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
"The 'rendering' is inferior and everybody knows it."
Clearly, "everybody" does not include me, and I am a Windows user who wears glasses and has no interest in Macs. This article was the only reason I gave Safari a try, and the font rendering is such a pleasure that I'll likely use Safari quite a bit. I wish I could apply the rendering system-wide so that I could enjoy it in Firefox instead.
The primary difference is that Microsoft try to align everything to whole pixels vertically and sub-pixels horizontally.
Apple just scale the font naturally - sometimes it fits into whole pixels other times it doesn't.
This means Windows looks sharper at the expense of not actually being a very accurate representation of the text. The Mac with it's design/DTP background is a much more accurate representation and scales more naturally than Windows which consequently jumps around a lot vertically.
It is all a matter of choice and learned beahviour
Looks like Apple have borrowed a page from Microsoft's book and simply ported their whole graphics engine (MS did something similar with IE4 for Solaris). They're probably using DirectX to blit the resulting bitmap to the screen, much as Sun's Java VM does. That's why fiddling with Windows' settings makes no difference.
Just to recap this thread, here's a quick list of the Apple Fanboi Solution to Apple's blurry fonts:
1) Sit anywhere between two to four feet from your screen (that's right laptop users, you are too close!)
2) Increase the font size -- every time you use your browser. Forget about fitting text nicely on the page, just make everything as big as the E on an eye chart.
3) Don't be a person who wears glasses. Glasses are so 80's and totally uncool anyway.
4) Get used to it -- it's not blurry, you've just been trained by evil, totally uncool M$ to think it is. Practice a little bit each day and eventually the fonts won't be blurry. Hi, I'm a Mac!
chalk up another user who can't stand OS X's font rendering. I'm a mac person, and even I find it difficult to see thru the blur at times.
The most frustrating thing though is that unlike WinXP, there is no adequate way to shut off the antialiasing. You can do it in the preference panel, or with a third-party app, but what you're left with is a melange of poorly-kerned fonts -- it makes XP look like a masterpiece of UI design.
Perhaps Apple will tune up the font handling a bit in Leopard?
As someone who spends 95% of his time on a PC (I own a MacBook but I use it primarily when I am not at home or work), I actually prefer the way Safari for Windows renders fonts. I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when I noticed that everything had that rich Mac look to them. I think this is just one of those "eye of the beholder moments."
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".
Except that Microsoft already shipped a resolution-independent text (and everything-else) rendering engine called WPF in Vista (and have back-ported it to XP and Win2K3).
I've always preferred the Mac's rendering. But it's perfectly understandable that most Windows users would, at least initially, find Apple's method hard to get used to. I'd give it a bit of time before judging too harshly. Everyone gets use to what they use every day. I find both a equally legible, but that as a graphic designer, Apple's rendering is WAY MORE ACCURATE to the actual font design. It's a little heavier than the printed page, but that's understandable, as even at 100dpi or so, a good screen is still much lower DPI than print. It definately better honours contrasts in weight and subtle letterforms. I've often been suprised designing a page in a layout program, moving to HTML - all faithful - then viewing it Windows to see the whole thing become spindly and bland. I was also shocked how many of my clients were not even using Cleartype, which practically removes all character from a font onscreen.
To me, the invisibility of underlined descenders is an example of where the MS way is LESS on-screen readable. Consider 'g' vs 'q', 'i' vs 'j', 'y' vs 'v'.
Seriously, this is all about what you are used to.
Most Windows users, having no experience of anything different, will choose the Windows look.
Mac users, however, often have experience with BOTH platforms, being forced to use Windows at least some of their time, especially at work.
Design professionals will typically favor Apple's approach, and for very good reason. It MUCH more accurately represents type at a range of different resolutions and much more accurately depicts that type in the way that it will be rendered across different media. To a professional designer or artist or anyone else who cares about typography, the "blurriness" is a small price to pay for accuracy and legibility. To them, the Windows approach is quite abysmal. Just look at what Windows is doing to those examples: it's actually bashing the letters in to shape to fit line and width constraints. A horrendous, brute-force approach.
Frankly, I believe Window's approach to typography is junk, but then so is Window's entire UI approach. It looks as though it were designed by programmers, not designers. Apple doesn't do everything right, but at least it's consistent, considered and _designed_.
Were splitting hairs here folks, both systems are light years ahead of what was available in the past.
I cut my font teeth on the ole black screen with the 5 x 7 pixel matrix green letters.
The first machine I ever used that was capable of rendering fonts was an old disk typesetter that used rotating disks with fonts on them, (point source light would shine through the font and image the galley onto film.) driven by a monster wire wrapped Sperry/UNIVAC computer that used drum storage. It was so primitive that a boot strap had to be loaded through the front panel just to make it smart enough to read a paper tape.
The first machine capable of rendering fonts on the screen that I used was a UNIX based Interleaf publishing system. When the Mac came out I was floored. It had better font rendering that the Interleaf's and it didn't cost $50,000.
As far as this comparison goes, I give it to Apple, splitting hairs on resolution is one thing, getting it to print at much higher resolution on a laser printer or typesetter and matching what's on the screen is another. I'll go for matching the screen every time. When I print my documents I want them to print out exactly as they look.
Oh, by the way, did you know that in the early days of the Mac there was a movement to put Postscript on the screen? Sure was, Apple squashed it because they did not own Postscript, even though they funded the majority of its development.
Too bad, it would have been awesome. Just think, a standardized rendering system that doesn't care what machine it runs on, it just scales up the resolution. A true what you see is what you get display.
But for the best laid plans of men and mice and billionaires...
