. Not perfect, mind you, but much better.
I'm curious why Apple's default font rendering strategies,
to my eye -- and to the eyes of at least two other people
-- are visibly inferior to Microsoft's on typical LCD displays.
Perhaps that's half the story: to your eyes.
I think that much of this is down to familiarity as anything else, the Microsoft rendering looks thin and gangly to me. For example, the text you blew up, the d in "render" looks off balance to me, the weight of the vertical bar is much heavier than the curve on the left hand side. But if you're used to that, it probably looks "correct". (Make the text on the page larger, and you'll see that if anything, the curve should be thicker than the vertical bar.)
Do you wear glasses?
I prefer the Apple fonts and I do not wear glasses. I did an informal survey. With glasses, 100% prefered ClearType. Without glasses, 100% preferred Apple fonts. Sample size was only 6, but I've had this exact same argument with PDF vs Word documents and it trends the same way.
Apple fonts seem to come across as blurry to people with glasses.
Since I don't wear glasses, I'm siding with Apple with this one. Apple's core kernel is called Darwin. It seems they prefer the genetically superior. :)
Hmmm, under OS X the font smoothing properties are located globally in the System Preferences - Appearance prefpane. I wonder why they don't tie into the global settings under Windows? Willfully or is the Windows API difficult/hidden?
Also, you have the option under OS X to turn off font smoothing for a user specified point size. The default is off for 8 and smaller.
I just blasted a significant wedge of cash on a Macbook Pro, and the font difference smacked me in the face on my Dell 2405 monitor, unfortunately.
I wouldn't doubt that OSX/Safari font is probably closer to print - but default MS font settings, in combination with ClearType, just look a lot nice on the technology that facilitates the majority of my reading...
Ha! You just helped me understand something that has always pecked at the back of my brain.
Glancing at your screenshots I immediately thought "Did he have a typo? Is this supposed to be titled What's Wrong with Vista's Font Rendering?"
'Cause the Safari version looks exactly right to my Apple-trained eye, and much more satisfying. The IE version looks "broken" to me.
In fact, I have always had the same reaction to Windows aliasing that your peer had: "Microsoft has some room to improve in this area".
I never realized it was simply a matter of both platforms are choosing a different approach that they think is right--and we're conditioned to see our main platform as the correct way. :)
I wonder if it could be as simple as the fact that MS holds patents on some of the Cleartype tech (http://www.microsoft.com/typography/ClearTypeFAQ.mspx), and Apple can't get too close without violating the patents or at least getting into a costly fight over them (or knuckling under and licensing them)? Just a theory as to your "Why didn't they do this right when they usually do UI stuff well" question.
Parveen - I don't wear glasses, and I prefer the windows font rendering.
I once read an article where Steve Jobs was explaining why he thought Microsoft "didn't get user interfaces" (perhaps not a direct quote but close enough). In the article he explained that Mac Fonts are rendered to look like traditional print (magazine, newspaper, etc.). At this I think they succeeded. To those who use Windows Mac fonts appear blurry because you're used to the decidedly pixely, crisp edges used in Windows font rendering. When I switched from Windows to OS X I wasn't crazy about it what I thought were 'blurry' OS X font, but now when I look at Windows I think the pixely fonts look bad.
The point is it's absolutely a user preference. One that by the way is probably pretty clearly split down Graphic Designer and Software Developer lines.
I think the key here is "rendering". The Apple fonts are "rendered" - they're properly displayed as typefaces. The Windows fonts are really just "anti-aliased" - they're basically the same as the non-smoothed versions, but with the pixels smoothed out.
I wear glasses, and prefer the Apple version. It takes getting used to, but it's definitely more "correct" to my eyes.
Just stop making your website text so goddamn small ;-)
I always find OS X's font rendering much better than Windows' traditional stuff, and thought Joel's article was really weird. Cleartype is better, but still very thin. I have terrible sight in one eye and am not wearing my glasses.
It works much better for black text; on this site I can see color fringing on the edges from the subpixel stuff.
Most of how it works involves ignoring the font hinting, but I think it might use it for subtle effects.
Oh, I meant this article - a href="http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000041.html"http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000041.html/a
which is about how antialiasing is bad because Corel is bad at antialiasing.
Looks like this links to a different one.
I also prefer Apple's font rendering. It looks more like a what you'd see on a piece of paper.
