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
You are kidding? The MS (and even OSX depending on settings) font smoothign look HORRIBLE with the colored halos and such. I much prefer the Safari and OSX way. Fonts just look goregous without any halos and seem to be easier to read especially on high resolution modern displays.
I don't get it, why would anyone proclaim "crisper" font is better?!
As I see it point is in readability (and not in readability of single letter but of paragraphs and pages of text). If I can remember correctly, there are some hard rules in graphic design (ratio between black and white and similar) which make things "easier" or "harder" to read.
This would be easy enough to test if you are interested enough. Read 10 pages of MS text and time yourself (you can't fool your eyes). Repeat the same text with Mac text. Of course there could be big difference between on-screen text and printed material...
The Windows way is "neater", and works okay, but I almost prefer no anti-aliasing at all. The small "rounding" that *is* done makes everything look semi-blurry and a little ugly.
At least with the Apple rendering, the blurriness looks like the actual typeface.
I prefer the one in Safari, have always said that Linux and Macs have always had far superior text rendering, and can't understand why people prefer the jagged crisp Windows version.. but that's just my personal opinion?!
One thing I've always wondered - given that ClearType often needs fine tuning to get it to look good/okay, doesn't that also apply to screenshots? If someone has a different monitor, with slightly different properties, then they are going to need different ClearType settings to you, and so your screenshot will look bad. Or am I misunderstanding how it works?
I guess what I'm trying to say with the above is not to judge ClearType based on screenshots.
I'm still having difficulty in finding any studies that compare readability using the two different renderers.
Apple font antialiasing does not try to match the pixel grid.
Microsoft method is actually distorting the fonts to better match the pix-grid.
Apple method is more generic (I actually mean _correct_) and will be the best for future very-high-density displays.
As a Mac user, I am waiting for very high-density displays.
As a Win user, I am waiting for very high-density displays AND and a _correct_ rendering engine.
Feel free to flame me, no problem.
Consider that I hate any kind of antialiasing on displays 150 dpi, which is weird.
Ah, good old C=64 font days... so comfortable !
Yes, you really prefer what you are used to ;)
Apple's rendering is resolution-independent. Microsoft's rendering jumps to nearest whole pixels. It's rather like when Apple used to offer screen fonts for particular sizes for their monospaced fonts. The upshot is that Apple's approach will give a closer correspondence between displayed and printed appearance, and it will really come into its own when we get high-DPI displays.
I can understand that windows users are used to bitmap fonts all day, but hey on a PC you also have anti-aliasing on Flash websites or when looking at PDFs in Adobe Reader...
I never heard something complaining that his virtual newspaper would look blurry or horrible in Acrobat!
Like many Safari-users say, when you get used to a fine anti-aliasing you slowly find windows-font rendering really 80's style... This debate lets me think that someday Microsoft too is going to use an Adobe or Apple-style antialias and everybody will slowly prefer it to the older way, in particular on those 17" laptops with 1920 pixel wide resolution which are very crisp. Maybe we'll see how Safari will push the trend further in the PC world...
And how many designers would create visual elements for the web with Photoshop without enabling the anti-aliased text?! Nobody, because it's too ugly when you compare to a printed page. The only exception is when you really WANT the bitmap style and then you should use tiny bitmap fonts without any anti-alias.
Bitmap fonts...? Microsoft has been using anti-aliasing (generic, pre-cleartype version) as long as Macs have, 1998. (Win 98 and System 8.5, though add-ons to do the same for both OSes existed years before.) I don't know of anyone who still uses aliased fonts, since no one likes that 80's look.
As resolution increases, cleartype is supposed to naturally conform back into the shape of the font anyway, when hints drop out. See what happens when you raise the font size in any software; it's obviously still cleartyped if you look closely, but suffers none of the mangling that it does as small sizes.
Foxyshadis: Because from an OS X user point of view, windows fonts (at least without cleartype) really look like pure-bitmapped font (even if they get some sort of anti-aliasing). On a side note, I would get the same feeling if I restart on OS 8.5 or OS 9, it looks so... dated.
But I must admit that some people wouldn't think the same way and prefer the old-style in particular for small size text.
However on the iPhone with a 160 dpi, I'm sure a lot of users will like the font rendering better than what Windows Mobile currently offers. The iPhone will just feature something closer to printed typography.
If it's really about readability, we'd be back to one font.
I have a Mac and PC and laughed when I heard about Safari for Windows. After a couple days, though, especially now that I'm concentrating at the letters when reading through these posts, switching other to other applications and seeing Cleartype is truly jarring and uncomfortable. I am using Vista with a CRT.
"Dave: I am using Vista with a CRT."
What ?? Cleartype on a CRT ??
What the Mac zealots don't get is that the OS X on-screen font rendering is fundamentally flawed for at least some of the population.
I'm writing this on a Macbook with a Dell 2407 24" LCD monitor. On both the in built display and the 2407, the fonts look blurred to me, to the point where it feels really uncomfortable. I don't wear glasses, but I persistently feel like I should when using my Mac - despite having good eye-sight.
I'm a recent Mac convert, have about 6 months of OS X experience.
Every time I switch to XP under Fusion, my head stops hurting - the crisper text under XP is so much more pleasant. I'm sure it is far less accurate technically - but it just hurts to read the OS X fonts under Firefox or Safari.
So I guess I'm just OS X incompatible.
I use a Mac at home and a Windows box at work, and I'm trying Safari on the Windows box at the moment. I'm inclined to say that I prefer Windows font rendering when I'm using Windows, and Mac font rendering when I'm on a Mac - having the Mac rendering on a Windows box is rather jarring.
Overall, I probably prefer the Windows rendering when 1.5-2.5' away from the display, and the Mac rendering when farther, which is about how I use my work and home computers. I'm really looking forward to both operating systems properly supporting higher-DPI displays. That sould make a huge improvement in both cases.
Incidentally, I used to use Linux at home, and preferred FreeType's rendering to both Windows and Mac. I generally found it to look more pleasing than Windows's rendering, but the characters are more distinct than the Mac rendering. I've not compared the three in a while, though.
Turning on Cleartype or any other type of sub-pixel rendering on CRTs (especially when the refresh rate lower than 85Hz) will surely hurt your eyes.
By the way, for what Foxyshadis say I could answer that in Chinese, Japanese or Korean versions of Windows many Truetype fonts include raster font data for smaller sizes because that it's very hard to rasterize vector fonts of such complex scripts into small sizes while remain easily readable.
Who reads from 4 feet away?
to me, cleartype looks jagged to me, the apple method is far superior in increasing resolution, for example with 4 pt text or something
Look at the "e"s in "render." Do you see how the Windows version distorts the shape of the character? The top of the "e" seems too light. Apple's rendering is consistent with its philosophy, and I hope they do not change. The kerning of printed fonts are consistently better on the Mac, even from the same universal typeface. And a simple program like Apple Pages even does automatic ligatures! Reading is in large part the recognition of shape. And Apple's philosophy is to respect fonts.
It's not that Apple or Microsoft is right or wrong, it totally depends on priority. If it's design and staying true to the typeface is your goal, then Apple is clearly the way to go. If it's readability, then Microsoft has it right.
Not everything is an Apple vs Window war
some comments mention that the "apple version" of text readability is better when one stands out 3 feet or so from the computer. I wonder since when people surf the web or interact with computers at that distance?? unless of course you are playing with a console gaming device.
I think it is not which technology is superior but rather each technology addresses specifics. The Apple font-rendering traditionally has from inception has been geared more towards "print-media" while MS clear-type is optimized for screen displays. Ultimately the legibility of type is going to be dictated by the medium in which it will finally display. Without being biased, clear-type is the clear winner when displaying type on screen. While the apple technology is superior for print medium.
i've always disliked windows font rendering, to me its incredibly distracting to have parts of individual letters antialiased and parts not, for instance, straights are hinted to the pixel grid, as are some curves, but larger curves and some serifs etc, arent/cant be and retain anything resembling the fonts original shape (which is already destroyed anyway) so they end up antialiased, which blows the weight of the font all to hell, you have thin straights, fat curves, and serifs. this, of course, is worst at small font sizes. but it just makes the letters look lumpy and unattractive. to me, windows font rendering just looks downright unprofessional and unattractive. while osx rendering is like looking at a page of text, windows font rendering is like looking at a circa 1994 computer display. i'd rather they just didnt antialias at all rather than using cleartype.
In my job as a web developer I run windows and OS X side-by-side all day everyday working on the same pages. OS X font rendering beats the pantsa off windows. The only exception is Firefox in OS X, but that's their fault not Apple's.
Safari has in Edit Preferences 3 options in Appearance for "Font smoothing" from Light to Strong.
My setup is Light - it doesn't looks "dark blurry" and it looks better than IE 7.
Using Windows on a 1024x768 LCD, I find Safari's font smothing bad for, say, Arial, and near-illegible for Courier New. On OSX (1024x768 CRT, safari 184.108.40.206) Arial and everything is perfect, but Courier New is still almost illegible.
Really, Apple needs to tone down the font smoothing.
I enjoy Apple's font rendering more so than Windows. The pixelation that occurs in larger-sized fonts have always annoyed me. Although it's not that important, Apple's font rendering just looks better to me.
My friends would disagree. But I have better eye sight than them, and the blurriness dosen't bother me.
If there were a way to have the same font rendering as the Mac has in every aspect of Windows, I would love Windows all the more.
It is proven that blurriness distorts your vision, especially in the aspect of text (naturally, becuase you focus more on it). Apple wants you to wear glasses for the rest of your life!! Freakin Mac junk....
lets not forget that it was Apple who brought us the variable-width font in the first place.