I didn't realise it was so subjectice, for me ClearType wins hands down. Interesting discussion!
The problem here is that the vast, vast majority of computer users (99.99%+ i'd wager) are NOT publishing books or in fact even "printing out" anything more than a spreadsheet in excel or perhaps a business report in MS Word.
For most users, the screen is primary, print is secondary. Apple obviously has a long and storied history of users who do need all the WYSIWYG accuracy they can get, but does this have to come at the expense of the other 99% of us who just want to give our eyes a break? We did pay $2000 for this, right?
Could they not at least throw us a bone and provide a reasonable way to turn the blurriness OFF if we wanted to?
Have Windows users really settled for such a low level of quality?
You've had such crap typography for so long that you think it's normal, acceptable, usable.
Well it's not. The problem is not that Apple's typography is "blurry" is that typography on computer displays is NOT a solved problem. Apple's approach is better for maintaining readability and the integrity of the typeface. Microsoft's approach is to make type "crisper" at the expense of actual legibility and readability, by forcing the type to harsh boundaries.
Just because you are used to something, doesn't make it any good.
Example: check out the words "Advanced Search" and "Preferences", and the text "Search" within the button. Now tell me which one is more legible and easier on the eyes. The Windows versions look awful.
BTW, on the Mac, you can choose your "Font Smoothing Style" for different display types, within the System Preferences - Appearance panel.
My eyes seem to prefer reading Safari on Windows with glasses on, otherwise it looks pretty horrible. That said, admittedly WinXP ClearType is not very good, and Vista seems to make font rendering worse, not better.
I wonder why only one person has mentioned FreeType (on Linux) because it's **new** way of font rendering (for my eyes anyway) beats both Safari and Windows ClearType hands down. Here's an example: https://boniek.homelinux.org/~boniek/desktop/green.png
Now is that still blurry?
Aren't small font sizes supposed to have a heavier weights (at least), larger serifs, etc.
May be there is an error of scale as well as over-hinting.
The human eye is good at seeing edges like you can hear the click of a scratched vinyl record.
The trick is to move the computer screen away until you can no longer see the pixels - probably 3 feet / 1 metre from a typical laptop - and if the text is too small, then make it bigger with the View, Text Size option of your browser. At this distance from the screen, anti-aliasing should work better for visual weight, but moving the outlines to pixel boundaries should be good as well.
For information transfer from screen, then a set of well designed screen/bit-map fonts are more likely to be readable. Printing should have its own style-sheet, fonts, and layout for that medium - most web-pages do not print well.
Isn't funny. Apple fans like apples font style. Windows fans like windows style. Linux fans say, hey Linux is better.
My view when I work on an macs I like the mac style better. When I am on Vista, I rather use Vista's style. Finally when I am using Ubuntu, I rather see Ubuntu's.
Lol. So we should put up with blurry text because its more accurate? Stupidest thing I've ever heard.
I think the problem here is that you are saying to lots of people -- LITERALLY -- "Don't believe your eyes, believe the experts who say that the fonts are NOT blurry".
You can see how that might not go over very well with those of us suffering massive eyestrain with OSX?
On an ironic note, the CAPTCHA font that this site generates when posting ( which looks like it is in Ye Olde English) is significantly clearer than the normal web font on my macbook pro.
There have been a lot of assertions made here, many of them speculative. [Please folks, if you disagree with someone, don't descend into name-calling.]
What do we actually know?
* Mac-style font rendering preserves the outlines and kerning of a typeface's letterforms better.
* Windows-style font rendering distorts the letterforms to fit the pixel grid, for increased sharpness.
* After examining screenshots of familiar and unfamiliar font rendering, many readers prefer what they are used to, and some prefer the other.
But gut reaction to a screenshot is not evidence of improved readability. When I first switched to Mac OS X (10.1 Puma), I found the text a bit blurry, but got used to it within a week or two. In 10.3 Panther, it became noticeably better. On my current 110-ppi LCD display I don't see individual pixels at my normal viewing distance, Mac font rendering looks great, and I find the Windows rendering distracting in Windows XP, whether I turn ClearType on or off.
The following assertion is unproven:
* Windows' sharper, hinted font rendering improves readability.
Can anyone quote an empirical study? The only thing I've seen cited somewhere is a Microsoft assertion that Cleartype measurably improves readability over aliased text, but this doesn't say anything about Mac vs Windows font-smoothing.
It might seem intuitive that sharper text is more readable (but there seems to be little preference for completely un-antialiased text). I would throw out the idea that a truer rendering of a classic, elegant typeface like Helvetica is much easier on the reader's eye and reads more smoothly than the distorted letterforms created mechanically by font hinting.
I would also guess that the relative benefits of Mac-style font rendering increase with a higher-resolution display. Some real testing may find a critical minimum resolution at which the average readability of Mac rendering is better than Windows rendering. But this is just a guess.
ClearType comes with a tuning applet that lets you adjust it to match your preferences. I wonder how many people actually use it and have tweaked the font rendering to match their preferences. That would go some way to explaining why Windows users prefer Windows' anti-aliasing.
Well, I prefer Apple's font rendering, because I'm used to it. That's it. Just like T3Logic says, you prefer the rendering you're used to.
The IE-style looks more 'fragile' to me, too light, while the Apple style is softer, 'friendlier'.
I just like being able to adjust the way ClearType looks on any particular machine. When some application comes along and decides to throw that out the window and render the fonts however it feels like doing so, that tends to be jarring.
For me, the image of the Safari rendering looks bad, but I can see how it would look better to other people (and I could adjust ClearType so that it looked much closer, if I wanted to). The situation doesn't change if I take my glasses off (and wait a while for my eyes to adjust), probably because I don't need my glasses for reading anything within the walls of my cubicle.