The Windows method looks like a "computer" display.
Obviously, Apple and Microsoft's definition of "right" is different. Otherwise, we'd be running the same OS.
For some reason the Apple renderer is using subpixel anti-aliasing along the straight lines, which seems unnecessary to me
Guys, surely this has something to do with it;
- Macs use 72dpi
- PCs *generally* use 96dpi
Apple can afford to (and possibly even needs to) blur out fonts to make them legible at the view distances incurred from using 72dpi.
I hated the OSX font rendering when I switched over from Windows. I found it blurry and annoying.
Now I can't imagine what I was thinking. The Windows fonts look skinny, gangly, and illegible.
It's all what you're used to...
Bear in mind we are seeing two different fonts in the comparison (Colibri in IE, Helvetica in Safari), which may muddle the issue a bit.
Once you scale up the font, the Apple method looks quite a bit better. But at small point sizes, Apple's choice of font anti-aliasing looks just plain flat-out *bad*-- blurry and indistinct. That's why I strongly suspect Apple isn't hand-hinting the font aliasing for smaller point sizes, as Microsoft clearly is. At small point sizes, it's no contest.
After switching back and forth quite a bit, I'll agree that it's basically a choice between sharpness and softness. Well, minus the small font deficiency...
Hostile Monkey has it right. Microsoft makes more aggressive use of hinting at lower point sizes.
Technical explanation: Microsoft's approach reduces anti-aliasing artifacts which makes the typeface more readable on monitors. However, this is done using hinting, which distorts the typeface's natural dimensions due to the forced alignment to pixel boundaries. Microsoft's approach would be considered more "correct" for people who require non-blurry, easier-to-read type at smaller point sizes, and who value practicality over accuracy.
Apple's approach more accurately reflects the natural dimensions and spacing of the typeface, but uses significantly more anti-aliasing to accomplish this - thus making the font appear noticeably "blurrier." Apple's approach may be considered more "correct" by graphic artists who would probably be more interested in experiencing the true shape and design of the typeface. Apple's approach would be preferred by people who prefer purity of form over absolute readability.
The approach that users prefer will depend on the DPI resolution of their monitor, their eyesight, the distance from their monitor, and their priorities. My guess is that "general" users would prefer Microsoft's approach most of the time as they are more concerned about readability than form, though Apple's approach could give their OS a classier and more "designed" look.
I just upped my DPI to 120 and WOW, I can certainly see a difference now.
Astrange, that Spolsky link is funny. Old Spolsky hates ClearType; New Spolsky likes it!
Somebody didn't notice this: the Microsoft Reader group, which is using a form of antialiasing they call "ClearType" designed for color LCD screens, which, I'm sorry, still looks blurry, even on a color LCD screen.
To be fair, I had the same love-hate relationship with the RGB aliasing of ClearType [on low-DPI displays where you can see the pixels], until I bowed to its inevitability.
Did Apple tune down the rendering engine for the pure speed?
Unless I'm misunderstanding you, in your example, IE isn't displaying Colibri. Both are using Arial (as opposed to Helvetica, which you can distinguish by looking at the uppercase "G" -- but that's just nitpicking).
When I first tried a Mac, after years on Windows, the font rendering seemed a bit "off" to me as well, but I soon came to greatly prefer it -- ESPECIALLY in the small sizes, in which the Mac much more accurately displays the structure of the font. Windows/ClearType appears to try to move all the stems, legs, and space between letters to as close to on-the-pixel values as it can in order to cut down on the amount of aliasing it has to do, but in doing so creates distortions of form and spacing, making for a much more "jittery" and poorly kerned body of text, not to mention a font that, at least in the above example, looks nothing like Arial.
Neither are terrible, of course, but from the standpoint of typographic tradition and print, the Mac's rendering is far superior. I'd say give it more time.
Oops; Daniel beat me to it, and much more eloquently.
I just had a post in my blog after installing Safari browser. It's really a coincidence that you blogged the same about font rendering. With the Safari installed in my Windows XP PC, the font rendering it really bad even after setting the "Font Smoothing" to "Light". Hmm apple need to go much further to reach microsoft to render font in a better way.
Also the safari browser has no support for blogging (I only tried with my wordpress blog). It was quite desperating. Finally I specified the HTML formatting manually :(
W.r.t what Daniel Robbins said, it's worth noting that the pixel densities of apple's screens are a fair bit higher than average.
