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ATPM 12.01
January 2006

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The Personal Computing Paradigm

by Michael Tsai, mtsai@atpm.com

Coping With Mac OS X’s Font Rendering

When Mac OS X 10.1 and 10.2 came out, I wrote about my disappointment with Mac OS X’s font rendering. Thanks to Apple’s font smoothing technology, most everyone agrees that OS X does a great job of drawing text at larger sizes. It also does a comparatively good job at smaller sizes, for fonts that were designed for printing. For instance, I think most PDFs look better in Preview than in Mac OS 9 or on Windows.

Opinions differ, however, about the role of screen fonts at small sizes. Fonts such as Geneva and Chicago were designed for the screen, and the smaller sizes were hand-tuned down to the pixel. I think this made them exceptionally easy to read on-screen. Others think that screen fonts look chunky and prefer the way OS X draws regular fonts using font smoothing. I think that at small sizes font smoothing makes the text blurry and harder to read.

In theory, it should be possible to satisfy both preferences, but through several different decisions Mac OS X comes down on the side of font smoothing:

Over the years, Mac OS X has gained options for controlling the style of the font smoothing, and the font renderer has improved in that smoothed fonts are drawn darker than before, though the edges are stilly blurry. But the changes have not been enough to make fans of screen fonts happy, as this letter from ATPM reader Neil Rubenstein demonstrates:

I was searching the Web looking for help regarding OS X’s fonts. I came across your comments in “Mac OS X 10.2—First Impressions” and saw that you were writing about exactly the problem I’ve been having.

For me, OS X is impossible to look at. It is primarily for this reason that I have been staying with 9.2.2. I keep thinking I’m losing my vision when I view OS X, or that I must be missing something related to settings of font sizes, or shadowing, or anti-aliasing. I currently have 10.3.9 installed, and have seen the same problem from my earliest attempt to view OS X.

I’m using a Titanium PowerBook G4—which is the best laptop for using OS 9. I’d love to purchase a new 17″, but will stay with Ti’s for the foreseeable future, because OS X is just too hard on my eyes.

I’ve just spent about one hour twiddling with settings in OS X—with no success. After rebooting in OS 9 I breathe a sigh of relief. It’s as if my 20/20 sight has been restored after a period of visual impairment.

Am I missing something? Is there some way to approximate the visual clarity I experience with OS 9 while using OS X by changing some settings? Does my inability to adapt to the OS X visual experience indicate some kind of visual handicap on my part? Surely I’m not the only one who has had this problem?

Any comments, suggestions or help you might offer will be most appreciated.

I am 20/30 without glasses and, as far as I know, do not have any visual handicaps. After more than five years of using Mac OS X—and two upgrades to sharper, brighter displays—I still find it tiring to read large blocks of smoothed text (with or without glasses). Unfortunately, there is no setting to go back to the OS 9 font renderer, and I have no expectation that there will ever be one. However, there are a number of things you can do to make text on OS X easier to read.

Appearance Preferences

I much prefer the Strong font smoothing style, as it makes the text blacker. Turn off smoothing for font sizes 9 and smaller. This prevents very small text from looking like smudges. However, you do want sizes 10 and larger to be smoothed:

pcp-finder-10-smoothed

Lucida Grande 10 in the Finder, Smoothed

Lucida Grande can look blurry when smoothed; but, because of the character shape and spacing problems mentioned above, this is probably preferable to the way it looks without smoothing:

pcp-finder-10-unsmoothed

Lucida Grande 10 in the Finder, Unsmoothed

Use Verdana

Verdana is my favorite Microsoft product. It is extremely readable when unsmoothed and looks good at various sizes and weights. Amazingly, Mac OS X can draw it without running the letters together. Many applications let you choose the font for body text, and I often choose Verdana. (For reading e-mail, writing code, and Terminal, I prefer ProFont or Monaco, two monospaced fonts that OS X is able to render well.) Here’s what a Web page looks like with Safari’s default font:

pcp-safari-times-smoothed

Times in Safari, Smoothed

And here is what it looks like with Verdana:

pcp-safari-verdana-unsmooth

Verdana in Safari, Unsmoothed

To keep the text readable, go to Safari’s Advanced preferences and set it to not use font sizes smaller than 9. I also like to override the font smoothing threshold in Safari so that sizes 9–12 are unsmoothed. This can be done by entering the following command into Terminal:

defaults write com.apple.safari AppleAntiAliasingThreshold 12

You can also experiment with defining a custom style sheet in Safari so that Web pages cannot override the default font.

When creating documents, use Verdana for writing and editing, even if you want to use other fonts for printing. Don’t use the Font menu to format your text. Instead, use your word processor’s styles feature to tag it. Set the body text styles to use Verdana while you’re writing and editing. (Section headings are larger and thus easily readable in any font.) At the last minute, you can edit the body text styles to quickly change all the occurrences of Verdana to fonts that are more suitable for printing.

Use Osaka

The letters in Verdana are rather wide. This isn’t a problem for pages of text, since the lines will wrap and simply take up a bit more vertical space. However, there are times when horizontal space counts, such as in a mail program or spreadsheet. In those cases, I like to use Osaka:

pcp-apple-mail-osaka

Osaka 9 in Apple Mail, Unsmoothed

pcp-apple-mail-verdana

Verdana 9 in Apple Mail, Unsmoothed

I don’t think the character shapes and spacing are quite as nice as with Verdana (or Geneva on OS 9), but it is fairly readable and has very narrow letters. For comparison, here’s what it looks like in Lucida Grande:

pcp-apple-mail-lucida-grande

Lucida Grande 9 in Apple Mail, Smoothed

Use Other Applications

If an application that you use doesn’t allow you to control the fonts that it uses, you might want to look for an alternative application that does. The Finder always uses Lucida Grande, as shown above. Path Finder, however, lets you change the font:

pcp-path-finder-9

Verdana 9 in Path Finder, Unsmoothed

It also lets you control the icon size separately from the font size, so you can use a small font without squishing the icons together.

Conclusion

It’s not possible to make text on Mac OS X look like it did on Mac OS 9, but with the right settings and applications you can in many cases get the best of both worlds: gorgeous Quartz-smoothed headings and sharp, readable body text.

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (153)

paul merrill · January 3, 2006 - 06:28 EST #1
Great stuff!

I have used verdana on my blog for a while, and it is a great basic font for on-screen readability.