If my eyes could somehow adjust to fonts looking like that all the time (at the moment I think it would give me a headache, but perhaps not), maybe I could find it to look better than the ClearType, but as it stands it just doesn't work for me.
Then again, I have issues with the interface for Safari on Windows, it's exactly the kind of thing Mac users screamed about when Microsoft released a version of Office that had the same interface on both platforms. People defended iTunes and Quicktime because they were applications in which most of the competition did not have a common interface, and perhaps you could say the same with internet browsers, but at least in every other case you could skin the competing applications to either get an interface you like or get an interface that is closer to the platform on which it is running.
I'm also siding with the camp that thinks the Apple font rendering looks better, and I say this as a Windows user who has never owned a Mac. The light contrast version looks great if you're meticulously examining the crispness and evenness of the font edges, but the high-contrast Apple font is much easier to read. Could Apple be working in some school of thought that comes more from ye old typesetters instead of the new wave of hand-tweaked font rendering?
I installed Safari on my home laptop, and the font rendering looks much better there (very close to my IE window when I opened the same page side-by-side). That being said, the fonts still looked a bit blurry, and the program itself is unusable (I had to open a default bookmark because I couldn't enter an address or use any of the menus).
The interface itself actually takes up slightly more space when I have tabs open (even without the benefit of a status bar on Safari), and the violations of Vista's user interface guidelines start the moment you start the installation, never mind the terrible window resizing. For a company that cares so much about their own interface guidelines, they certainly don't give a damn about anyone else's.
Who is the text for? For whose benefit? The typographer, or the reader? Should accurately reproducing the typographer's design be the goal, or improving readability (proven through scientific studies) be the goal?
I prefer Apple's font rendering and it's the first thing I noticed when I installed Safari on a Windows box. I think Apple's AA really shines on a high resolution display - 1600x1200 or higher. I'm looking at an H2 tag on CNN now and Safari looks smooth like Photoshop rendered text - ClearType text looks jagged. I don't like jagged.
For anyone who uses Photoshop all day - you know there are different AA modes there, and different ones look better depending on font and size. Still, IMHO, Apple has made the best choice for the "one size fits all" AA scheme.
Just to bring more balance into this discussion
Worth noting that Cleartype does NO antialiasing, it is just very good sub-pixel rendering (which basically means your vertical resolution gets trippled). Apple on the other hand uses sub-pixel rendering AND antialiasing (which many people will find "blurry"). Both approaches have their advantages:
- Cleartype is more readable at small point sizes, while Apple's approach gets subjectively more blurry
- Quartz (Apple) uses correct typographic spacing while Cleartype can take better advantage of hinting (while losing some typographic accuracy)
These are two different philosophies regarding on-screen type. Apple's approach pays off on larger type and higher resolution monitors (though ironically antialiasing is less needed there) and Cleartype results in, well, "clearer" type when dealing with small sizes.
PS: The OS dpi (72dpi vs 96dpi) has NOTHING to do with it, it's just a "virtual value that defines how "points" will be translated into "pixels". But in the case of websites a 12px font will be twelve pixels high, on Windows and on the Mac.
Have Windows users really settled for such a low level of quality?
You've had such crap typography for so long that you think it's normal, acceptable, usable.
OMG I KNOW WHEN SOMETHING IS BLURRY AND WHEN IT ISN'T!!! IF A CAMERA LENS LOOKS OUT OF FOCUS IT'S NOT BECAUSE I'VE BEEN TRAINED WRONG BY REAL LIFE, IT'S BECAUSE IT'S OUT OF FOCUS!!!! TEXT IS NOT BLURRY ON GNOME, KDE, SOLARIS, WINDOWS 95, 98, XP, VISTA OR ANYWHERE ELSE BUT THE MAC NOW WINDOWS SAFARI!!
David Conrad, please cite some of the scientific studies that prove that Windows ClearType rendering is more readable than Mac OS's Quartz rendering.
There is nothing wrong with Apple's font rendering.
My son was asking me the other day if Safari is one of the few browsers that are really 100% compatible with the Web standards, why does it have so many problems rendering webpages. There are certain webpages where on a Mac you have to switch from Safari to Firefox because Safari doesn't seem capable of displaying that webpage correctly.
I explained to him there are the "actual" standards that committees of people sit around and discuss. Then there are the "real" standards that everyone actually uses. Safari uses the first set of standards, it does a beautiful job with the Acid2 test. However, all the other browsers use the real standards in order to render webpages as the author actually wanted them rendered.
How many of you remember when Netscape came out with the "center" tag? The uproar that followed was intense. It wasn't following the standards laid down by the world wide web consortium. It was a rouge tag. It shouldn't be allowed! Unfortunately, at that time, Netscape had 90% of the browser market, and people liked the "center" tag because it made their pages look better. Yes, it was against how HTML was suppose to be used. HTML was suppose to be format nutural and the "center" tag told the browser actual formatting instructions.
In the end, it didn't matter what the official standards board decreed, it was what
In my subjective opinion both look bad, the distorted pixelated MS rendering and the blurry unsharp Apple rendering.
Both need significant fine-tuning. They should probably look at Freetype, these guys seem to do it just right.
Fonts rendered with Freetype don't look as distorted as the MS rendering and not as blurry as Apple's rendering. In fact it hurts trying to read a text on Windows/Mac, after using Freetype (on Linux for example) for a while. The font rendering just looks horrible elsewhere.
I've been a long holdout as a designer on the Windows platform. I have to say that while I love the Mac way of doing things in theory, in practice I prefer the Windows font rendering via ClearType. On my Vista-based tablet, I find that reading documents is less tiring on my eyes than working with the same documents on Macs at work.