The above comments should make it clear: Apple's font rendering is clearly inferior, to your eye, because your eye is used to Microsoft's font rendering.
Microsoft's font rendering, to my eye, is clearly inferior. By a strange coincidence, my eye is used to Apple's rendering.
The Windows rendering seems full of jaggies. Sorry, hands down, the Apple sub-pixel rendering, to this eye, appears better.
Re: Daniel Robbins:
Amazing, how far Mac fans will go to prove their point. This discussion just went along the line of Mac vs. PC commercials.
"Apple's approach would be preferred by people who prefer purity of form over absolute readability."
What people? For all the people reading news, blogs etc. on the Web, or writing code, or using, hmm, spreadsheets -- readability is an absolute priority.
I'm not gonna stare at "a body of perfectly kerned text, with correctly rendered typeface" - I'm interested in actually READING words and trying to extract some meaning from it.
Graphic designers, on the other hand, use "greek text below Xpt.", that it choose not to render fonts at all when it doesn't make sense. But this is a tiny minority of mere mortals using computers in their daily lives.
I switched to a Mac recently, going on 4-5 months now, after...when did the 2.11 come out? A long time on Windows. When I first started with the Mac, I HATED the fonts. I fought with the system preferences bitterly, realized there was nothing I could do about it, and gave up. Funny thing - now when I go back to Windows, I find the text just barely readable. I guess I've been assimilated.
This might sound silly, but font rendering on the Mac is one of the reasons I switched to OS X. Its that much better to me.
There's something just not right with the Vista rendering. It's too tight, and the white/black balance is off to me. My eyes hurt from reading it, so much that I turned aliasing off on my ClearType-enabled PC at work.
At home with OSX on an LCD, it just feels right. Maybe that's an edge Apple has here over Mac: they looked beyond the technology and how tightly they could compress text on the screen. Maybe it's just what you're used to over time.
I'm sorry, my Re: was incorrectly addressed.
Daniel actually said the same thing as myself, that people interested in readability would prefer Microsoft's ClearType (I actually don't use it either, just get by with MS Verdana and Tahoma, which look good without any anti-aliasing).
Statements like "...Apple's font rendering... looks more like a what you'd see on a piece of paper. The Windows method looks like a "computer" display." strike me as odd. An LCD is nothing like a piece of paper. The printed fonts are not anti-aliased, unless we're talking about cheap newspaper print. For the purpose of displaying characters in 8pt size, 96dpi is nothing like 300dpi.
So the bottom one clearly displays a different page, right? I mean, it refers to some company names Juiusoft, whereas the top one refers to Jujusoft.
OK, I'm being snarky, but seriously, is it more readable when you can't even see the curved letter in an underlined "j"? That immediately leaped out at me.
I'm tempted to say "Well, it's just what you're used to," except my clients will never let me use CSS to style text for main navigation on web pages. They insist on graphics because the "fonts look better"--meaning rendered by something other than Windows. Then they see it on the Mac and suddenly they get why I'm OK with the more accessible styled text.
And if you're talking about any non-roman script, like Arabic, it's not even close.
wow, i never thought anyone thought the windows font rendering was good, but i guess i was wrong. to me, the one on top looks about 10x better, and i would always choose it over the IE example.
Excuses for the "me too" reply, I'll post this for statistical reasons. At first I thought "was that a typo or did he accidentally switch the images?" - to my eye, the Apple rendering clearly looks better. I wonder if there's any research that could explain why some people prefer the Apple rendering while others like the Windows engine better.
(for the record: I'm using Mac OS X and Kubuntu on a daily basis and I never use Windows).
Since I don't wear glasses, I'm siding with Apple with this one. Apple's core kernel is called Darwin. It seems they prefer the genetically superior. :)
If you don't wear glasses, it's only because you haven't spent enough time looking at computer screens. (Old man voice) "When I was your age, the world was green and black and dot matrix..."
The IE version is not even close to accurate. To me it's obvious that OS X renders better, in the bigs and the smalls. I can't believe this is even being discussed.
Interesting. When I first switched to a MacBook 6 months ago, I found the font rendering quite blurry. I did my best to make it look like ClearType, but then gave up and forgot all about it after a week. It no longer looks blurry, and after reading some comments here and taking a second look at the ClearType example, I now think that ClearType looks thin but somehow confused (the 'i' and 'l' are all squashed together, whereas in OS X they have much better spacing around them).