Keep up the good work.

ps Got to your article via daringfireball.
Alex Reid · January 3, 2006 - 10:06 EST #2
A good alternative to Verdana for place where you need to squeeze lots of information into a small space is Tahoma, again by Microsoft. It's basically Verdana with the letter spacing tidied up a bit. It's the default interface font for Windows 95 and up, so it's well hinted for screen display. I'm not sure how I got it (I never installed it) but it's installed on my OS X. If you don't have it, but own Windows, you can just copy it out of Windows' fonts folder and open and install it on your Mac.
Poster · January 3, 2006 - 15:05 EST #3
Verdana is free. I think that Tahoma is too, as they were both part of the Windows font package released back around '98 or so.
Brian C · January 3, 2006 - 16:49 EST #4
*sigh* I long for the day when truly high-res screens make such silly ideas as anti-aliasing obsolete. Until then, I wish developers would design at the proper resolution instead of treating the screen like a print medium. Apple used to know what they were doing. Bah.
Roger Harris · January 3, 2006 - 19:04 EST #5
I have been working with type since we set it by hand in advertising agencies. My old eyes are less than perfect at this point.

I use Verdana and Tahoma in OS 9 and prefer Lucida Grande in my newer OSX browsers. This is the opposite of what folk here are doing. I find the smoothed fonts generally are are more readable even at 9pt. "Lucida Grande 9 in Apple Mail" is more readable for me than anything in OS 9; For me, the font rendering in OS 9 hurts to see it.

I think there is a good case from the diversity right here, for making font rendering more flexable in OSX. I didn't realize there were people that prefered OS 9 fonts and rendering until reading this.

roger
Mare · January 4, 2006 - 11:01 EST #6
I'm surprised you make no mention of the free TinkerTool, that you can use, amongst other tasks, to change system fonts.
Michael Tsai (ATPM Staff) · January 4, 2006 - 11:20 EST #7
Mare: TinkerTool is nice, but I don't think changing the fonts that interface widgets use is that useful because I don't know of a good replacement for Lucida Grande that has the same metrics. Whenever I tried to tinker with those settings, I ended up with widgets that were inconsistent and didn't look very good. So I stick with changing the fonts used in big text and table views.
Si · January 5, 2006 - 22:50 EST #8
"I think most PDFs look better in Preview than in Mac OS 9 or on Windows."

Nit-pick - How is this a criticism of Windows or OS9? PDF viewing on these OS's uses Adobe's PDF viewer - which uses its own rendering engine and not the system's.

Si
Michael Tsai (ATPM Staff) · January 6, 2006 - 09:09 EST #9
Si: What I had in mind is that (IMO) Adobe's renderer provided the best display of small printing fonts on OS 9; it did a better job than the system, and yet I think OS X does even better. I also think OS X does a better job than Microsoft's engine under these conditions. You're right that the quoted sentence is a poor way of expressing that.
Si · January 6, 2006 - 10:55 EST #10
Makes sense, thanks for responding. Si
Frungi · January 11, 2006 - 21:42 EST #11
Microsoft has a PDF engine?

Do you have any suggestions for fonts that weren't made by Microsoft?
Jon H · January 11, 2006 - 22:33 EST #12
One thing I dislike is that OS X's default colorsync profile washes out the text because it's so bright.

Since there's no contrast adjustment, what I do is I set up a new custom ColorSync profile with gamma adjusted upwards to accomplish the same thing. Text ends up being better-defined and clearer to read, even when antialiased or small.

This wouldn't help someone who needs precise colors for graphics work, but it works fine for my purposes.
Jon H · January 11, 2006 - 22:39 EST #13
Incidentally, regarding Preview vs. Adobe:

I have an Acrobat-format e-book, which was encoded with a built-in Palatino font that Acrobat renders horribly. When Acrobat's smoothing is enabled, the text looks all wavy - characters are drawn on slightly different baselines, up down up down up up up down up down.

This happened in Windows Acrobat and in Mac Acrobat.

OS X's PDF rendering never had this problem with the file, making it actually readable.
Michael Tsai (ATPM Staff) · January 12, 2006 - 09:46 EST #14
Frungi: I was referring to Microsoft's type engine. Other than Verdana, Osaka and Monaco are from Apple and can look pretty good.
Ray R · September 11, 2006 - 16:15 EST #15
Lately I've been having an issue when printing attachment forms in tiff fomat. Handwritten text is printing outlined for some strange reason. I've tried printing PDF, modifying my page setup, and settings in the print preview but nothing seems to correct it. It views fine on the screen.
Any suggestions? Please help!
Clare O'Farrell · October 10, 2006 - 02:46 EST #16
No matter what fix I try on OSX I still end up with bad eyestrain. I totally agree with Brian C above. Because I can't use OSX without constant blurry vision and headaches I have been forced to remain with OS 9.2 - which of course nobody is designing new software for any more. It is nice and readable however!!!

When will Apple address this problem? I have been looking at new IBM compatible laptops but they seem to be going down the same path. My HP desktop Windows XP with CRT monitor is still okay.

I have been using Macs since 1984 and this whole font unreadability thing has completely taken the shine off the experience. The software that goes with it safari, adobe acrobat only compounds the problem.

Interesting world where new technology is worse than the old for some users!
Mark F · October 18, 2006 - 11:18 EST #17
Nice article.

I am a new Mac owner (Mac Pro) after many years with Windows and am gravely disappointed with the way text looks. It looks like my monitor is running out of 'ink'.

Why don't more people (seemingly) care about this?

Why does Microsoft/Windows do this so much better than Apple? This may seem beside the point but it seems a valid question when there are so few things MS does better.

Do the high end (overpriced) Apple monitors equally exhibit this problem?
Clare · October 18, 2006 - 17:26 EST #18
The high end (overpriced!) macs still exhibit the same problem. The clearest font rendition I have seen is on the current macbook pros - which are also really expensive. I abolutely love the functionality of OSX but if you can't read it - then it's useless.

I am also at a loss to understand why people don't care about this either. Maybe it's because the people who can't tolerate the font seem to be in a minority(?)

Is there any way we can actually lobby Apple to provide a fix to this problem? The least they could do is provide an alternative to people who are unable to read the anti-aliased font. Bring back good old bitmapped font I say!
Roland · October 19, 2006 - 03:13 EST #19
I just got a 24" iMac, but after one week I am back to Windows. The fonts just look so horrible. I admit that they are more print-like but what's the point when you can't read them on-screen?