The apple one looks wonkitated, no doubt. that's the first thing I thought too. However, it's beta, right? Isn't the purpose of betas to give teams time to do thinks like tweak the contrast level setting on the sub-pixel font rendering algo?
Now that we're talking about font rendering, I'd like to reiterate that the font used by this site sucks horribly on my browser. I generally enjoy this blog, but I'm not happy about the font choice. Yes, I've been to the download for the font, it hasn't helped. Please consider letting the browser choose the font, and specifying only the family, size and style.
Also, to all you guys who say "it looks better", download it and run it for an hour. It looks like ass. And believe me, I'm an apple fanboy of the highest order, but it looks like ass.
I wear glasses and would prefer to look at the apple text all day.
i can't help but wonder if the iPhone is going to have similar font rendering problems. It is just a cut-down Leopard, right?
Rasterizing type involves a trade-off between preserving shapes and distorting them to move horizontal and vertical inflexion points neatly on to pixel boundaries. I remember working with METAFONT font descriptions, where a lot of time was spent munging co-ordinates to whole numbers of pixels. There are also trade-offs between using grey levels that accurately represent the amount of the pixel that should be filled in, and munging the grey levels to give a crisper, less blurred appearance.
On my own site I have specified High Tower Text as the text font on Windows (since there is no Hoefler Text on Windows). With Windows's anti-aliasing it looks thin and highly aliased. With Safari's anti-aliasing it looks smooth and much prettier.
"David Conrad, please cite some of the scientific studies that prove that Windows ClearType rendering is more readable than Mac OS's Quartz rendering."
His comment never said there was such a study. Apparently you are having trouble reading and understanding what's being said because of the blurry fonts on your display.
I suspect that Apple hasn't included a way to change the anti-aliasing prefs yet. The apple rendering looks suspiciously like the "Best for CRT" anti-aliasing setting.
I'm curious if you go over to a mac and set it to CRT text anti-aliasing, will it look similar?
I don't like Mac, I never have. Where I work, Mac is the unloved stepchild that we have to support, but nobody uses it so issues come up so rarely, nobody can remember how to work the stupid things.
Still, I gotta say, I don't see any difference between the two examples, Safari looks just as good as IE.
Ah, I see DMX. I had misread David Conrad's remark as posing two alternatives corresponding to the Windows and Mac text rendering design goals.
But we have no reason to think that better reproducing typefaces isn't also directly supporting readability.
Personally, I find it much more comfortable to read text rendered by the system which better reproduces the fruit of five and a half centuries of development by type foundries, than text rendered by the system which more visibly reflects about two decades of development by computer programmers.
Cooltype, Cleartype and Quartz are lousy at rendering fonts (each in their own special way).
If you want to learn more about screen fonts and readability, check out David Berlow's posts over at RogerBlack.com:
You couldn't PAY me to use Windows with ClearType turned on!
That said, Apple's version isn't much better at all.
For the Safari beta, I set the anti-alias on the "light" setting, only because there was no way to turn it off.
I hate IE7 with a passion, but at least it gives the user the ability to turn off ClearType.
Isn't it ADOBE's ClearType?
You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to...
Screen type on Windows has always looked spindly and weak to my Mac-trained (been using Macs since Macs existed, though I use both now regularly) and heavily-corrected eyes (-4.5 w/progressive bifocal). The Safari sample looks normal to me, and the IE looks weak and thin.
and in both OSs, you can turn off font smoothing, so this is kind of a specious complaint. I have smoothing/Cleartype turned on on both my Mac and PC, because type looks like ass without it.
The top screenshot looks way better to my (Mac-using) eyes. It looks like a printed page of Helvetica. Who cares what the pixels look like at 200%? It's definitely very readable at actual size. This is not an "oversight" by Apple; I'm sure it would have been much easier for them to using Windows' default text-rendering algorithms.
Presumably, Apple is using Mac-style antialiasing so that web pages will look the same across both platforms. Developers testing their sites in Safari on Windows will be able to see exactly what it looks like on a Mac.
No no, you don't get it ... this is SUPPOSED to be this way so that your vision becomes accustomed to seeing things in the Jobs reality distortion field ... save yourself ... giant apples are cominNO CARRIER
Apple is all about their 'human interface guidelines,' and yet break Window's interface standard with their browser. That's the real WTF ... er, wrong site.
So, you're comparing different fonts, with different hints, on different OSes, using different rendering technologies, at (possibly) different screen DPI settings. Um, and what exactly are we supposed to infer from this comparison...?
My first impression is that the font designers who crafted this particular implementation of Helvetica chose to emphasize consistent stroke thicknesses at all point sizes, whereas the font designers who crafted this particular implementation of Colibri preferred to sacrifice their stroke consistency in favor of cleaner pixel edges at very small point sizes. (This is most easily seen in the small "o" which is both unbolded and bolded in each example. The Helvetica "o" appearance remains rounder with consistent stroke thickness, while the Colibri "o" has flatter extremes and bolds horizontally but not vertically.)
But these are font designer choices, and have little or nothing to do with Mac vs. PC, Safari vs. IE, or even ClearType. Even on the same computer with the same display, the same browser and the same font rendering technology, there will still be people who prefer Ariel to Helvetica or vice versa. And, as an earlier comment pointed out, 90% of users don't even know the difference or would care if they did. (I pity them, of course, but what can you do?)