So my conclusion is, it all depends on what you're used to. I know a lot of people hate ClearType in XP and leave it turned off, although myself I liked it. Now I'm used to Apple, and while I THINK it looks blurry, its clearly just as readable, if not more readable, than ClearType. By the way, I wear glasses.
Completely agree with shiza. The Microsoft method is just what you're used to. It is, however, /horribly inaccurate/. Show the fonts to anyone with any knowledge of typography. There's no chance they'd prefer the cleartype.
The MS type is obviously more "crisp" but the mac type is by far more readable IMO unless I stick my face less than a foot from the screen. I do wear glasses w/ a good prescription (not old) so that really has nothing to do with it.
Fonts are built very carefully (well, the good ones) to balance white space, serifs (when used), the curving of letters, etc. to increase readability and allow a readers eyes to naturally flow through the text without effort. The MS way of rendering it completely ruins this and makes my eye have to strain more to read it. If you just look at the type and say "hey, this one is crisper therefore better" of course you like the MS type, if you sit back and actually try to read a paragraph the Mac type is MUCH easier to read.
As a note, I am a Mac user but not what you'd call a "fanboy", whenever there are new advancements on any platform I thoroughly check into them and if MS came out with something I thought was better I would definitely switch w/ out a problem.
On both my laptops and my home CRT and work LCD Mac fonts just look like JUNK no matter the px or if I have my glasses on or not. The Mac just hurts my eyes.
Who cares if a font is "correct" design wise if it looks like crap and hurts your eyes to read? READABILITY thats ALL that matters in fonts.
This certainly eye opening. To me the Mac font rendering is superior by a order of magnitude... like not even close. To be ClearType looks like absolute garbage.
I am really quite stunned that something that seemed so absolute and unequivocal to me can actually be so subjective. Wow.
The Mac's font rendering was actually one of the things that made me decide to stop using Windows at home.
I don't use Safari on the Mac - I prefer Firefox - but I might use it on Windows if it renders fonts the way I like them.
While Safari's rendering is certainly smoother, it's too heavy and even has uneven weight... The capital T's are glaringly heavier than the surrounding text. Lower case r's and f's look top-heavy because they're not even between the stem and the top. I'm sure I could get used to either, but Microsoft's rendering just looks cleaner because the letters don't bleed together. (and FWIW, I do not wear glasses)
Those from the Windows platform are definitely having problems with the type rendering because it's a shift from what they're used to.
Putting aside a Mac vs. PC debate, from a purely typographical standpoint OS X is clearly the superior platform in this regard. The reason being is that Apple has chosen to maintain the integrity of the typeface rather than distort it. Why? Well, why do you think type designers spend so much time over seemingly insignificant details? It has a direct impact on the legibility of the type. Shape and form matter immensely.
Those without a background in graphic design or typography will have a hard time with this, but rest assured the details certainly do matter, much more than simply the "crispness" of the type. From what I saw above, Microsoft's ClearType distorts type so the legibility of the individual characters are worse and the kerning is sacrificed--breaking the flow from letter to letter and word to word.
Compare a serifed typeface like Garamond (not Georgia, as it makes specific concessions to a computer display) on a Mac vs a PC and the details become even more important. The weight of the individual serifs aid legibility, but not unless the form of the type is preserved.
Apple, in my opinion is going the right direction with this. The only reason Microsoft's ClearType is the way it is is because of the relatively low resolution of screen displays compared to print. Print is often at 200 to 300 dpi, while a 130 is considered excellent on a computer screen. As dpi gets better on computer screens, the difference--and superiority--of Apple's technique will be clearer (forgive the pun) and clearer.
I'm with Dan. Safari's font rendering looks better on my display too (a 30" Apple Cinema). Aside from the obvious and unaccountable subjective factor, I think display dot pitch may be the biggest determinant of which looks better to you. High density displays look better with more aggressive smoothing. The only final answer is resolution independence, which is supposedly coming in Leopard.
Under Edit Preferences Appearance in Safari, there's a setting which you can use to lighten up the rendering a bit. I still prefer ClearType, but it's not as jarring.
I really am not a Mac zealot, and I was not suggesting that the Mac's approach was inherently better.
