Welcome to the blurry, but fast, browser…

People don’t believe me when I say Microsoft’s font rendering technology is better than Apple’s. At least they didn’t until now:

Jeff Atwood, of Coding Horror, shows the difference between IE and Safari running on Windows. Guess what, those fonts are the same on Macs too. I don’t like reading on the Mac as much as I like reading on Windows because of this.

Safari is fast, though, and has a UI that fits in with iTunes.

Oh, I’m in the Westin pool. Reading feeds in the pool is SSSOOO tough! Heheh.

Of course the blogosphere and professional journalist are going nuts about the new Safari over on TechMeme. Since they are going nuts about the pros and cons I’ll just sit back and enjoy sitting in the pool and let the pros argue it out.

119 thoughts on “Welcome to the blurry, but fast, browser…

  1. Josh, most screens have resolution from 72 to 101 DPI (which is still a lot less than the 600 DPI resolution of even the cheapest laser printers).

    I currently run my windows and macs on 101 DPI screens, and the font rendering is still a lot better on windows (with Clear Type fine tuned to my liking). As a matter of fact there is no comparison at all.

    Majority of people also don’t know that Clear type exists and those that do, don’t know that there is a way to fune tune its contrast to suit your preference. Once you do that, anything else becomes unusable.

    Clear type playing with the brightness of the individual Red Green and Blue LCD pixels involved in the font rendering to increase the contrast of the rendered font and to effectively triple the resolution available to the font. On 100 DPI screen that means you can have fonts that look as good (or as bad) as printouts from 300 DPI laser printer. This is still considered pretty bad resolution. I would not print my resume on anything less than 1600 DPI.

    So, I don’t know of any screen (Apple cinema displays are 101.6 DPI) that has resolution higher than 130 DPI. So we are a long way off from the 600 DPI needed to make font rendering issue disappear.

    Until then we will need some clever software techniques to improve things. Microsoft has offered the best solution on the market to date, and others can follow or improve further. But just denying that the problem exists is not a way towards progress in any case.

  2. Josh, most screens have resolution from 72 to 101 DPI (which is still a lot less than the 600 DPI resolution of even the cheapest laser printers).

    I currently run my windows and macs on 101 DPI screens, and the font rendering is still a lot better on windows (with Clear Type fine tuned to my liking). As a matter of fact there is no comparison at all.

    Majority of people also don’t know that Clear type exists and those that do, don’t know that there is a way to fune tune its contrast to suit your preference. Once you do that, anything else becomes unusable.

    Clear type playing with the brightness of the individual Red Green and Blue LCD pixels involved in the font rendering to increase the contrast of the rendered font and to effectively triple the resolution available to the font. On 100 DPI screen that means you can have fonts that look as good (or as bad) as printouts from 300 DPI laser printer. This is still considered pretty bad resolution. I would not print my resume on anything less than 1600 DPI.

    So, I don’t know of any screen (Apple cinema displays are 101.6 DPI) that has resolution higher than 130 DPI. So we are a long way off from the 600 DPI needed to make font rendering issue disappear.

    Until then we will need some clever software techniques to improve things. Microsoft has offered the best solution on the market to date, and others can follow or improve further. But just denying that the problem exists is not a way towards progress in any case.

  3. I keep hearing this silly argument about how OS X fonts are optimized for desktop publishing (i.e. what you see on screen is exactly how it will be printed).

    But this is just a bogus misdirection and invalid argument. Desktop application is free to render fonts on display differently than any other application and it could render them as they will actually be printed, same as photoshop can render pictures on screen as they will be printed on paper (even matching paper’s color profile).

    However, every other application’s goal should be to optimize its font rendering for on-screen viewing.

    What does browsing this web page and reading comments is blurry fonts have to do with desktop publishing. Web browser is not a desktop publishing application. Here I care about how things look on screen not how the web page will print.

    Anyway, I think you get the point.

  4. I keep hearing this silly argument about how OS X fonts are optimized for desktop publishing (i.e. what you see on screen is exactly how it will be printed).

    But this is just a bogus misdirection and invalid argument. Desktop application is free to render fonts on display differently than any other application and it could render them as they will actually be printed, same as photoshop can render pictures on screen as they will be printed on paper (even matching paper’s color profile).

    However, every other application’s goal should be to optimize its font rendering for on-screen viewing.

    What does browsing this web page and reading comments is blurry fonts have to do with desktop publishing. Web browser is not a desktop publishing application. Here I care about how things look on screen not how the web page will print.

    Anyway, I think you get the point.

  5. I have searched quite extensively for an answer to this question -
    Whilst Windows 9x and up has basic font smoothing technology built in
    following service release 1 for Win95, the closest anyone has come to
    developing their own proprietory software is GRC (as mentioned above)

  6. I have searched quite extensively for an answer to this question -
    Whilst Windows 9x and up has basic font smoothing technology built in
    following service release 1 for Win95, the closest anyone has come to
    developing their own proprietory software is GRC (as mentioned above)

  7. 1) Some people like it. It really depends on how long you’ve been exposed to Safari/OS X’s font rendering. If you’ve been using Windows since day one and have rarely or never been exposed to OS X, there’s 95% chance YOU WILL HATE IT.

    2) By this it’s safe to conclude that you don’t even turn on Cleartype on your Windows. Which makes your statement in #1 quite understandable.

    3) Wrong to you perhaps, but revolutionary to others. I was afraid that an Apple web browser for Windows would turn out the exact same way as Firefox. I was overjoyed to find out it mimics OS X instead.

  8. 1) Some people like it. It really depends on how long you’ve been exposed to Safari/OS X’s font rendering. If you’ve been using Windows since day one and have rarely or never been exposed to OS X, there’s 95% chance YOU WILL HATE IT.

    2) By this it’s safe to conclude that you don’t even turn on Cleartype on your Windows. Which makes your statement in #1 quite understandable.

    3) Wrong to you perhaps, but revolutionary to others. I was afraid that an Apple web browser for Windows would turn out the exact same way as Firefox. I was overjoyed to find out it mimics OS X instead.

  9. 1) Theoretical perfection or not, I hate the Safari fonts on my Windows LCD.

    2) Why can’t they just give us a
    “none” option for Font Smoothing?

    3) Every other app on my Windows machine looks one way, and Safari screens look different. That’s wrong.

  10. 1) Theoretical perfection or not, I hate the Safari fonts on my Windows LCD.

    2) Why can’t they just give us a
    “none” option for Font Smoothing?

    3) Every other app on my Windows machine looks one way, and Safari screens look different. That’s wrong.

  11. 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.

    ttp://www.microsoft.com/typography/ctfonts/WordRecognition.aspx

  12. 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.

    ttp://www.microsoft.com/typography/ctfonts/WordRecognition.aspx

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. Some people are bothered more by the jerky spacing and letter malformation than by the blurriness, even if they don’t have printing in mind.

    The ultimate solution to these issues is resolution independent OSes (Leopard is rumored to have that), and super high resolution digital displays. At 600 DPI you can have both sharpness and letterform preservation, and then Apple and Microsoft can start competing for the same prize.

    We won’t have anyone bothering to make those displays until operating systems can scale their GUIs to make them usable. I’m sure you’ve come across people with even a low DPI LCD who run their OS at a non-native resolution because “everything is too small otherwise.” Without resolution independence, DPI increases are lost on such people.

  16. Some people are bothered more by the jerky spacing and letter malformation than by the blurriness, even if they don’t have printing in mind.

    The ultimate solution to these issues is resolution independent OSes (Leopard is rumored to have that), and super high resolution digital displays. At 600 DPI you can have both sharpness and letterform preservation, and then Apple and Microsoft can start competing for the same prize.

    We won’t have anyone bothering to make those displays until operating systems can scale their GUIs to make them usable. I’m sure you’ve come across people with even a low DPI LCD who run their OS at a non-native resolution because “everything is too small otherwise.” Without resolution independence, DPI increases are lost on such people.

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