Not a fair comparison: the example screenshots show a page that uses Microsoft's a href="http://www.ms-studio.com/articles.html"ugly-duckling Helvetica clone, Arial/a. With ClearType's heavy hinting, it would probably be difficult to tell Arial apart from Helvetica, while Mac OS-style antialiasing would let the design of the original typeface design shine through (while in the example, Arial's kludginess shines in Safari, while automatic font-hinting is all I see in IE).
This is part of the whole point.
Yes, it probably takes anyone a little while to get used to a new font rendering method. And the Mac-style method probably looks better on higher-resolution displays, but we are probably all using higher-res displays then ever. Give it a chance.
There's a trick used in some font renderers that aligns vertical and horizontal strokes with pixel boundaries to avoid anti-aliasing them. It looks like Apple does not use that.
It's a tradeoff between individual letter contrast and spacing between letters. Apple has always been consistent in retaining spacing as close to what it would be on print, and the anti-aliasing has always been quite strong. Microsoft decided to use ClearType to its maximum, trying to emphasize letter contrast at the expense of spacing. ClearType screws up spacing on a sentence- and paragraph level quite badly.
I posted an example of what modern Linux desktops (well, Fedora 7 at least) do for a third viewpoint.
Look at the capital G and capital S in both images. Look at the way Safari renders the underline for links, and how 'j's, 'g's and 'y's are handled. Look at the punctuation: full stops, commas and colons.
Apple's rendering is much better, and IMO much easier to read.
Having bitched and moaned (with no effect) several times on this blog about the horrible font, I've gone ahead and tried turning on ClearType.
Amazingly enough, the font now looks like a completely different font, and I'm no longer seeing alternating dark and light letters. Why it should look so different boggles my mind and leads me to believe that something is fundamentally broken somewhere. The font now looks like, for want of a better word, a "normal," "sensible" font, something like maybe Verdana. BUT EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER LOOKS BLURRY TO ME NOW! This anti-aliasing shit makes the text look like a newspaper that's been sitting in the rain too long. None of the letters are really crisp black any more, they've all got mushy gray borders. Like text typewritten with a fading cloth ribbon. The text looks to me like I need glasses, and will probably give me a headache if I leave ClearType on for much longer.
I agree with a previous poster: YOU COULDN'T PAY ME TO USE CLEARTYPE! If ClearType is what it takes to make this site's font look at least similar to a legible font, then please shove the font into the same orifice as the one ClearType belongs in, IMHO.
At home, I can ask Platypus/GreaseMonkey to clean this mess up. At work, I don't have the option of loading these addons. I'm beginning to hate Jeff for his attitude of "you'll either view my page under Windows, with Windows' idea of how fonts should be rendered, or put up with my shitty looking font. This is the way I like it, and I don't give a damn if you do." The Windows way or go away. And people wonder why so many developers hate Microsoft.
I'm kinda all over the place on this. I use both Mac's and PC's, but for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with fonts, I prefer my Mac. That said... for the text in the search field, I like IE better. For the headers for the search returns, I think Safari is more readable. For the text description undeer the headers, I think that Safari's darker text is more readable. But for the "Web" header at the top of the results, IE wins hands down. I think I like IE for the text on the search button, but Safari for the Advanced Search text.
So to me, it's clear that there is no best way to render fonts. And it's also clear that neither one is "horrible". Just because something doesn't fit within your preferences does not make it horrible. In fact, I suspect that the reason there is a heading above each image is because most people would not know which image came from which browser otherwise. If it were horrible, just looking at the poorer image would make me cringe.
People haven't commented on why Safari on Windows does this. The whole point of releasing Safari for Windows is to aid development for the Mac and iPhone. The whole point is that it is meant to render identically on Windows and OS X. What is the point of releasing something to allow you to check your site displays correctly if different versions of it display the site differently
As for which I prefer, it has to be the Mac's rendering. I've always found font rendering on Windows to be scrawny and hard to read.
IE7 version looks terrible to my eye. Weight is unevenly distributed across the words - cleartype appears to value pixel alignment far too much and correct kerning far too little. Apple might go a little too far the other way, but the result on Safari is much more readable for me.
It boggles my mind that someone could prefer the IE7 version, but preference is preference.
Maybe I'm crazy, but from the screenshots in the post I actually *prefer* the Safari one.
(And I'm looking at this on a laptop running WindowsXP.)
"Firstly, to my mind the jokes about Juisoft are slightly out of sorts. It's just the unlucky placement of the underlining. Okay, it should have been accommodated for better, but if the underline happened to be a couple of pixels down (as I've noticed several applications do for some reason - I don't actually know how that side of font rendering happens :S) then you would get the same problem with the MacOS font."
So, in other words, if the font rendering on Safari were as broken in the same way it is on Windows, it would also be broken in this case. Well, yes, but that's the whole point. They don't allow underlining to obscure the plunger of the j. There's nothing "unlucky" about the placement of the underlining.
Yes, Apple text (Safari or otherwise) is a lot more akin to actual typography -- something I have been involved with professionally for well over 20 years. Microsoft typography (if you can call it that) in much more akin to an untrained person making type selections. It is random, awkward and cold. Not very inviting or engaging. Certainly not refined.
That said, Safari on the Mac has (in my learned opinion) the most elegant, accomplished and mature text rendering of the whole group of browsers -- BUT -- they went a little over the top on the anti-aliasing with this Safari Beta. And to be fair it is a Beta. I trust it will become refined in the next version. Safari for Windows is now my default on my IBM ThinkPad, and has been on my Mac PowerBooks for some time now.
I use both Macs and Windows boxes all day long. I try to do most of my text editing and browsing in Windows, due to the blurry OS X fonts. The System Preferences in the Mac seem to do nothing, as does trying to use Tinker Tool to turn off font smoothing.