In general, I prefer the Windows font rendering, since I have good eyesight and can usually make out individual pixels. The Mac style (FreeType on Linux works similarly in most configurations) is great at first since the fonts look like they do on paper but it kind of wears on me after a while due to blurriness issues.
If the DPI is high enough so that you can't make out individual pixels - or, in other words, if your eyesight is bad enough relative to the resolution of your display - then you will not get very much benefit from aggressive hinting and the Mac method will probably look better nearly all the time, and the fonts will look "truer."
On another sub-topic - Some people have mentioned that Macs generally have a higher DPI setting - hasn't the Mac always religiously used 72 DPI, or was this just back in the early days and they've moved to a higher DPI setting with OS X? Windows XP defaults to 96 DPI.
Having used Safari as my primary browser for a while, the top screenshot looks "right" to me, and while I think there's an aesthetic case to be made for that point of view, it's obvious that if you're used to ClearType, suddenly your Google results will look very "wrong" in Safari. It is quite subjective, and like Dan I never realized that it was so. Very interesting post.
Re: Keith Schwerin
"Who cares if a font is 'correct' design wise if it looks like crap and hurts your eyes to read? READABILITY thats ALL that matters in fonts."
I think the implication of those writing that the Mac OS X fonts are closer to "correct" is that correctly rendered fonts tend to be more readable and, if the page is thoughtfully designed, more aesthetically pleasing.
We should also be careful about making universal judgments in readability. Typographic experts have been studying readibility for a long time and still there is no consensus. I don't think you can make a sweeping statement based on one look that the Mac's rendering is less readable than ClearType, or vice versa.
Along those lines, I'm surprised by the remarks that say the rendering breaks down at the small point sizes. I find the "Advanced Search" and "Preferences" text in the screenshots marginally more readable than the (relatively) squashed text in the IE screenshot, but I think they're both fine. Viewing this site on Mac Safari, I also have no trouble reading the small copyright notice at the bottom right of the page. It looks quite good to me.
I'm also surprised to learn that this issue is new to so many people. Anybody who has designed websites for both platforms in the last three years or so ought to have viewed their pages in Safari as well as Windows IE. (Not to mention Firefox, etc.) I've always found that Windows IE reliably renders fonts larger, thinner, and with less accuracy. "Less accuracy" doesn't necessarily equal "bad," but it is the truth as far as the font's original design. In addition, as others have mentioned tangentially, a website printed out from Safari will look almost exactly like what you saw on the screen. The browser seems to aspire to WYSIWYG in that respect.
I completely disagree with this comparison, and I think the top anti-aliasing is far superior to Windows' shitty ClearType. ClearType text always looks like it was printed with a clogged nozzle (excuse the print analogy) and is far too light when staring at tiny pixels on a screen. Plus, welcome to how the typeface is supposed to look - if you view the vector version of these typeface characters you'll see Safari's version is spot-on whereas ClearType takes "liberties" with the actual vector version. I prefer the original, thankyouverymuch.
As a Mac user, I would be quite angry if Microsoft developed a Macintosh application using ClearType to display text, as I am quite happily accustomed to the Mac's font rendering and anti-aliasing (and find the IE text to be a bit rough and less welcoming to read). Clearly, Apple does not have this respect in developing for Windows. It's less an issue of which is better, and more an issue of consistency and what you're used to.
Here's an interesting point that a US-centric audience will miss.
Japanese and Chinese in IE are hideous. Windows doesn't anti-alias those scripts for some reason, so they're jagged and nearly impossible to read.
Safari 3, with its terrific font smoothing (particularly for Asian languages), just might make those languages *usable* in Windows for the first time ever.
I used to use a Mac for a few days and I liked the way of font smoothing there (fwiw, cleartype is far from perfect), however on windows it just looks waaaay out of the place. As does the UI.
"Joel Spolsky himself"?
You want to aspire to a guy whose FogBugz product is so inanely designed it doesn't even have bottom margin padding on the main entry form? And you want to trust him for UI insight?
Come on, you can do better.
I tried using a Mac for almost a month, and I really gave it a fair shot. I transfered my whole computing life over to it for a bit. It turned out there were a bunch of things I didn't like, and the anti-aliasing of small fonts was one of the worst. I actually set it to disable anti-aliasing for fonts lower than 12 points, but then Firefox always got the kerning wrong, and it still looked terrible. Add to that the fact that you can't just maximize a window (zoom doesn't always work), along with other things, and I just had to switch back. Sorry Apple. I gave it my best shot. Love the hardware though (Mac Pro). Running Vista x64 on it as we speak.