I have tried playing with the font-smoothing options. I also disabled font-smoothing altogether with Silk and TinkerTool. However, the fonts just don't render properly. For example, the font-spacing of Tahoma in iTunes is completely off. It works fine in Mail, though. It is funny, that iTunes looks much better in Windows than on Mac OS X.

This is my third attempt with Mac OS X (after I sold a PowerBook G4 and a Mac Mini before they went Intel). At least I can use Windows on the iMac (including wireless keyboard and mouse) until Apple improves aliased font-rendering in Mac OS X.

I thought I could live with anti-aliased fonts in Mac OS X but after a while my eyes tell me that they had enough. Hopefully, Apple will do something about it.

I realize that it is really a matter of personal taste but Apple should know this. They should give us the option to turn anti-aliasing off *and* provide us with properly tuned fonts for smaller font sizes.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · October 19, 2006 - 09:21 EST #20
I've been seeing all these comments and just felt like a brief mention from my own perspective. Yes, the fonts are soft, and yes, it's completely a matter of personal taste. However, I, for one, have no issue with OS X's font smoothing. I can read it perfectly fine. So clearly it's different for each person. I simply wanted to say this because it should be noted that the smooth fonts aren't universally terrible. Only to some.

In many cases, the only people who get involved in a forum like this about any "issue" are only the side who are complaining. Nothing wrong with that, but people who are happy with "the issue" are less inclined to spend time writing a comment. Being upset about "an issue" is what motivates people to leave comments.

Thus, I'm breaking that mold and just saying that I think OS X's font smoothing looks fine, to my eyes.
Clare · October 19, 2006 - 10:32 EST #21
A couple of additional remarks. Sorry to go on about this but I am complaining because I have been left stranded in a computer desert!

For some people the anti-aliasing is far more than a matter of mere personal taste - it is the difference between a system they can use and one they can't.

This issue only appears to affect a minority of users such as myself. Most people have no trouble reading the smoothed font and like it which is great for them - but there are a number of people like myself for whom it is a serious problem and which renders OSX unusable.

I am happy for everybody who likes the smoothed font to keep using and enjoying it. But as Roland says above why not just provide an option for the rest of us who can't actually read the smoothed font?

I would be perfectly happy with such an option and would never complain again. None of the fixes outlined above work for me and believe me, I have tried them all. The base vector font drawing on which the anti-aliasing is built is too wispy once you remove the anti-aliasing and you simply can't remove the smoothing on some software packages.

Perhaps super high resolution screens are the only answer.
Frungi · October 19, 2006 - 13:10 EST #22
Could part of the problem be the screen resolution? I've noticed that at certain resolutions (namely those not exactly 1/2 or 1/4 of the native resolution), the pixels-per-display-pixel are unevenly distributed--you get two here, one there, two there, etc. Causes an irritating shimmering or fluttering when you slowly scroll or move windows. Could that also be the cause of the unreadability?
Michael Tsai (ATPM Staff) · October 19, 2006 - 13:15 EST #23
Frungi: The problems still exist at the display's native resolution. The problem is with the pixels the OS is drawing, not with the way they're displayed.
Frungi · October 19, 2006 - 14:35 EST #24
Are you sure? It was just a thought as to why some have trouble with the smoothing and others don't. Can anyone else confirm?
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · October 19, 2006 - 15:09 EST #25
Frungi - I can confirm. Even though, as I stated above, that I tend to be more okay with the smoothing than other people, I do see exactly what others who don't like the smoothing are talking about. I definitely keep all my LCDs at native resolution, and am even stating this from viewing fonts on a 22" CRT at work which isn't subject to the native resolution issues.
Mark Fraser · October 19, 2006 - 17:17 EST #26
I think this is more than just a matter of "preference". Arial vs Verdana..that's personal preference. But is it "personal preference" for me to say that I want black text to be black (rather than having what amounts to white streaks in it)?

Nobody here is saying they "can't" read the fonts. No more than would we say that anyone "can't" read the fonts displayed on the first EGA and VGA screens that came out many years ago. But if Apple's text of today looked like that perfectly legible text they would not exist for long.

Those screens of before rendered both graphics and text in a way that was representative of the limitations of the time. However the text on my Mac looks bad not because of the limitations of the hardware but because of the fact that somewhere along the line Apple apparently broke it. If the latter weren't true it would look just as bad in Windows on the same hardware, and it doesn't.

Apple goes to a lot of trouble to make things look sleek. If there are that many people who really don't care that the text is ugly, then I guess we'll wait a while. I suspect people like me are here "complaining" because they have made an investment in what otherwise is a fine system and they want to give it a chance. And if more people would actually say something about what is lacking I think this will get fixed.
Clare · October 19, 2006 - 18:08 EST #27
I just want to re-iterate and insist again that for me (and for others) it is not just a case of 'preference' or taste, or 'ugly' fonts, it is a matter of actually being able to read the text (in any font) and use the computer. I have never had any problems of this kind before with reading computer screens and still don't have a problem with OS9 or with windows. (I sincerely hope windows don't go down the same path or I really have a problem - some of the laptops look as though they are).

After consultation with an optometrist, this was the explanation offered. If you zoom in on the characters in anti-aliased font you will see they are made up of a whole lot of different coloured pixels. Without anti-aliasing the pixels are all the same colour. Some people's brains are able to detect the different coloured pixels and aren't able to process where to focus the vision. Result - headaches and blurry vision.

As I said before I would like to lobby Apple about this but don't know how to reach them. There are a whole set of advanced 'universal access' options in OSX - I really think this problem needs to be attended to if 'universal access' is not going to be anything more than fancy 'window' dressing (!)

As I said above I have been a mac user since 1984 and love the functionality of OSX - I just want to be able to access it -hence my insistent complaints on this matter!!
Graham Lindsay · November 2, 2006 - 01:30 EST #28
As a teacher and school principal of over 30 years experience in elementary schools in Australia, I have found that many people with vision perceptual difficulties often benefit from the use of tinted lenses.

For some reason, some people see the white space before they see the black print and thus their vision is of streams of white running over the text or of fuzzy text no matter how clear the text outline is.

There is some experimental work done in perceptual optometry--there are even some 'behavioural optometrists' in Australia.

My staffs and I found that a range of tinted acetate sheets could be used as a test to help students find which tint gave them the clearest vision. We had the children hold the acetate sheet over the black print on a white page. I imagine it would also work for a modern computer screen.