Yes, fonts look nicer on the Mac. They remind me of soft focus pictures. Unfortunately, nice is not what I am after when staring at the monitor for hours on end.
I have a Mac, a Vista box, and an RHEL box on my desk at work. Safari wouldn't run on the Vista box -- the fonts wouldn't load and it crashed when I tried to submit a bug -- but I have Safari on the Mac to compare things with.
I believe that the Windows cleartype fonts do not look nearly so pretty as the Mac fonts. However, my reading speed is a good deal higher with the Windows fonts.
Now, what I'd really like are some nice console/terminal fonts. I spend a good deal more time at the command line than I do surfing the web.
Yet another "me too".
I switched from dual-booting Windows and Linux to OS X in 2001, then spent weeks trying to get my fonts "sharp" on OS X 10.1
Eventually gave up, stopped noticing a few months later. Five years down the track, ClearType looks AWFUL and Apple's font rendering is much, much clearer for me, to the extent that I find Windows difficult to read.
So the "readability" of different versions of the font rendering is apparently down to familiarity, rather than which is "better". People used to Windows prefer ClearType, Mac users prefer Apple's rendering.
Interestingly, my wife uses a Mac at home, and XP at work - she uses the PC more, but finds the MAc more readable, so possibly there is a slight advantage to Apple's readability if you're familiar with both.
There's no contest once it comes to printing, however. I print web pages and emails on occasion, and the WYSIWYG factor of Apple's font tech is miles aheard of Microsoft's.
Whether it was sensible to go to a lot more work to port Apple's font rendering to Windows just to create a UI that Windows people find "blurry" at first glance is an interesting debate, however.
I'm very surprised to read these comments. Microsoft's typoography rendering, even w/ cleartype, has always been so incorrect. It's a jagged, misshaped rendering that butchers most typefaces.
I suspect that the Safari rendering seems strange because its different than everything you're used to seeing. But the good news is now you can see what you've been missing.
This is interesting, because I downloaded and installed the Safari beta yesterday and for me, the fonts don't render *AT ALL*. I get absolutely no text in the browser window, or in the status bar, or under the navigation items. Nothing.
Richard brings up a very good point: when it comes time to actually printing out your work, the Mac is a far better choice. The relationship between the screen output, at a range of resolutions, is much, much closer to your print output.
For anyone who does design (from clothing to typography to cd covers) or document printing where it matters, this is absolutely vital.
Windows users may not like this, but it's often very easy to pick out Windows-ONLY "professionals" at design studios and bureaus. Their choice of typefaces, and their use of them is often, shall we say, uninspired. Much of this is to do with what they have become accustomed to with Windows.
I hear what you Windows-ONLY people are saying. Mac OS X typography looks blurry to you. Yes, yes it does. But the problem, which you don't want to hear, isn't that Mac OS X is actually doing a bad job, it's that you're used to a system with very poor typographical standards. You are quite used to poorly rendered, yet crisp typography. YOU are used to a sub-standard system because, most likely, you have experienced little else. (And you probably think Vista's translucent windows are neato, too.)
Don't blame the OS vendor with the proven track record in typography -- blame the vendor that has foisted such an ill-conceived system on you, all the way from bad system typeface choices to bad sub-pixel rendering strategies.
What's really quite depressing here (at least from the perspective of those few of us who consider ourselves [amateur] typographers and free software advocates, and besides how heated the flamewar has gotten) is how terribly Linux and its Freetype library do in comparison.
Freetype has no less than five modes for font hinting: none, slight, medium, full, and BCI. To my eyes, none of these are even close to satisfactory for most fonts. Freetype combines the shape distortion of ClearType with the blurring of Apple's rendering; it's a real travesty. And configuring it is a bitch, especially for overriding certain fonts with settings needed to make them legible -- yes, it's nice that ~/.fonts.conf exists (even if it is that bloody verbose XML crap), but why in hell do I have to reload X when I update it?
To any Freetype developers or aficionados, if you want to see this problem at its worst, get ahold of Microsoft's new Segoe UI font for Vista. As I _loathe_ Bitstream Vera Sans, I've been trying Segoe UI out as a replacement; if you set it up just right (light hinting, no AA and full hinting below 10pt) it looks pretty good. But by default it is _unreadable_.
And for the record, I prefer the ClearType style, especially at low point sizes. Large sizes and high-DPI screens give Apple a nice advantage, but they're also not what ClearType was designed to do. It mystifies me as to how people can go on and on about being "true to the font designer's ideals" with a 14-pixel-high squiggle on a 96-DPI screen; more than likely, the designer intended the font for printing, and would be horrified by _any_ attempt to replace the target 3000-DPI printing press with 96-DPI garbage LCD!
My thoughts are, the Microsoft ClearType one is *clearer*, but it is not easier to read.. (Although, I'm on an old CRT, that makes a big difference.)
If you do want a clearer font, than by all means ClearType is the winner, but keep in mind, Apple targets their font rendering for properly calibrated Apple displays.
Personally I find Apples rendering easier to read because it is a tiny bit larger and darker. However ClearType has a little bit of stepping and is very narrow.
It depends on your eyesight, monitor, and other factors I suppose.
I'm truly shocked at the number of people who consider Apple's font rendering to be "blurry". You should really have your eyes examined! (Or get better displays.) To me, it's beautifully crisp and sharp. I remember when Camino (then Chimera) was first released and used the native font smoothing. Before that, all we had was Mac IE. From the second I loaded it up, I was amazed at how great every site suddenly looked. I realized this was how the internet should look.