I totally agrees with Noah. Apple seems to ignore all design elements of Windows thinking, they can improve it. Fact is, they can't. OS X looks nice (although I like Vista more), but the individual UI elements doesn't work integrated into a Vista environment. In addition hereto, applications should look the same on each platform. This is the only way, the user are able to change all interfaces at a time by configuration the OS. That applies to anti-aliasing too. It will probably never happend, but for the best result, iTunes, QuickTime and Safari should - on Windows - apply to Windows design elements and guidelines. The features - if good enough - will still sell the software, but the design has to be consistent with the platform.
I don't understand why one rendering is called "wrong" and other "right". Indeed, there's no best way to render. That is only a matter of your habits.
As for me, Safari text is more readable. By the way, text is more readable on all Mac OS X screenshots I've seen than on any Windows ones. Font is usually larger/heavier there and it is more friendly to eyes, especially with 20" LCD I'm using now.
Safari is unapologetically a Mac app and does almost nothing the "Windows way", with the possible exception of maximizing behavior.
I think this is absolutely by design. You have to understand that Safari isn't so much a pretender to the IE/Firefox throne as it is a *Mac Emulator*. It's intended to facilitate development of Safari compatible web apps (and technically iPhone apps) by making them dead simple to test. You no longer even have to beg, borrow, or steal a Mac to see if your web app behaves under Safari. Just download and go.
So from that perspective-- and I can't think of any others that make any business sense-- the closer Safari's behavior is to the Mac version, the better.
It doesn't really matter which is "better", what's odd is that Safari on Windows is so different from every other Windows app on my desktop that it sticks out as the one that appears to have "broken" fonts.
On the plus side, it might mean that people actually test their websites with Safari now!
Jeff, I still think it is a terrible try.
- Look at selections. Do you really select all layout blocks and so on in Mac applications? I want to select text easy, simple and highlight only the selection - not spacers and so on.
- All design elements is different. Look at the "icon" of a dropdown box in Safari. It equals the Windows one for a numeric selector. How can this difference be any good? Why bother implementing their own design for the scrollbar, when Windows offers these elements?
- I want Safari to comply to my - the users - rules and settings; not their. It is so 90'ies to create such lock-ins and to decide for the user while also eliminating a free choice.
- Font blending, as your post. Make it a choice. Use the operating system features by default; I can't imagine, that it would be less optimized by using those things heavily supported by the OS.
On the Steve Jobs keynode, one of the highlights for next OS X is "consistent window design". Guess they could apply that to their Windows offers.
If Mac was integrated in Windows, I would use it. They would still be able to show off with some nice effects and custom layout elements, where it would apply. Now I may have to use it for development, but then again - I nearly won't have to bother, if noone are going to use it. There has to be someone to test for (I know there is, but I hope my point is clear).
ClearType looks much more "computer-y" to me, while Apple's subpixel rendering looks more like real type. I think part of the difference is that Microsoft tries to make everything fit the pixels. Most vertical lines are pretty much 1 pixel wide and smack dab in the middle of a pixel. I wonder whether they change the kerning slightly to get the letters to the right place...
I use both Macs and Windows, but I actually prefer Apple's font rendering. It's less harsh - of course, that's a subjective view. Some people might call the Mac's rendering "less crisp" :-)
By the way, on Macs, there's a setting where you can make your subpixel rendering more or less crisp, and there's also a setting for people with CRTs which seems to turn subpixel rendering off completely, using normal font interpolation.
Finally, if it's true that Apple's rendering is closer to the final output, then it obviously makes sense for Macs - which are often used in publishing - to use this rendering style. Otherwise, printers would be surprised if text suddenly looked much darker or much lighter when printed out, and did not match the greys used anymore :-)
I think Apple's font rendering looks a lot better. Windows looks very thin light. I prefer the darker, thicker appearance.
God. I *loathe* OSX's font rendering. It's one of the major contributing factors to my Mac ownership experiment ending and me going back to windows full time.
Aesthetically, The OSX rendering looks better, no doubt. But in clarity and readability, ClearType destroys it (on an LCD only). OSX feels like my eyes are melting, but ClearType is, as the name implies, crystal clear.