Most students who found success with the tints seemed to end up with a slight yellowish tint (similar to the yellow tinted glasses used by some drivers at night or in foggy conditions) or a tint of magenta. In some cases cheap tinted sunglasses did the trick and the kids thought it was cool to have funky tinted sunglasses on in school.

After getting used to the tinted lenses many students reported that they still were able to see colours relatively well and did not notice the tint so much.

Microsoft Word is one application allows you to change the way it looks so that you can have white text on blue background. That works for some people.

I have to say that I have never applied the coloured lenses approach to computer screens (mainly because I am retired). Nevertheless I feel there is a high chance that it will work for some people who currently experience 'clarity' difficulties with TFT screens.
Clare · November 8, 2006 - 21:31 EST #29
Hi Graham, thanks for the helpful comments - but I have already investigated this avenue with a behavioural optometrist. The tinted lenses simply make no difference. I have also experimented with all sorts of permutations of colour for text and background. No joy.
Óscar · November 17, 2006 - 15:26 EST #30
First of all hi! and sorry if my english is not very correct (I'm Spanish). You can't imagine how happy I'm. I have finally found a place (your website) where people are talking about what I have been going through for the last two years, trying to cope with font smoothing and feeling stupid because I (well, my eyes) couldn't stand it.

It's the reason why I decided to return my first mac (an ibook) four years ago. After one hour using it, my eyes were so tired that I couldn't read any text without blurring the fonts. Since then, I have waited for a solution from Apple. It would have been so easy. Just do the same thing that windows xp does: a turning off text smoothing option. But it has never happened, maybe in Leopard? I have read that (Leopard) will make use of resolution independence which essentially breaks the software assumption that all display output is to be rendered at 72 dots per inch (DPI). Maybe that change will render fonts legible.

This is the link from appleinsider.

http://www.appleinsider.com/article.php?id=2168

Do you think that anyhthing will change with this new GUI idea?
Michael Tsai (ATPM Staff) · November 17, 2006 - 15:45 EST #31
Resolution independence will essentially let you change the sizes of the fonts on your screen. It won't change the way the letters (at a given pixel size) are rendered.
Mike Cohen · December 11, 2006 - 16:45 EST #32
My eye sight isn't great, but I still prefer OS X's smooth fonts to any other OS. When I see OS 9's ugly fonts I want to throw up. Don't even get me started on Windows.
John K · January 2, 2007 - 11:43 EST #33
The thing is, if some people are happy with the current OSX font rendering, that's fine. I'm not. I hate it. I think it's stupid. I just would like to have an option to have fonts rendered as in OS9 or windows (without cleartype). In the end, the question is: why apple is so religious about this retarded anti-aliasing and don't allow people to choose whatever suits them best?
Alex Hamilton · January 4, 2007 - 04:55 EST #34
I too am having real problems with OS X and font anti-aliasing.

I really notice it when I use the same program, on the same screen and at the same time, in XP and in OS X. I do this in parallels on a macbook, with the left half of the screen for OS X and the right for XP.

Using the browser Opera on both OS X and XP, text in OS X is almost illegible (especially e's). On XP with cleartype it is beautiful.

I find the same thing with Word documents. What gives Apple - the font smoothing is OSX is absolutely terrible. Almost everything looks smudged. How can Apple have got it so wrong?
Rufiao · January 5, 2007 - 16:35 EST #35
It maybe a very good idea to send feedback directly to apple regarding this issue:

http://www.apple.com/macosx/feedback/

I'm pretty sure that Apple would think about the problem if a substantial number of users complained about it. As it seems, most users are happy about staring to blurry fonts the whole day (maybe because of the "Appple religion" thing where it's forbidden to criticize anything Apple does...). So, if you are uncomfortable with the [rather stupid] font smoothing in OS X, please send your feedback to Apple directly!
Mark Fraser · January 5, 2007 - 16:44 EST #36
Thanks for the link Rufiao. I hope everyone will go there and submit the form. It only takes a minute!
Clare · January 6, 2007 - 03:57 EST #37
Thanks also Rufiao for this link. I will certainly be sending a form. I had even been considering setting up a petition on petition.com about this issue.
Rufiao · January 6, 2007 - 13:57 EST #38
A petition would be very nice actually, Clare. Please set it up!
John K · January 6, 2007 - 22:51 EST #39
Before going for a petition, it would be nice to outline what's really needed to solve the problem. My understanding is that the following features would do it:

1. An option to turn off font anti-aliasing
2. An option to respect font hinting
3. Increase the threshold available in the "turn font smoothing for sizes ... and smaller" to something like 32 points
4. Some configuration options to change the default system fonts (the ubiquitous Lucida Grande is not well suited to be rendered without anti-aliasing)

Is that it? Am I missing something?
Mark Fraser · January 7, 2007 - 01:25 EST #40
In those circumstances and applications where you can turn off anti-aliasing, you get poor text of a different sort. So I don't think that is a solution.

Personally I don't think it is our job to tell Apple how to fix it. I just know that the competition handles fonts better than they do, so I'm sure if they devote their efforts to solving it, they can and will.

The problem is for some unknown reason no one cares enough to make them do so. I don't know why that is, but I firmly believe it isn't because most people think Apple does a good job of rendering fonts in their current OS.
Clare · January 7, 2007 - 17:03 EST #41
I agree with everything Mark says here - merely turning off the anti-aliasing (eg with utilities like Tinker tool) produces a very poor result which is just as unreadable.

The only thing stopping me setting up a petition is not actually having a proper address to send it to when all the signatures are gathered. Perhaps the link Rufiao posted above would be enough? Suggestions would be most welcome.

I have drafted a petition already and will post it here for comment and discussion before going ahead - if people are interested.

Here is the link to the petition site. http://www.petitiononline.com/petition.html Do a search on Apple and on macintosh for heaps of petitions relating to other macintosh issues.
John K · January 7, 2007 - 20:28 EST #42
I think that things look wrong when anti-aliasing is turned off (with TinkerTool or Silk) just because of the Lucida Grande font used everywhere, and because Apple doesn't respect font hinting (as Windows, for instance, does). I'd be very happy to have simple options to control anti-aliasing and system fonts for the time being, so that the problem can be solved fast. If Apple can devote R&D resources to find a better approach to display fonts, I couldn't be happier.
Frungi · January 8, 2007 - 15:08 EST #43
The following is mostly guesswork:
OS X is simply not set up for displaying unsmoothed fonts. Font hinting would only be used where fonts aren't anti-aliased, which is never expected to happen. It's an anti-aliased OS. Maybe that's a good thing, maybe not, maybe we just need a higher concentration of pixels (making anti-aliasing a bit redundant).
Eric H · January 18, 2007 - 16:05 EST #44
I'm a new Mac OS X user and like others here, I've been struggling with the fonts. Sometimes I feel like I'm going blind looking at the thing. I did find a setting in my LCD that does make a difference. Not all monitors have this control so your mileage may vary. The control is called "phase" and tweaking it has gone a long way to sharpening the smaller fonts. In all, however, I'm pretty disappointed with font rendering in this OS. Fonts on my XP notebook are so sharp they're almost difficult to look at after "adjust" to OS X.
Y M · January 24, 2007 - 01:30 EST #45
I have to say that I'm switching to Ubuntu Linux simply because (and only because) its font rendering is *far* superior. On a decent LCD, it's almost as good as reading a printed page.
rebecca s · January 27, 2007 - 13:07 EST #46
Just bought my first mac a macbook. Have spent whole morning on support trying to explain that the letters are blurry to no avail.
By the time the highest resolution is on I cant read anything in font 12
Also it is all fuzzy Thanks for helping not feel like its just my 40 something eyes or that Im losing it
Since Im still in my first 14 days thoughts on going back to windows vs trying to tweak this
Rob Wall · February 9, 2007 - 00:48 EST #47
I am another shocked and disapointed new iMac user. I am a java developer so the thought of developing on unix, with a nice 1920 pixels to put the Eclipse IDE in was too tempting. I like almost everything else but this one issue is about to make me get anohter PC to work on. I will post to the petition.
Y M · February 9, 2007 - 01:53 EST #48
I've worked around this problem, though it won't be for everyone. You can install Apple's X11 server from the OS X installation DVD. Then install fink. Then install FinkCcommander (a GUI interface to fink). Then install gnome and everything else you need with FinkCommander. At least you will be able to run Unix programs with Unix font anti-aliasing, rather than Apple's.
Eugene Z · February 15, 2007 - 17:27 EST #49
There is no "generic" Unix anti-aliasing mechanism. Rendering engine used in Gnome and other Gtk-based applications called Freetype (http://www.freetype.org/).
Aaron S. · February 21, 2007 - 21:14 EST #50
Thanks fro the link to apple's feedback page. I couldn't be more disspointed. I pray Apple addresses this issue in Leopard.
Kyle B. · February 24, 2007 - 02:45 EST #51
I'm glad someone out there has the same eye strain and nausea that I do with OSX. I've used computers for 22 years and I've never had issues with display until OSX.

I'm a developer that has a Windows box with 20x2 LCD monitors in one corner and a G5 Dual Proc G5 with a 23 HD display. I've slowly been trying to migrate my development over to the Mac and OSX because I'd like to make 'the switch' both at work and at home.

I used to have a old 520c laptop and the original iMac (on my boat) and I had no issues. I even used NeXT for a few years at work with a big CRT. The problem is that I CAN NOT use the Mac for more than 1/2hr straight without getting a headache and blurry vision.

For years I've turned off Clear-Type on Windows and I've been 100% happy as far as hours and hours of constant use goes. As discussed by others, the Smooth Type on OSX just doesn't work for some folks. Initially it looks slick and inviting... then... it turns on you and you become afraid to look at it. I did turn off smoothing via the command line for anything under 128pt but damm that was ugly! The spacing of non-smoothed fonts just sucks compared to OS9 and Windows XP (with Clear-Type off).

Until Apple finds a solution I'm afraid I can't buy or use a Mac very much. I am disappointed... really.
Adam Wolf · March 5, 2007 - 20:16 EST #52
Just my $0.02, I found this thread like everyone else via google ("help OSX is killing my eyes....")

I've discovered that I can make my MBP a whole lot more tolerable by setting the gamma to 2.2 or higher. It ships with 1.8, which causes the fonts to lose the dubious amount of detail that they naturally have.

Setting it to 2.2 or higher really helps get the edges back. (System prferences -> display -> color -> Calibrate)

My understanding is that the native gamma of most LCDs, even on Macs these days is 2.2. I cannot for the life of me figure out why they ship with a profile set to 1.8.
Michael Tsai (ATPM Staff) · March 5, 2007 - 20:23 EST #53
Adam: I don't think the gamma makes a huge difference for readability--if you don't like the font rendering with a lower gamma, you won't like it with a higher gamma--but I agree that current displays look much better with a gamma of 2.2. The contrast is better, and it doens't look as washed out.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · March 6, 2007 - 00:18 EST #54
Adam - very interesting that you came to this conclusion on your own, seeing as how I just said in my latest Photoshop For the Curious column that virtually every LCD these days uses a gamma of 2.2.

In some ways, Michael, I agree with you. But it depends on whether the person's problem is with the anti-aliasing or with the contrast. Granted, for most people, it's undoubtedly the anti-aliasing, and you're right—changing the gamma to 2.2 won't make the least bit of difference. But for a few people, the slight increase in contrast that a 2.2 gamma setting would afford might be all the improvement they need.

In any case, Adam, just wanted wanted to affirm your choice of going to 2.2—a very wise decision.
PWH3 · March 30, 2007 - 22:51 EST #55
I've been testing Mac OS X for development purposes and was impressed up to this point. I was wondering "why are the fonts blurry?"

I searched and tweaked with utilities and fiddled with many gamma profiles but still, they are definitely not as sharp and goodlooking as Cleartype in Windows XP nor in Gnome under Ubuntu Linux.

Ubuntu renders the fonts extremely crisply and clearly -- a sad day when a Linux GUI is much easier on the eyes than the much touted OS X.

My conclusion is that the reason few complain about this is because they have not done a true and honest comparison with the Cleartype system in Windows or a modern Linux desktop, or simply choose to ignore this absolute fact.

Writing this in Safari; probably be the last time I'll use it or the OS since there is no reason to subject my eyes to something that is inferior.
Luke S · April 2, 2007 - 00:36 EST #56
I thought my eyes were going! I recently switched to macbook pro and no resolution or color calibration has made mac osx's text any better on my eyes. I really hope apple comes up with a solution to this because I don't know if I can keep using this computer -- it gives me a headache and makes my eyes hurt.
Daniel · April 27, 2007 - 14:02 EST #57
I have the same experience. I have returned an iBook four years ago and I am thinking about returning my MacBook Pro now.

What ever happened to the petition?
Daniel · May 1, 2007 - 14:04 EST #58
Thanks for your article! After changing most fonts to Verdana, I finally can use my Mac without any problems.
MacMatrix · May 23, 2007 - 23:26 EST #59
Why text smoothing sucks!

I did not read all of the posts so if I am repeating some one else's comments, O well :-)

To see why font smoothing sucks,
GoTo Apple/System Preferences/Universal Access
Turn on Zoom

Zoom in = Option+command+]
Zoom out = Option+command+[

You will now see the non black color smoothing around the letters.

That is why font smoothing is annoying after a while.
If the letters where made up of black and gray none of us would complain.

I am using a Apple stupio display CRT. LCD's should be worst because of the bigger DPI's.

I was able to get the smoothing in full black but it dissapeared humm! If I figure out how to get it back I will post.
mare · June 12, 2007 - 13:27 EST #60
The launch of the Safari 3 beta for Windows has sparked new debate about the issue. Now you can compare both font-renderings on one platform Joel Spolski and Jeff Atwood both agree that font rendering on Windows is ugly, but better readable.

I myslef have my fonts quite large and then I like Apple's way better. But anything under 10 pixels is too fuzzy for me.
jon trux · June 13, 2007 - 06:36 EST #61
My problems began when I bought a G4 Ibook running OSX. Text is awful, resulting in eyestrain and blurred vision. Now I write on my old G3 Powerbook running OS9 and transfer final text to the Ibook via a USB memory stick.
Fred le Bon · June 23, 2007 - 11:41 EST #62
A practical solution:
http://www.atpm.com/11.08/atpo.shtml

On my machine, I use near-blacks instead of the default black for the text color. If you have a setup and application that already uses colored sub-pixels, the use of color as the base has wonderful effects on the sub-pixel coloring routines. And this is amplified when the flare serif effect comes into play.

It works, no eye strain anymore!
Fred
Clare · June 23, 2007 - 20:33 EST #63
This sounds good Fred, but what do you actually have to do to your machine to get this happening? Unfortunately I really couldn't work out what the author of the article was saying. I have already tried setting my machine to grey scale and that made no difference.
Frungi · June 23, 2007 - 20:58 EST #64
I don't think he means grayscale; I think near-blacks means, for instance, very dark blue.
Fred le Bon · June 24, 2007 - 08:19 EST #65
That's right, Frungi and Clare! I just set text to grey. Blue works as well. Most regrettably, text colour settings will not be saved!

If the whole text is dark or even lighter grey, I can read it without experiencing the highly distressing visual and psychic trouble that we are all complaining about.

In 1984 Apple became world famous for the friendly - and straightforward - WYSYSWG user interface. No more! The MacOS X is crap, which have to thank Steven Jobs for.

Fred
Fred le Bon · June 30, 2007 - 18:21 EST #66
Please read the article at:
http://daringfireball.net/2003/11/panther_text_rendering
It explains very important details of font "smoothing" in MacOS X. Namely, sub-pixel rendering, depending on the option selected for Appearance/Font smoothing style...
Good-luck!
Fred
Clare · July 5, 2007 - 01:57 EST #67
Thanks for this Fred. One really useful thing about this article was that it explained that anti-aliasing produces an optical illusion. The problem is that not everybody's vision is fooled by this optical illusion.
Josh Freeman · July 12, 2007 - 18:01 EST #68
Wow. Stumbled onto this and I am amazed. I have never had any problem with font display in OSX or OS9. My experience in Windows is that most of the fonts and the displays in general look downright clunky and ugly, and I always heave a sigh of relief when I'm back on a Mac. I guess it's a very individual thing. "Mac OS X is crap", eh? Sounds a bit over the top to me and, I'm sure, to millions of other Mac users.
ryanws · September 18, 2007 - 03:07 EST #69
Mee to, when i first saw OSX, its look very pretty, sleek, beautiful. But after a few day working and surfing using OSX "pretty" font rendering, i'm finally realize, windows/linux hinted font rendering look ugly but moore readable.

Why dont aple just use hinting ? becauze they wont bow down to "inferior" OS ?
Óscar · October 26, 2007 - 16:43 EST #70
Hi everybody. Has anyone tried Leopard? have they included any antialiasing turning off option?
Mark · October 27, 2007 - 00:21 EST #71
Leopard doesn't need an "antialiasing turning off option." It needs to do a good job at it.
Tom Anderson · October 29, 2007 - 15:50 EST #72
funny story. my friend has an intel Mac laptop and I installed WinXP in a dual boot config for her because she needed some Win-only program for a college course. she has been a Mac user her whole life, and when she had to boot into XP she couldn't believe how crisp and sharp the fonts were. she had never said anything about the text before, but now to her the fonts in OSX Tiger look blurry. i wonder how many Mac users dual booted or ran Parallels only to be shocked by the sharper, better-looking fonts on what they consider to be the worse-looking operating system. lol.
Scott Lowry · November 2, 2007 - 13:39 EST #73
I was waiting for Leopard, hoping that it might improve this issue. I've been ready to switch to Mac for years, but the font rendering with Windows XP (with Clear Type) is crystal clear to my eyes, compared to OS-X's type which seems to range from ugly-but-tolerable to just barely legible. What's so strange is that Windows is so clunky and crude compared to OS-X in almost every way except this critical aspect where the tables are turned 180 degrees. Bizarre and frustrating.

Anyway, looking at Leopard in the Apple store, it seemed that nothing changed in this area at all. If someone has discovered something different I'd love to know.
Clare · November 2, 2007 - 20:05 EST #74
I was also waiting in hope - but I have to agree with Scott - nothing has changed. Very disappointing.
Misanthrope · November 13, 2007 - 17:24 EST #75
Just came from visiting macrumors.com. I noticed whenever someone brings up the topic of crappy font rendering, they are quickly shot down by the fanatic, "apple can do no wrong" apologists.

I believe the rose-colored-glasses crowd is the crux of our difficulty in trying to get Apple to take notice of this issue.

Speaking of, has anyone heard news of any changes? Or are we stuck on PC's forever?
Andrew · November 17, 2007 - 21:44 EST #76
Thought I would drop a line. The biggest problem with OSX font rendering system is not in fact the AA, as you may believe, but rather the hinting. There is a mistaken belief that hinting is only needed for non-aa'ed fonts.

This is very wrong. With hinting, most fonts need less AA, making them crisper, and smoother. This is why people who have minor visual problems (such as the inability to focus on the black pixels, because of the near presence of the non-black pixels), have such a problem with OSX. For the majority of people it isn't a problem. Though they would notice the difference if shown a better implementation. Which is the reason Apple doesn't care- it is good enough for the majority of users.

As an example (as someone else mentioned) I have found that with the right settings on a modern Gnome system(such as Ubuntu), the clarity is far better than either non-aa'ed OS9, or merely smoothed OSX. If Apple were to simply implement a proper font Hinting + Smoothing system, most of the complaints here would go away.
Andrew · November 17, 2007 - 22:22 EST #77
To clarify before somebody nitpicks. Obviously OSX has hinting, what I meant is strict hinting. Basically OSX uses a hinting algorithm to preserve the font intent, instead of visual clarity, thus resulting in more smoothing, than if it used a strict pixel-grid hinting, which is what windows does, That so many people prefer. See

http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000885.html
Scott Lowry · November 18, 2007 - 15:52 EST #78
When I see someone who favors OS-X rendering over Windows, I have to wonder how our eyes can see something so differently. One explanation might be that ClearType is not the default Windows setting (Display Properties/Appearance/Effects), and without it Windows font rendering is truly horrific. But, once ClearType is set it is superior enough to OS-X IMO that it's stopped me from switching to a Mac even with all the nightmare issues (primarly anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall programs that leave you with no idea if and/or how much protection you really have) with Windows.
Martin Banana · February 7, 2008 - 23:49 EST #79
I'm disappointed. I figured I'd be reading about class action suites. Repeated eye strain causes permanent eye damage. What gives?

I've been on OSX for the last few months and my eyes are getting chewed up tho I've ever had a problem with 9.

I appreciate the suggestions on this site but I really hope Apple just gets this thing fixed.
Neil Rubenstein · February 8, 2008 - 06:48 EST #80
Since my comments seem to have initiated this thread 2 years ago, I thought I'd add some thoughts - just in case someone at Apple is listening.

I've used Macs for over 17 years. My business runs on them. But due to the font rendering issue, I never moved to OSX.

I stayed with OS 9 and hoped that Apple would eventually fix the problem. We continued to use our Dual Boot computers, including 1 Gig Titanium Powerbooks and Powermacs, and booted in OS9, which was certainly more comfortable than using Classic in OSX.

So here it is, years later. No fix from Apple. All they've done is completely make it impossible to use OS9 - or now to even Classic - on their new computers. And Leopard, which I hoped would help on the Pre-Intel Macs, doesn't have any Classic support - and even if it did, it's no improvement anyway.

I still use my OS9 Powerbooks and the office uses a couple of PowerMacs - since years of business records are stored there. But they are tougher and tougher to use on the web, especially due to old browsers, etc.

**

About 1 year ago I had to purchase a Thinkpad running XP Pro for a specific project. (Never ran Windows before - found it much too counter-intuitive in too many ways.)

But guess what? I use the Thinkpad daily now. OS9 on my Powerbook is still much easier on my eyes. But the Thinkpad is not bad at all.

And most importantly, since I actually use the ThinkPad on my Lap, I've discovered that the trackpointer - that litter red eraser like object in the lower center of the keyboard - is absolutely the best way to navigate your screen, a webpage, a document. It's just great (At least on this R60 it's smooth as silk. Not quite as good on an older T43) I now just can't live without it.

So, the irony of all this is that Apple got me to migrate from OS 9 all right - to a Windows XP machine.

Of course, what's even stranger, is that I could, if I chose, use the newest Intel Mac running Leopard and also install very old Windows OS's. I can run old Microsoft Operating Systems, ones that preceded OS 9 by years, on new Mac Hardware, but I can't run OS 9 on new Mac Computers. I can run old copies of Microsoft Word and 12 year old Word Documents, but I can't run my Apple/Claris MacWrite program, or access my old MacWrite documents.

This just does not make sense.

Talk about fuzzy fonts. How about fuzzy logic. There really is something wrong with this picture.

And by the way, cost is not a factor. I would happily pay an exorbitant premium for the hardware I'd like to use. But it seems that the only thing likely to get me to a new Mac any time soon, is going to be when and if someone comes out with a decent OS9 emulator that will run on one.

I've got my fingers crossed. But I refuse to cross my eyes.

Neil Rubenstein
anonymous · February 18, 2008 - 16:27 EST #81
I think the problem here is that you people are neurotic, the reason you're getting tired is because you're telling yourself over and over that the fonts should look like this or that.

The painful truth is that there is absolutely no reason why smoothed text should cause your eyes to feel tired, so the symptom is in fact a combination of psychosomatic and placebo effects resulting from obsessing about how the fonts look instead of reading the text they display, the eye-effects you feel are a result of you attributing any tiredness or eye related ills to the new fonts.

Everyone here no doubt look at horribly blurred fonts at smaller effective sizes (taking into account distance) on televisions all the time without the same complaints.

I've been staring at CRT screens for more than 25 years now and I can safely say that the "blurry" fonts on my monitor today are a lot less blurry than the horrid crap I had to put up with in the days of yore, before there was antialiasing.

To me, non-antialiased fonts look like a rough approximation of a bunch of letters made of lego. It doesn't hurt my eyes or my brain to stare at them but I'm really, really sick of seeing misshapen, misspaced, varying weight fonts. I'd rather have my fonts look a bit like they were printed on cheap paper than redesigned badly by a computer.

You can keep your ransom-note fonts, but don't try to make out that people are injuring you. It's all in your head, people.
Mark Fraser · February 18, 2008 - 17:37 EST #82
Hey Mouse,

I don't blame you for hiding beyond a fake name--given the misguidedness of your ad hominem, barely on-topic comments.

Speaking just for myself, injury is not the issue. It's ugliness.

The fonts on the current version(s) of OSX are blurry and ugly. They are not blurry on other OS's and in previous versions of the Mac OS (whether anti-aliased or not). So the idea that this is an aliased vs non-aliased issue is a canard.

The problem is in the implementation; not the method. I doubt whether so many people would be asking for ways to turn off anti-aliasing if OSX didn't do such a poor job with it.
ATPM Staff · February 18, 2008 - 17:59 EST #83
Anonymous/Mark/and anyone else: please refrain from petty bickering and borderline namecalling or your thread of comments will be removed. We welcome discussion—even civil (that means academic) arguments on the topic of font rendering, but ATPM has no tolerance for irrelevant rudeness.
anonymous · February 24, 2008 - 15:54 EST #84
It's nice that you don't claim to be injured by antialiasing, but posters above have claimed just that...