Any time I go onto a Windows machine (or load Windows up in Parallels), I'm always put off at how jaggy and "off" the text looks on Windows. I'm especially put off that XP doesn't even have font smoothing turned on by default! You have to go to a Microsoft website and use an ActiveX plug-in to turn the damn thing on! Admittedly, that ClearType is far better than no font smoothing at all, but it's only about half of the way there compared to how it is on a Mac.
consider, please, the optical illusion of staring at a fixed point on an inverse american flag, and after a minute looking at a white wall. You will see a short lived impression of a correctly colored flag on the wall. This happens because the eye is constantly vibrating, causing the edges of a scene be able to be detected by the neurons of the eye, and this is natural.
I submit to you, that the clear type rendering on a computer screen is too harsh physiologically, and that - because the edges of the fonts are so abrupt, can cause strain on the eye as it works to define those edges.
What i mean here, is that i would be open to discovering that apple's choices on their platform and in this regard are due once again to psychology factors, and that in prolonged use are easier on *the eye itself*
quote: When observing a static scene, the eyes perform small repetitive motions called saccades that move edges past receptors. If an image is stabilized on the retina, it soon darkens and disappears, since a motion detector responds only to motion.
i think i might be on to something here.
I've spent a huge portion of my life reading code (fixed pitch) and text on screens -- CRTs and LCDs. I greatly prefer Apple's glyph rendering to ClearType.
If I had to rate them: #1 Apple's rendering, #2 truetype on Linux w/ the library recompiled to enable code paths that potentially infringe patents, and #3 Microsoft ClearType.
Having said that, Microsoft's fonts designed for use on screens rather than print are pretty good.
I've never worn glasses or contacts, I'm over 40, and I still have nearly 20/20 vision. I use all 3 platforms.
And I'm now running Safari on Windows *because* of the way it renders text.
To all complaining about the blurriness, please do this for me:
1) look up to the Internet Explorer picture
2) look at the "S" in GRC | SubPixel
3) explain to me why the S is so hideously broken. Why exactly does it exhibit stair-stepping in the middle of the character, and flattened curves top and bottom?
4) look me in the (digital) face and tell me without laughing that the kerning is SUPPOSED to look that way.
Guys, no pixel-based typographical system is perfect. But some are better than others. And the Windows system is just plain bad. You're just used to it being bad, and probably have known no better system.
I think it really depends on how good your close up vision is. Perhaps if you sit far enough from the keyboard on a mac, the blur recognition makes the font look good. But I can't reach the keyboard to type when I'm that far away.
To me, the extra lines make the fonts hideously blurry. Look at the F in the finder menu, the top of the F is two strokes, on top a grey one, and underneath a black one. If you can't see that the F has two lines, you might like it. If you can, it's horrible.
The apple font rendering is not "being true to the font", or "more like it is on paper", it is an attempt to fool the eye into perceiving the font as clearer. Unfortunately, it doesn't fool many peoples eyes, and so fails for them.
The ClearType rendering makes normal text at moderate point sizes too light and bold text look too bold. This can be seen in the screenshot comparisons. The problem with Arial is that it looks too bold to begin with.
Then again, Comic Sans looks terrible with any version of anti-aliasing.
Actually Tom, it's not just about being "clearer". That's only one part of the story.
What Apple's Quart tech does really well is retain the real weight of the typefaces. If you have a look at Window's output, you'll see that the apparent weight of the text is diminished, or even thrown out altogether. Apple's system is much more accurate and allows the viewer to see what was really intended by the choice of type and various type attributes. Moreover, those attributes will then be represented accurately in print.
What Windows does is effectively make most typefaces look the same on a given display. It absolutely KILLS glyphs with serifs.
To a designer, one look at Window's output is enough to produce shivers. It's always been this way, Vista or no Vista. Microsoft's attention to aesthetics and visual details has always been sub-par, ever since the very first (and very bad) version of Windows. The big problem is that millions of people have come to believe, through daily use, that it has to be this way.
It doesn't! And Safari for Windows is one small step towards realizing that. Right about now, a whole lot of people are suddenly becoming aware that everything doesn't _have_ to look the way it does in Internet Explorer. That Microsoft's (poor) design choices aren't the be-all and end-all. If for no other reason, that should be celebrated by anyone who appreciates quality design.
This isn't just with apple safari, in Fire Fox under Ubuntu with KDE, the fonts are also display in a very dark and blury contrast. I think it has to do with a poorly written font layer.
I really agree with comments from the likes of Mogden, Christopher and Scott - it certainly depends in part what you're used to. I'm looking at this page on a Mac, and I much prefer Safari's rendering. The text from IE feels weak and looks considerably squarer; I have to actually expend effort to read it.
No doubt if I used Windows every day I'd be more used to how it renders fonts. But I suppose that's part of the point, too: I've chosen to be a Mac user because I prefer Apple's way of doing things like this. I don't think it makes you a bad person to disagree with me :-)
Here's a link to a study done in UT-Austin called Measuring User Response to ClearType. They concluded:
"We found that people selected text with ClearType 80% of the time."
"When ClearType was present, participants read from a computer screen
approximately 30 seconds faster."
"In this report, we find continued support that on average, users perform tasks faster with ClearType."
I wonder if they'd conduct a similar study using Apple's antialiasing
iirc Apple uses the same rendering method as Adobe use for their PDFs.
And personally, I think someone nailed it earlier by saying:
+ Cleartype is clearer at typical dpi levels.
+ Apple's method is more accurate.
Assuming we eventually have access to higher resolution displays across the board, and don't need to make sacrifices for clarity, Apple's approach probably wins.