1280x1024 on 17" here so not high dpi.. XP. i tried cleartype once, it wasn't too bad, even though i didnt see what the great thing was about it. but it bothered me that one of my most used apps did not support it, so i had to constantly switch between that app and the rest of the OS and that switching was very bad for my eyes (this is a special app that is part of my big multitasking system so not something i'd be looking at for hours without a break). so since then, i dont have cleartype enabled.
i think cleartype, either apple or not, will only be useful when we will have high dpi, it will then be closer to reality.
just compare these crappy fonts to real printed stuff.........
that said, i dont prefer either of the two screenshots (IE vs safari). maybe because both are bleh..as said above.
but there is one place where cleartype does look better than on my pc. i have a windows mobile pda with 192 dpi for the OS (the screen is 216 dpi according to a dpi calculator). similar screen size to the iphone crap, but this pda has VGA resolution, so twice the res. i tried to enable cleartype on it once - i was pleasantly surprised.
anyway my opinion doesnt matter much because after a while i will forget what it is like that i'm looking at, what matters is the content not the looks. that is another reason why i didnt prefer either of the screenshots. both are crap and neither bothers me.
Mick: "However on the iPhone with a 160 dpi, I'm sure a lot of users will like the font rendering better than what Windows Mobile currently offers. The iPhone will just feature something closer to printed typography."
rofl.. i have 192 dpi with windows mobile.
before you think i'm a fan of windows mobile. it (winmobile) sucks. but the iphone will suck even more due to its hardware.. sorry for the OFF topic.
Why can't we encourage both operating systems to support both styles of anti-aliasing on a customizable per application or per window basis.
Then all of us would be happier when working on either platform for whatever tasks we have to do?
The only reason Apple implemented their own antialias technology is because that's what's used in Mac OS X and the iPhone, and Safari is here obviously to facilitate that webapps work in the iPhone and, by extension, in OSX.
The browser works as close to the final representation as possible. Since Widgets and the iPhone have an emphasis in pixel-perfect representation then the antialias needs to be pixel perfect as well.
THAT"S WHAT PEOPLE ARE BITCHING ABOUT?!
There are people boycotting Safari, because of THIS!??!
I've got my own take on font sizes. I try to set up my video displays so that fonts are displayed "actual size." That is, the size of the fonts on the screen should be as close as possible to the size that they print on the page. Larger screens ( 19in) then are able to display more usable windows, rather than displaying the same number of windows at a larger size.
This is said fully realizing that not everyone uses their computer in the way I have described. For example, video applications such as HD video seem rather pointless to be relegated to a small window on a large screen. Clearly this requires larger screens to be viewed from a longer distance to be effective.
Bottom line, though, is that the best judge of whether a font is being displayed effectively is at the size it is intended to be rendered. I don't see much merit in the argument that fonts are being too distorted when displayed in a small size and then critiqued when this rendering is merely blown up in size rather than rendered directly (albeit differently) in the larger size. (Blowing up the font to inspect differences between rendering strategy, as done above, is a valid exercise to show the differences more clearly -- just not for comparing readability at the larger size IMHO.)
You can turn on ClearType on the Control panel.
Finally, what we're talking about is hinting. On my Linux box at least I have the choice of whether I want hinting on or off. So, I can have my fonts as blurry as Apple or as distorted as Microsoft.
You should also note that MS only hints at certain sizes. Bigger fonts are not hinted.
Apple also respects pixel versions of text, Microsoft tries to smooth these with cleartype which is pointless because they're already on the pixel grid
I totally dislike the way Safari for Windows renders fonts, they are just too blurry. I don't really care if Apple developers tried to make their fonts look closer to their original typefaces, because I only care what is comfortable for my eyes and what is not.
Apple font rendering technology reminds me of freetype subpixel rendering without patented hinting improvements turned on.
Some acquaintances of mine have told me that MacOS font rendering is much different from what Safari on Windows has (shows).
For me, ClearType makes fonts better legible.
So now that we have Safari 3.0/Win (although a Beta), we can compare directly.
The point in font smoothing is not *beauty*, but *legibility*.
And on a (now) typical LCD screen, ClearType/WinXP makes wonders.
Apple's approach is not bad, too, it's just different.
But to me, ClearType makes fonts very crisp and legible. And Apple's font smoothing makes them legible... and a bit blurry.
I prefer ClearType. Not because I am a Windows fan, but because it looks better:) At least, to me:)
About the contrast issue, note that Macs use a different monitor gamma than on the PC.
A PC user looking at an Apple monitor usually says that images are too bright (in fact most web sites are made to look good on PCs).
It is possible that Apple has not taken this into account while rendering fonts on the PC...
It's really pretty worthless to zoom in in this case. Anti-aliasing is not meant to be viewed at anything but 100%. Of course the windows version looks better when zoomed because it is not anti-aliasing as agressively as the mac version. Switching back and forth between firefox and safari for this page, I can actually see the pixels in the firefox rendering whereas the safari version looks much smoother to me. It actually looks like the zoomed windows version is a bitmap font to me.
There are more factors to legibility than being pixel exact. In fact, the horrible kerning on the Windows type alone makes it harder to read hands down. They're both legible, yes. So once you get past that hurdle, you've got to move on to rendering the font correctly, and providing correct kerning. Apple wins in both these categories because Cleartype seems to not even try.
One of the quickest ways to slow a reader down is poorly spaced text. Cleartype has this very wrong, Apple has this very right.
It's *not* simple blurring -- it's also sub-pixel rendering. Apple is simply more generous (confident?) about how many levels of contrast there are available to display screen type than Microsoft.
Personally, I find ClearType to be inferior to OS X text rendering. Even after fiddling with the ClearType PowerToy, text in Windows still looks like it was artificially tweaked from its bitmap rendering and the "color" of body type is far less consistent when the pixel interpolation is so extreme. I suppose this is because I actually work with type and realize that ClearType butchers the display of any typeface not already hinted to pixel precision.
For any of you complaining about ClearType, first try the PowerToy, which is mentioned in the article. http://www.microsoft.com/typography/ClearTypePowerToy.mspx
ClearType's sub-pixel rendering easily beats Apple's simple blurring. The whole point of this is for ON-SCREEN readability, not PRINT accuracy.
Like many people have said before me, its pretty obvious that this is mostly a matter of what people are used to. I personally love how Macs render fonts, and it is one of the things I really dislike about my Windows laptop. On Windows, in word, zooming in on a page changes the look of the font so much! You zoom in 10% more and the font seems to go bold, or change instead of just an enlarged version of the zoomed out version. It can get really annoying! Enlarging text on a mac doesn't have this problem, thankfully!
I can see that Windows has a more 'crisp' font, but I can read perfectly on a Mac - so why not go for the nicer looking font?
Also, is this the reason why in windows there sometimes seems to be an inconsistence sometimes in the spacing between letters? Try writing 'iiiiiiiiiiiiii' and some of the i's seem to be closer together than others.
Ummm...in OSX couldn't you just change the font smoothing to light in the Appearance system preference if you want your onscreen type to be crisper? Doesn't Windoes have some sort of functionality like this?
Has anybody thought about the possibility that Apple might be optimizing their font rendering to match the abilities of their LCD screens? (Safari looks good on a 30" Apple display, but like everything else not so good on a 21" Samsung 214T).
Controlling both the hardware and the software end of things means that you can optimize your fonts for your screens and your screens for your fonts.
Apple has had a 100 DPI resolution for all their monitors for a long time (I think as far back as the original Mac in 1985) and the MacBook Pro was the first machine that comes with a higher than 100 DPI resolution causing a few headaches.. OS X 10.5 packs "resolution independence" code that they expect to start using in 2008 (when I presume they will start shipping high resolution LCDs).
All in all, it all comes down to three things:
1) you like what you're used to
2) 100 dpi is not enough to produce really sharply rendered text, 600 dpi is :-)
3) font sizes on most websites are far too small for intensive reading
thought i'd add my two cents (i believe you'd be quite rich with all these comments…)
Anyway, i'd always heard that Apple's font rendering was generally considered to be superior to all other platforms. and as a mac user, i would have to agree. looking at windows font rendering at school (with 'ClearType' turned off i believe), , it just looks disgusting to me. OS X's fonts seem much smoother, and they look how they were intended to look when the font was made. i think that's the best way to do it, because it means you get no surprises when you print things (something that's fairly important when you're looking at say a PDF). As i decrease the font size now to the minimum in safari (for mac, not windows), yes the fonts look a little fuzzy, but i can still see how the characters are meant to look, not just like every other font that's been 'bashed' into the pixel grid. I find it clearer to read, even with the fuzziness, and it just looks more professional to me. I know that most windows users aren't use to this method that Apple use, so i can see how they might think that change is a bad thing (i mean, they're still using PC's right? jks people ;) ), but if you have to work with text and publishing, i think you'll understand the advantages of Apple's way. I mean, if you were writing a font meant to look good at small sizes, then you wouldn't want the OS bashing it into the shape it thought best right?
Anyway, i guess my point is, if you're going to specify fonts, wouldn't you want them looking like the fonts say they should, not how the OS thinks they should?
A lot of people miss the point, I believe...
ClearType is meant to be good for on-screen reading! Not PERFECT FONT ACCURACY!
If I want perfect font accuracy, I won't be reading at 72-96 dpi, but at 300-600-1200 dpi!
C'mon, folks, lets' admit it - Windows ClearType looks better on-screen!
[just compare the two screenshots...]
It's not 100% accurate, but fonts are more legible. And less fuzzy. Less blurry. Not so bold and fat. And *that is the point*, and not Apple's accuracy!
Screens are 72 dpi. Not 600 dpi.
Screens cannot be paper - for now.
So ClearType effectively uses PIXELS. ClearType produces perfect letters, no fuzziness.
Apple's technology makes fonts blurry and fuzzy, so letters of all typefaces are better reproduced. That's right. But screens lack dots. Pixels. And interpolation doesn't work simply. You don't have enough material to build on! So Apple puts between two pixels some blur... and results are far from perfect.
For the reader.
And the reader is the one who is important.
When screens will be 300 dpi, then Apple's way will be superiour.
For now it's inferior. For reading.
For my eye.s.
I'm a web dev and used to work completely on PC's but have recently converted over to using mac's. I love pixels, and window's font-rendering used to really appeal to me, especially without the anti-aliasing but since using OS X my eyes much prefer apple's alternative font-rendering.
When I go back to code/test on PC's now, everything looks so skinny and rough (in terms of font)
What I'm trying to say is that I guess it depends what platform you mostly work on, I think Windows rendering suit Window's machines and Mac rendering suits Mac machines, neither tend to look good on their rivals.