That said, I'm glad they used the OSX rendering in the PC safari. Now you can test almost *exactly* how your web pages will look on a Mac, without having to use one.
My font smoother design is far superior to microsofts.
Anyone who disagrees with me is just not a visionary.
PS. Buy an iPhone.
1 out of 10 Windows users know that ClearType even exists. The 1 that discovers it is always gloating how much better Windows is at font rendering compared to, what, the Apple Newton?
How quickly we forget about IE 6, sans ClearType. (Today's "leading" combo, no?) Imagine, now that you actually can, what it has been like to design a website with Safari as your main dev browser, using fonts for your h1-h5 to save bytes, and then check it in IE 6. Ouch. A thing of beatuty totally wasted.
Yeah. Good title.
I'm down with the argument that it's dependent on usage.
If I'm reading text for the information contained within, readability at smaller point sizes is often an issue. For that purpose, hinting such as ClearType can be beneficial.
If I'm producing graphical work, or reading something which has aesthetic value as well as content value, I'd like to see the fonts as they were intended - and in those circumstances it's a constant frustration to me that Windows just doesn't do that: small fonts simply look nothing like they should.
On balance, I'd rather have Apple's faithful rendering, and pick my fonts carefully for "readability-priority" functions such as a default browser font.
And I say that as a lifelong Windows user :)
I've just discovered that, in OS X, you can turn off smoothing for fonts under a certain (user defined) size. Also, OS X tends to use both sub-pixel rendering AND anti-aliasing in order to try and diminish the visual noise incurred by the sub-pixel rendering.
My machine (XP/20" LCD @ 1600x1200) doesn't have the Calibri font, so I get your site rendered in Tahoma. I have to say that your site looks decidedly better to me in Safari, while Google (Arial) looks slightly better in IE. Overall, I think I like the slight blurriness of Safari over the angularity of IE.
Look at the lower-case 'e' in "Advanced Search" to the right of the Google search box. The letterform is so different you might think they aren't using the same type face: in Safari the bowl of the 'e' curves back up on the right-hand side, while in IE the bowl of the e ends with a straight horizontal line.
Looking at the 'e' in larger point sizes, it's clear that the bowl is curved in the pure (unrendered) letterform.
As many have said, which you prefer depends on who you are. But I can see why type designers or graphics layout people would like the Apple approach.
I think the fonts are not the problem with Safari. I prefer them, in fact.
*Here's the real story* of where Apple's beta falls short:
Their browser launches in a window that doesn't play well with Windows standards. I can't, for example, resize it except by using the Apple resize triangle in the lower right corner (and the ability to resize windows from any edge or corner is one place where Windows totally has it right compared to OS X). Nor can I control-select, say, the IE and Safari apps in my system tray and right click to display them side-by-side onscreen. XP just thinks that IE is running.
*This* is where Apple is acting with hubris....Just because windows work one way on the Mac, doesn't make it a good idea to break the Windows paradigm (i.e., override the behavior that the user expects).
Macs generally use around 100dpi, higher for laptops.
That's _physically_ 100dpi, but the software in Mac OS X 10.4 and earlier still thinks in 72dpi. So currently on a Mac, the higher the physical resolution, the smaller stuff (a letter, an icon, etc.) appears.
If the Mac thinks the icon is an inch wide, it uses 72 pixels across to draw that icon. On a high-rez Mac Pro screen, if you hold a ruler up to the screen, that icon might measure only 0.6 inches (or some such number).
This will change in Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" with the software drawing at any resolution you choose. If you want, you can use more physical pixels to draw the same letter with more smoothing or the same icon with more detail, but fewer of those letters icons can appear on screen.
Apple's approach to font smoothing will really pay off then, as text on future high density monitors will appear more and more like ink on paper. But Microsoft rendering will look more and more goofy and "computer-like".
I don't have a problem with either Windows or Mac font rendering. They both look great in my estimation. By contrast, font rendering on Linux is absolutely horrendous. Hinting is poorly implemented -- stroke widths tend to be somewhat uneven -- and colour fringing with sub pixel rendering is painful. It even manages to make the Windows core fonts look ugly.
I'm surprised that Safari looks so wrong under windows, as it looks correct on a Mac. Hopefully by the time it comes out of beta they will have sorted the rendering issues. I'm convinced that Safari must be using some different method of rendering compared with iTunes under windows.
I'm not convinced that even altering the appearances under preferences makes it any better. It's slightly easier on the eye but you can see where the characters look thicker than they should.
I'm really surprised that nobody has mentioned that clear type is not anti-aliasing in the traditional sense. It only works on flat panels, and is optimised for the positioning of the diodes that make up a single pixel.
James McKay, you don't say whether it is KDE or GNOME you are using. I prefer the look of Firefox under GNOME to both ClearType and the Mac method. It certainly doesn't look uneven to me.
Cleartype alone is hideous, it leaves horizontal strips without any anti-aliasing at all. Its a complete disaster and can really strain my eyes after long periods. I'm ecstatic that I can now enjoy decent text when browsing on windows.
Most windows users complaining are too used to no-antialias or Cleartype which could hardly be considered antialais
The Safari text rendering has higher production values. I make site designs in Photoshop and the text ends up looking basically the same once the Web site is created if you look at it in Safari there is never any need to make an image. The Windows text rendering looks like a computer. Also the Mac rendering looks the same on screen or in print or on tomorrow's 300 dpi display.
How you view this has a lot to do with what you're used to. When I see a site in Explorer I always think WTF is wrong with this PC? So I guess here we're seeing someone go the other way, looking at Safari.
Also someone told me once that Windows has to be "extra clear" because there are a lot of analog displays on PC's. Even many LCD's (digital displays) are hooked up with VGA (analog cable) just to save the cost of the digital cable. This adds a lot of blur, it makes an LCD into a CRT, if you are working with that then you are not even in the digital universe yet, you are watching it on TV.
The Apple fonts are blurry, period. Admit it, for God's sake. The "rendering" is inferior and everybody knows it. Also, who cares if it's "truer to print"? Most people use a computer to read information on the computer, not to print out accurate typefaces on pages. At least now with the release of Safari 3 for Win the world can see the Apple scam with their own eyes.
suddenly everybody has an opinion!!
A "200% exact pixel resize" doesn't make any sense in a subpixel font rendering context.
To my eye, ClearType is better than the Apple rendering. Apples looks, well, just blurred, out of focus. Apple's fonts may be 'truer' - and they do look more 'beautiful' - but they aren't as readable.
That said, it's hard to be sure what's better. Look at the factors - screen type (CRT? LCD?) and resolution, distance from screen, text size, font used, colours, eyeballs, possibly colour-blindness, maybe glasses or contacts - you're never going to have a definite answer for all people. A survey is your best hope...
But for me, on this machine, the way I work - ClearType. Readability is king.
On the "72 dpi" thing.
This was so back in the days of the 9" display compact Mac; 72dpi to match typesetter's points.
Hasn't been true on screen for a while; actual display DPI is identical to a PC with the same resolution and physical size (obviously).
(BooBoo: Aren't many/most things at the software level spec'd as Ipixels/i rather than notional inches, anyway?
Certainly it ought to be possible, if Apple's APIs are anything like everyone else's, even though they allow device-independent sizing. I don't do OSX development, so I can't speak from experience as far as OSX implementation.
The issue is, at any rate, no different on a Windows-running PC; the PC doesn't know what your physical DPI might be; Windows only has 96 and 120 options unless you do a custom one, and nobody does that [figurative nobody, of course].
Given the variations in resolution and physical size, that's all going to be a crapshoot on screen until either people actually set their OS DPI level correctly, or it's clever enough [using DCC and a table of monitor physical sizes/layouts and the known resolution] to calculate a DPI value and apply it ... and that only even matters if the software is doing its drawing by notional size rather than by pixel.
"Best practice" these days leans to the former, but people often don't follow notional best practices.)
I think it's hilarious, by the way, that PWH3Troll ignores all the data about conflicting opinions, all admitted by those proffering them to be Isubjective judgement/i, and just ignores the half that doesn't suit the troll. Bravo.
The Windows version is actually somewhat harder for me to read. It seems way too wispy/wiry, and almost like it's of less opacity. Factor in my slight astigmatism and it's even worse.
I mean, it's not too huge a difference either way, but the Apple version just seems generally easier to read, and more... there, I guess. More like text you'd read on paper.
Apple's fonts look a lot more readable to me, a lot more like actual letters instead of digital interpretations of letters. :)
Then again, i use the native resolution on a properly calibrated LCD, sit back about 2 feet from the screen, and have been using macs for long enough for Apple's way to feel natural and MS's way to feel artificial.