Hmmm. When you put them side by side like that and I'm viewing this on a PC, the PC one looks easier for me to read. I'll have to look at this page again at home on my Mac and see if the opposite is true. I'm thinking this is a matter of what you're used to looking at. When I first started using OS X I didn't like the aliasing and liked going back into OS 9 for web browsing. That habit has died and I prefer the OS X look.
Try examinging the small text to the left of the Search-button
This is much better an accurately displayed via Apples method than the standard Windows way.
The "ce"-letters look like an "" instead of ce on Windows.
At small sizes the letters also seem too thin on Windows.
What is wrong with the top picture? The lines are a little thicker and rounder? It looks nice an warm to me. IE 7 looks very cold and aloof in comparison. I can't wait to surf the web with Safari at work tomorrow if this is what it is going to look like.
This article actually looks quite funny on my screen, since the text in both screenshots looks very blurry and indistinct to me, especially compared to the adjacent body text of the article which is rendered in Lucida (or Lucida Typewriter for monospace) on my web browser.
Yes, I mean those old freeware X11 bitmap fonts that the browser won't scale--the browser picks the nearest integer point size and renders that, with a minimum size of 8 points. This breaks some web pages which for some reason think that some text should be rendered too small to read comfortably--I feel no loss for having such breakage, zero, none, nada. I don't let web pages choose fonts either, other than monospace and non-monospace.
(pause for "web designer" people in the audience to run screaming from the room ;-)
If you're going to design a readable font to be rendered on a computer screen, design it from the start on a grid of large pixels, and redesign it for every size in pixels that it's ever going to be rendered with. The Lucida letter forms consist of emphasized horizontal, vertical, and diagonal shapes (e.g. "o" is an octagon) and each available rendering size is hand-tuned, which is just what you want if you're building letters out of Lego for a computer screen. These particular fonts also avoid the enormous amount of white space between lines that is typical of the default fonts on so many operating systems, and which steals something like 30% of the already constrained vertical screen area on conventional computer displays. Lucida and LucidaTypewriter are identical except for horizontal spacing, so monospace text doesn't leap painfully out of the page like it does on the typical Arial/Courier or Times/Courier mixture that seems to be the default on so many browsers.
To use a font designed for rendering at 300+DPI on a 100DPI display is like running a digital simulation of printing your web page on paper, scanning it in on a flatbed scanner, and reading it in MS Paint (or, if you have antialiasing turned off, like faxing the printed page to yourself in "normal quality" mode). Yes, it looks very similar to what it would look like if you printed it and scanned it back into the computer, but really, why would you want it to, except in the rare special case when you actually intend to print it?
I do wear glasses from time to time, but I'm nearsighted, so as long as I'm close enough to a screen I can do without the glasses, and generally prefer to do so. I read text from computer screens in a variety of environments and at a variety of times of day. After several hours of reading, I'll generally increase the font size by about 40%. I suspect, if I were forced to choose between only those alternatives, that I'd start the day marginally prefering the IE7 rendering (it's a lot clearer which text is bold and which is not), then gradually prefer the Safari rendering (it degrades less when it is slightly out of focus).
I suspect if I had a 300DPI computer display (a real one, not a 100DPI display with image processing) I'd probably switch to a vector font--if I could find another widely available pair of sans-serif fonts which were identical except for monospacing.
I'm surprised no other Linux/GNOME users have spoken up. It seems pretty clear that the difference between the two is the extent of hinting; GNOME offers four levels of hinting from "None" to "Full". "None" looks like the Safari example, while "Full" looks like IE. I prefer the "Medium" setting to either; there is lots wrong with Linux for everyday users but the font rendering is second to none.
As resolutions get higher, hinting will come to matter less.
Reading text consists basically in recognizing lines and curves that build the shapes of the letters.
The Safari text may look better, because the vertical and horizontal lines are as blurred as the curves, but it's where it stops. Nice homogenic blur doesn't improve readability. Sharp corners do.
Other than that, you can't compare screen font display to paper print - the only point where paper is superior is that you can have it almost any size you like, and that you can hold it with your hands and adjust the reading distance. That's it. Trying to render fonts on screen to make them look like paper would be more close to a cargo cult than to a usability improvement.
The first thing I noticed was the text in Safari. A snip from my Facebook posting: "One of my biggest thorns in using Windows is text looks like jaggy, fresh out of the 1995 time capsule crap." And that's even with ClearType turned on. Now, I know I've overstated my position on ClearType. :)
What's hilarious about this is that I had always taken Apple's rendering of text as being clearly better - anybody would notice that. What is clear, once again, is that style is a personal thing. We can look at the same graphic sample and come up with opposite conclusions.
Anyone who thinks that the OS X rendering looks best is just being stubborn....It's blury and they know it as well as everyone else. So apple has one thing that's not perfect...deal with it... Just ask windows users we deal with all kinds of imperfections lol.
Firstly, to my mind the jokes about Juisoft are slightly out of sorts. It's just the unlucky placement of the underlining. Okay, it should have been accommodated for better, but if the underline happened to be a couple of pixels down (as I've noticed several applications do for some reason - I don't actually know how that side of font rendering happens :S) then you would get the same problem with the MacOS font.
I've always seen the MacOS font as more stylyed, but as many people have said that's just because of what I am used to.
I don't understand how someone can think an emphasis on correctness over readability can be a good thing. Then again that's not to say that Microsofts offering is more readible than Apple's.
What is interesting, though, is that all the posts are "I think this is better" and "Now I'm used to this, it looks better". I'm struggling to find any studies on which is more readable. I do know that Microsoft did a lot of testing with people, but I don't know how much Apple did (that's a sincere "I don't know", not a snarky one).
I hope the apple users can even read my above comment through the blurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr