Bram Pitoyo, Interlude

Interlude: Hello, My Name Is Bram And I’m Completely Obsessed Over Font Rendering In Various Operating Systems

Thus, I shall point out to you that, upon seeing how Safari 3 Beta renders text in Windows and comparing that with how Windows renders its own texts:

  • Mac users generally prefer the chunkier, *quote*less readable*unquote*, but more typographically accurate rendered type in OS X, while
  • PC users prefer the crisp, *quote*more readable*unquote* but typographically innacurate ClearType rendering.
  • The reason I put the two aforementioned terms in quote is that because readability depends a lot on the platform that you’re accustomed to.

    Below are two thoughtful responses to the said article that will help explain my point:

  • Christopher on June 11, 2007 04:21 PM
    Ha! You just helped me understand something that has always pecked at the back of my brain.

    Glancing at your screenshots I immediately thought “Did he have a typo? Is this supposed to be titled What’s Wrong with Vista’s Font Rendering?”

    ‘Cause the Safari version looks exactly right to my Apple-trained eye, and much more satisfying. The IE version looks “broken” to me.

    In fact, I have always had the same reaction to Windows aliasing that your peer had: “Microsoft has some room to improve in this area”.

    I never realized it was simply a matter of both platforms are choosing a different approach that they think is right–and we’re conditioned to see our main platform as the correct way. 🙂

  • Daniel Robbins on June 11, 2007 04:58 PM
    Hostile Monkey has it right. Microsoft makes more aggressive use of hinting at lower point sizes.

    Technical explanation: Microsoft’s approach reduces anti-aliasing artifacts which makes the typeface more readable on monitors. However, this is done using hinting, which distorts the typeface’s natural dimensions due to the forced alignment to pixel boundaries. Microsoft’s approach would be considered more “correct” for people who require non-blurry, easier-to-read type at smaller point sizes, and who value practicality over accuracy.

    Apple’s approach more accurately reflects the natural dimensions and spacing of the typeface, but uses significantly more anti-aliasing to accomplish this – thus making the font appear noticeably “blurrier.” Apple’s approach may be considered more “correct” by graphic artists who would probably be more interested in experiencing the true shape and design of the typeface. Apple’s approach would be preferred by people who prefer purity of form over absolute readability.

    The approach that users prefer will depend on the DPI resolution of their monitor, their eyesight, the distance from their monitor, and their priorities. My guess is that “general” users would prefer Microsoft’s approach most of the time as they are more concerned about readability than form, though Apple’s approach could give their OS a classier and more “designed” look.

  • And so the adage “we read best what we read most” reigns true once again.