I've noticed before when I get something all typed up on a Windows machine then print it, it looks pretty different. I sometimes have to go back and make things bolder or even change the font. Very annoying.
No need for flame wars:)
I just noted that *for me*, ClearType looks better and is easier readable, that's all:)
I prefer the clearness of the letters in ClearType than the exactness of the letters in Mac font rendering...
Would be nice to be able to select between the two, actually, in one system:)
It's what you're used to looking at that looks better.
I've been using Macs primarily for years and I can't stand Windows cleartype. it looks overly thin and gangly, and it modifies the font spacing in very strange ways.
As you can see there are many here that feel the complete opposite. I don't think they are wrong.
To me the Apple antialiasing looks more like text on a printed page. I really have to agree it's a preference based on what you're used to.
When I look at your comparison shots the Safari shot is much, much more legible.
But fortunately, you don't have to be wrong for me to be right when we're talking about personal preferences.
There's more to this than just font rendering.
Windows laptops tend to have insanely high resolutions - which makes them very hard to read - and may explain why unaliased font rendering appeals to those of you using Windows Laptops.
Apple steered away from these high resolutions in it's laptops (until very recently - in anticipation of Leopards resolution independence) to reduce the problem of higher display resolutions reducing the physical size of fonts on the screen. Resolution independence removes this problem by ensuring that a 10pt font (for example) is always 10 actual points in height.
Authors of any (web or electronic) content tend to pick font sizes that are readable to them as they are writing. So if you are reading that content on the same sized screen but with a higher resolution then it will appear small - maybe too small. Hence an-aliased fonts will stop the headache.
Apple's approach does, I think, pay dividends if you are using Apple displays (and in the future using Resolution independence) as the fonts will not only be large enough to read without inducing headaches, but properly render the character of the font.
In my opinion, the Apple rendering is what I would expect to see if I was viewing a web page and then selected the "Print Preview" option from the browser's menu.
In comparison, the ClearType rendering is what I would expect to see on my screen when I'm viewing a website. It is interesting that we are talking about Web Browsers here. IE7 and Safari. If we were talking about Word Processors, my answer might be different:
The beautiful thing about Web Standards is that they make websites flexible enough to be rendered on many different devices. The web can be fluid, text wraps where it wraps, not where a graphic designer told it to wrap (usually). The amount of letters that fit on a line, the space between letters, how thick the bars in the letters are... None of these things should be under our control in the context of the web. A low-resolution Palm computing device certainly should not render the fonts the same way a printed page would look.
I wish Microsoft would render text the Apple way when I did hit Print Preview in all their applications. I know the included "WordPad" (which isn't really fair to judge, as its more of a sample than a real program) is notoriously bad with its Print Preview, and I attribute this badness to its calculating distance based on a true font calculation, but actually rendering the lines of text according to Microsoft's screen rendering calculations... By the time you hit the end of a line, the expected length and the real length are dramatically different.
I like Adobe Acrobat's rendering because it is a print preview. It's a representation of an actual printed page. It makes me feel like I can appreciate all the beauty of the page without actually having to print it and waste a sheet of paper. But, I hate reading books in Acrobat. It wastes my time. It's inefficient. Thinking about pages, and scrolling, and the width and the height and odd and even pages or continuous flow... It's too much. So I think each technique, each rendering technique, and each concept has its own place. I guess what I'm trying to say is, I like them both when used appropriately!
I found this post and the comments fascinating. And I really appreciated the level of the discussion -- little Mac/Windows snarkiness.
As a web designer and a Mac user, I always dreaded testing my designs in Windows, not only because I had to hold my breath to see what IE6 would do to the layout, but also because of how horrible (I thought) the fonts would look. Jagged, Wimpy. Loss of all letter width distinctions in Roman fonts. Mangled letter forms. Odd implementation of small caps. Etc.
Of course it never occurred to me that some people would prefer this style of font rendering that I consider just plain ugly. Now I totally get it.
I'm a designer, so I think nothing of spending hours reviewing options and selecting a font for a single line of text. To others, my fussing over dozens of similar Roman fonts to get just the right one would seem strange -- why not just put it in Times Roman already for Pete's sake, they'd probably think. Or I'd be horrified that a client used Georgia caps to modify a graphic I created using Trajan. Or I would be frustrated that programmers I worked with could not tell the difference between Trebuchet or Arial. I'd think "Are they blind?"
But this discussion has really opened my eyes. They're not blind or stupid, they just have different priorities than I. Wow. Now I can just be more grateful for the trust clients put in me to be the designer. In many cases they're trusting me to make the right choices even though they may not perceive all the nuances, but they like the way it all works together.
The problem with Apples font rendering is simply thati t hurts. Yes, I really get a headache if I use a Mac for more than 2 hours. It's like my eyes constantly try to focus on the text - but its impossible because the text is blurry. I don't wear glasses and have very good eyesight, maybe thats the reason. I can only suppose that people who can stand Apples font-rendering have bad eyesight and see everything blurry, so they don't notice it.
And Apples font-rendering isn't more 'realistic'. The last time I looked at printed text, the letters had sharp edges and rather thin lines. The reason is that they are printied with 600+ dpi resolution. And in black white - without using grayscales for antialiasing! EVERY real font since Gutenberg ist totally sharp. Not a single one has blurred edges. THIS is the real thing, Apple don't comes even near. Sure, you can make out the curves and structure of the Font better that using a low-res screen corrected version of the font like MS does. But whats more important: To have the same sharp anc crisp lines in the letters like every printed font or being able to judge the fine-structure of the font? For me it's obviously the first one. Not only because I see it as a more important part of the definition of 'font' - but also because looking at small blurred font for to long makes my head ache.
I have a Mac, but I can only use it for a short time. So I'm really happy that Apple will bring Safari to Windows and remove the last reason I have to use a Mac and let my eyes punish by it.
if the font smoothing hurts your head - turn it off or reduce it using System prefs - under Appearance. Also 600 dpi laser printers do use a form of antialiasing by varying the dot size on the edges.
Per haps flickering is hurting your head rather than the fonts ?
Well said Eric.
I'm a developer and I totally appreciate what designers bring to the table. I see the differences in the font rendering but am conflicted about my preference - I like each better than the other and at times I dislike each more than the other. I'd much rather leave font/colour/etc selection to you guys than to stab in the dark myself. I think you're spot on about the different priorities - although I have never willingly selected Times Roman. :)
update: "it's a question of whether you respect the pixel grid"...
The other option is to respect the font designers intentions.
Most fonts contain specific hinting for these pixel sizes, that cannot be used when you distort the letter shapes for the sake of flipping pixels. You lose the ability to read word forms also know as "word shapes" at a glance significantly reducing reading speed and increasing reading fatigue.
Hopefully no one here is still reading individual letters...that is kindergarten level reading. Once you get past that you read word forms. Font designers know all about this, average computer users may be confused my single letter legibility, vs real readability.
Even MS knows this, despite optimizing their technology for the opposite to "better accommodate" low resolution displays.
I use both vista and tiger daily.
This is totally subjective dependent on the font chosen and on screen resolution. It only even looks this close on blocky san-serif "western" fonts.
Once you get off cheap crappy low resolution/dpi monitors, the true letter forms look soooo much better then the distorted pixely garbage windows pushes out. Pick any font other then arial/verdana/tahoma and you will be blown away at the difference.
At these low crappy resolutions, check out any font with serifs or other accents and tell me which looks better. wow. They look so much better when rendered correct to their intended hintings and forms like apple does. Check out small times new roman samples etc. Only with boxy arial like fonts does the boxy distorted rendering looks like it is crisper....yeah ms!
Not to mention the western centric view here, Asian and Arabic fonts are almost unusable in the windows pixel distortion method, really ugly, but very clear and sharp when rendered true to letter form. Completely usable and beautiful.
I find it humorious that this discussion is even occurring at this juncture in technology. Almost akin to which fonts look better on a dot matrix printer...really you'd rather not see dots at all...but if you are still on a crappy printer you talk about things like this in this way.
I have two windows Machines with Safari installed. They are both running at 96dpi 1280*1024. One of the monitors when running in "Medium" font smoothing is very blurry, where as on the other monitor "Medium" is quite readable. They are both identical systems otherwise. I have perfect vision so glasses etc is not an issue.
From this I have concluded that the appearance of the fonts (unsurprising) is heavily effected by the quality of the monitor. In general Macs are supplied with higher quality monitors than PCs which I believe is one of the main reasons the fonts look better.
When comparing my Mac-mini with my Vista machine on the same monitor I prefer the Vista font appearance (everything else though is visually better on the Mac), as the Mac-mini font is in my eyes more blurry and slightly harder to focus on. If you have a decent monitor though the difference to me is unimportant. On a cheaper monitor I would be surprised if most people did not prefer MS font rendering as smaller fonts on cheaper monitors become significantly harder to read/concentrate on.
I hate Mac font rendering. We have two macs in the office, an iBook G4 and a Mac mini both of which I am not comfortable using. The Mac mini especially is horrendous as far rendering fonts is concerned. Windows font rendering is much easier on the eye, although I am not fond of Cleartype. I keep that disabled. I prefer sharp fonts as I am 43 and wear glasses.
I just had to comment on this even though it's OT:
"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."
Sigh. This is a textbook example of how Microsoft's programmers got the original Mac GUI wrong when they copied it for Win 3.1, and never bothered to fix it: there's no zoom button on Mac OS windows because it's unnecessary. What you're mistaking for a "maximize" button is actually a "snap window to size of contents" button. Far more useful and elegant. Once again, Microsoft has no taste and no clue when it comes to the GUI. All that money and Gates has never been able to hire a decent human factors person.
I prefer Apple's font rendering. Looking at a Windows' screen really hurts my eyes.
And I totally agree with Alex. I feel sorry for the folks who are so used to the wrong things Microsoft does.
What's the point of having a window spreads all over your screen when the content fills only 1/2 or 2/3 of it?
I'm using a Mac right now (and almost always do BTW) and even I prefer Microsoft's cleartype.
Just loaded Safari for Windows. Good Lord! Why do the unvisited links have to be SO FAT??? Looks like crayons wrote the links. So far so good on the testing although one page I went to insisted I needed Windows Media 9 loaded but I have WM11 and it also can't see that I have Java 6.1 loaded.
I've owned more Macs than most people here (11). My history with Apple goes all the way back to the Apple II and continued with every generation of the Macintosh. However, this does not blind me to reality, which is very simple:
Whatever other virtue the Mac has, OS X font rendering, quite simply, sucks.
People who disagree are usually die-hard nerds who possess little or no aesthetic sense, completely unaware of their lack of sound judgment and tendency to self-delude. Truly pathetic creatures who cannot handle the truth.
I was playing around with Safari on my work PC, then played around with the ClearType tool for XP, and finally found a nice compromise. The LCD looks good, not great. Safari for XP looks terrible, way too dark and blurry.
Then I get home and on my MacBook, the above Safari picture looks great and the XP picture looks too thin.
Must be the resolution or something because I prefer the Mac font smoothing on the Mac and the XP smoothing on the PC.
You guys actually prefer to see the pixels? And you prefer to have unkerned fonts? This is a joke, right? April 1st came early this year.
And green-on-black monitors are the "most readable" too, right?
Ha, you guys crack me up.
Does "prefer to see the pixels" imply that you can't see the red and blue outlines on the left and right sides of so-called ClearType and Mac type?
Perhaps those who like ClearType and Mac type are just slightly color-blind?
It is true. I use the nice new Dell 2407W-HC to type this from a connected MacBook Pro, and no matter how I try to set up fonts, they are MUCH worse then what Windows XP renders for me. MUCH worse.
I have 20/10 vision - so whoever wrote about people without glasses preferring Apple - boloney.
I've tried both cleartype and Mac fonts and I have to say I hate both. They BOTH look blurry to me and after a minute or two and I start to get eye-strain as my eyes desperately try to re-focus. My optician said that I can read the letters on the chart much smaller that is usually possible for the average person, so maybe my dislike of sub-pixel/anti-aliased fonts stems from the fact that I CAN see that fringes/aliased pixels quite clearly. I really really hope that future OS's don't force smoothed fonts on to every user.
Having recently bought a MacBook Pro, after years of using Windows, I, like so many others, am finding the font rendering on the Mac *extremely* hard to read and tiring on my eyes.
I tend to sit close to my monitor. On the MacBook's screen the fonts are *ok* - small point sizes are still unforgivably blurry. On my external LCD, all fonts look pretty awful. I've learnt to sit further back, and hopefully, like others have said, in a few months I'll be accustomed to the Apple font rendering.
I really think Cleartype is superior and would use it if the technology was available on my Mac. People have said, "Apple font rendering is closer to the printed forms." Print is print. Screen is screen.
I really appreciate Microsoft's efforts towards screen readability and creating custom typefaces fit for that purpose. That *IS* how I use the operating system after all. If only Apple would do the same, I'd be well chuffed.
Well, I just recently got the MacBook Pro (as in 3 weeks) and I really like Apple hardware, and I really liked the Mac OS as an operating system, but as my job requires staring at code all day long - I have got the Boot Camp, and added Windows Vista business, and Office.
I have booted into it, and now I could compare it side to side, as other folks in my small ofice are all using Macs. Both on the LCD on the notebook, and on an attached 2407WFP-HC - those new ClearType optimized fonts that come with Vista and Office just blew Mac ones out of the water. everybody agreed, though not everybody cared - and they love their Macs.
Now, Vista seem to heat up the MacBook considerably more - guess when on battery I will boot into Mac. Hope they fix it with Leopard bootcamp drivers.
I understand why people dealing with any graphical content prefer Mac - everything but the plain text fonts is head and shoulders superior on the Mac. Alas, I see a lot of plain text fonts..
So for my eyes, day to day, it will be Cleartype.
This is an interesting debate. In IE7, apparently Microsoft changed the way text is rendered, because it isn't as crisp as it used to be. I don't know if it is just a blur effect, or it actually uses subpixel information to calculate the color of each pixel. I have noticed this in Office 2007, too.
So Microsoft is taking steps toward the Apple aproach.
The thing is that Apple fonts are TOO blurry, but I think they have the right aproach. They don't just put whole pixels on screen, they actually render the text acording to the font face, using subpixel information.
For me, the perfect solution would be the Apple one, but with slightly increased contrast. This would be a nice compromise.
Your clearly apple fanboy material.
Way to take it to the bottom first, Shawn.
I also vastly prefer the Safari example. Perhaps it's subconscious: if you were to say "one of these is from an Apple browser, one is from a Microsoft browser," without labeling them, I would instantly be able to tell you which was which. To me, the top one looks like a Mac and the bottom looks like Windows, and I don't care much for Windows.
The text on top looks soft, yet full. The text on bottom looks anorexic and weak.
From every angle and distance, Safari's rendering is superior and it always has been. MS followed Apple into the WYSIWYG interface, then aquafied XP, and then had to create ClearType to *catch up* on font rendering.
"To me the MS fonts look "Cleaner" but the Apple fonts are easier to read. At the end of the day, I'll take "easier to read" since I stare at this damn monitor all day, the less eye strain the better."
Leigh nailed it.
Had this discussion last year. On a Mac site. With just Mac users. It took a while for me to realise that I was as wrong as a George Ou. Because this is subjective. There were some people in that discussion who found the fonts blurry, but I honestly couldn't understand what they were talking about.
I think it may have to do with the way some people read/percieve the letter/words. In the Mac way, the individual letter shapes and kerning are preserved, and this means that the word shapes are accurate. So I don't see a blurry 'i' because I'm not looking at individual letter, I'm looking at the whole word.
To me, (I class myself as a Mac user, even though I probably spend more time in front of Windows at work), Windows font rendering seems clunky and old fashioned. But the point is that this is my subjective opinion, and while I see clear (Mac) and jaggedy clunky messed up (Windows), someone else will see fuzzy blurred weak (Mac) and crisp readable (Windows).
So no, there is no right or wrong.
Um... I think the font in your Safari picture is messed up.
The url below links to a picture of the same search in my safari browser. Its font looks much cleaner.
All of this back and forth about which approach is better would be put to rest if people would only get educated about typography. At typical screen resolution, the Mac font rendering is more accurate, and since people read word-shapes, NOT individual letters, it's superior, not because it renders individual glyphs more accurately, but because it preserves correct kerning and leading as well.
Stop Stealing Sheep and Find Out How Type Works (Adobe Press)
There. Now you know.
To me the MS fonts look "Cleaner" but the Apple fonts are easier to read. At the end of the day, I'll take "easier to read" since I stare at this damn monitor all day, the less eye strain the better.
top one: full, happy, generous, female
bottom one: angular, mean, parsimonious, neutered
where are you with the "12:18pm" time stamp. In the land of proper time it's "20:18pm".
0r perhaps you can't read that because your sub-pixel rendering makes the a look like an e?
Why do so many people think the Safari rendering is blurry? Up close, far away, normal reading distance I just don't see either the Safari or the IE 7 rendering as blurry. I do however find the IE 7 rendering harder on the eyes. The IE 7 text is so spindly it seems as if whoever was writing were afraid we might actually see it. Also noticed a preponderance of commenters have stated that even though the Safari rendering seems blurrier it is easier to read. Hmmm.
Victor, just above me is totally right. There's not a single professional designer who prefers ClearType over MacOSX font rendering. ClearType's characters spacing is a total horror!
I spend most of my 8-hour workday in front of a 22" LCD staring at XP. It is godawful having to look at MS's font rendering. I always find relief when I come home and get to use our Macs, where the readability of text is better. So, for me, it's not a matter of prefering the style I'm most accustomed to, as that would be Windows, but it would be Mac, which is plain easier on my over 50 near-sighted eyes (had to add bifocals about 10 years ago).
Look at the 'S' in the word Sub-Pixel! The 'ClearType' one is jagged and the font is unrecognizable. OS X, for me, hits the right balance between anti-aliasing, keeps text legible, and keeps the design intact.
Just my 2c.
I switched to Mac recently, and whenever I use my computer I come away with deep furrow lines in my brow because I've been squinting to distinguish mac fonts =\ is there any way to change it?
"So I don't see a blurry 'i' because I'm not looking at individual letter, I'm looking at the whole word."
That's very telling. So perhaps people that like ClearType/Mac-Type aren't slightly color-blind after all, but rather they just aren't really looking at the letters. If I try to just sort of skim over the Mac-Type I find that it is possible to ignore the horrible fuzzy discoloration, but it takes a lot of concentration to only look at the forest and ignore the trees.
Another vote for Apple's font rendering. Long have I toiled to implement a similar font rendering on Firefox, using Fontlab manual tweaking. No, it just can't be done. Or rather, it can, but it won't look half as good as Safari. The fonts all come out looking hideous one way or another. I must be one of the oddballs who is driven insane by pink and green-edged and jagged looking fonts on Windows, that he's willing to put in hours of work to come up with a fix. If only there's a way to override Xp with the Safari font rendering, I'd die a happy Windows user.
I personally think Apple's rendering is much better.
However there are few points I want to point out:
OSX Rendering: BEST FOR MEDIA WORK
Windows Rendering: BEST FOR USAGE
OSX rendering is emulated to make sure that what you see on your screen is what you get from a printer which is crucial for media work.
Windows renders it WRONGLY. It renders it wrongly to make reading easier. SO these are different aspects we have to think about. Macs are tailored for media work. XPs come out preinstalled on almsot every computer... (which I hate) but anyways. You have to understand this: OSX IS the right rendering... It just doesn't seem "right" since you've been stuck with Windows like 'forever'... Its proven windows squashes the lettering to make it really easy to read, hence "their" ClearType technology they ripped off Wozinak when Apple computers started. I personally like OSX's rendering more for reading, too though...
Its personal taste :)
If you're a designer, you couldn't live with Windows' way of anti-aliasing fonts. It's just too light, the fontprinted would look darker and a bit thicker.
The OS X way of rendering(!) - not anti-aliasing - fonts is closer to the way the font is __supposed to look like__. Why, because except for Georgia and a few screen-only fonts, 99% of the fonts on your system were initially designed for print. Apple is just trying to show you the fonts the way they are supposed to look and not some pixelated close but different resemblance of the same.