"No matter what fix I try on OSX I still end up with bad eyestrain. I totally agree with Brian C above. Because I can't use OSX without constant blurry vision and headaches"

This statement is at odds with;
A) The way people read and percieve words,
B) The fact the people read blurred text all the time in ads, images and PDF files
C) The history of monitors; which have gotten clearer over time -- How did this poster survive when all fonts were blurred over pixel boundaries on his CRT?

I'm all for allowing people to choose whether or not their fonts are grid-fitted and distorted or blurred but shaped, weighted and kerned correctly according to preference - which is why I absolutely oppose and rail against anyone who claims that either method (cleartype or OS X) is palpably better, and especially the absurd notion that one method is so dramatically worse that it causes injury to it's users.

There is simply no truth to those statements, which are in the comments, and in my opinion that makes my previous comment on-topic.
Clare · February 24, 2008 - 18:07 EST #85
I notice there have been a few inflammatory remarks of late on this thread. It is quite understandable that people who don't have a problem with the font rendering in OSX think that this is all a ridiculous fuss over nothing.

Anti-aliasing as it is implemented on Mac OSX relies on an optical illusion. Pixels of varying colours and shades are attached to the edges of characters to provide the illusion of curves etc. Previous systems used pixels all of one colour.

It is precisely here that the problem lies. There are many forms of optical illusion and there are always small subgroups of people whose vision does not respond to a given optical illusion.

I think this is the case here. A small minority of people's vision is not able to process the optical illusion generated by the different coloured pixels. All these people are asking for is some recognition of, or fix for this problem which would allow them to use Mac OSX and have a very stylish computer and OS at their disposal.
Scott Lowry · February 24, 2008 - 19:05 EST #86
Claire, as someone who would buy a Mac Pro in an instant if this were fixed you're right on with your comment. Whether the cause of the problem is the varying colors I don't know; I've never had a problem with any color-blind tests.

When the new iMacs came out I opened up a Word doc and typed in a few lines. The words were literally illegible with 10 pt. Times Roman at 100%. More disturbing were web sites that I visit daily that now were significantly less attractive and appeared less professional and polished because the type was more difficult to read.

I'm typing this message on a ThinkPad with a 1680 x 1050 15" screen, and the 6 or 7 pt type at the bottom of this ATPM page is smooth and crystal sharp, and shaped, weighted, and kerned just fine.

I actually think I might get used to what is to my eyes the clearly inferior presentation of the Mac, but I'm reluctant to gamble ~$4,000+ to find out. On the other hand, I find Windows to be as much fun as a root canal, and it gets worse every year.

I recently had to use a high-end CRT monitor for color retouching work and of course it was like going back to the dark ages in terms of soft type. OS-X on an LCD screen seems somewhere between that and Win.
anonymous · February 29, 2008 - 10:03 EST #87
Claire. Though you wander far from the subject of people claiming to get headaches because of fuzzy font rendering, you raise an interesting point.

I encourage you to take a close look at ANY color screen, ALL type on ALL screens is made to the up of the different coloured dots you speak of.

In the particular case of LCD screens - At the proper (native) resolution, all of the sub-pixels (the three individual sections that comprise each coloured dot) are evenly spaced apart (there is no aperture grid in between pixels as with a CRT).

The modern font rendering technique that you talk about takes advantage of this fact to effectively triple the horizontal resolution of text on the screen. In order to work properly, the screen settings must be correct and the screen must be an LCD panel or similar flat panel design.

I often find that people who complain of colour "fringing" on their monitors have one or more of the following problems;

A) Wrong colour settings in the monitor or a bad colour profile. For example, the default settings on my PowerBook look great, but a Philips monitor I sometimes connect looks very psychadelic with default settings. It has taken a lot of tweaking to get this monitor to display similar to the built-in one, but now the fonts look great.

B) Bad resolution, I know it's not new years eve, but some people don't like how small some fonts are, so they adjust the screen to a lower resolution, their LCD panel interpolates the input and comes up with a blurred, but bigger version of the picture. This destroys the pixel alignment that the "optical illusion" is trying to take advantage of and fonts show red and green fringes.

C) Bad cables, if an LCD panel connected by a VGA cable, they can often be succeptible to "noise". The VGA cables supplied with modern LCD panels are terrible, they lack the protection neccessary to stop the colours bleeding or smearing because of "crosstalk" between the wires inside the cable and electro-magnetic interference from outside the cable. If you aren't getting an absolutely stable and crystal clear image the "optical illusion" you speak of won't work and fringes will be visible.

It's rare for people to complain about the fringing problems on laptops, because they usually have higher resolution displays (this matters going back to the optical illusion, because doubling the size of a point of light does not double its brightness, as any astronomer will tell you) and because the screens have been specified and configured by hardware engineers who know every detail of the system.

For people experiencing these problems in Windows XP, they should disable "Cleartype"
rendering, for Mac, they should select "Standard - Best for CRT" mode, or for Linux they should disable "Sub-Pixel Rendering".

One more thing regarding colour fringing... it pays to remember that some LCD panels are VERY sensitive to viewing angle. When confronted by the psychadelic aura, try moving your head vertically up and down in relation to the monitor and see if the fringing disappears, this may also apply to the fuzziness surrounding fonts in OS X to a lesser extent.
Lex · April 2, 2008 - 17:06 EST #88
Glad to find this discussion, because I thought I was losing my mind (and my eyesight).

I just got a MacBook Pro and mainly use a 24" Dell LCD panel - the same one I had previously been using with my Win laptop. Now I'm running Mac OS as much as possible, and running XP via Parallels for the Windows software I just can't escape. Same machine, same screen, same everything.

Since I switched back to Mac (after 4 long painful years with Windows only), I have noticed my eyes are a lot more tired at the end of the day, and I have been getting more headaches.

Once I got a hint of what was going on, I started comparing browsers, etc and - who would've thunk it - old and slow IE7 on XP is WAY easier on the eyes.

As I would rather gargle with shards of glass than have to use XP for browsing, I'm VERY interested in finding a solution to this.

I will let you know if I come up with anything.
Horace Ho · April 30, 2008 - 04:26 EST #89
Roland, you have written what I want to express.

It's such a relieve to know I am not alone on this planet.

Thank you!
Fred le Bon · May 6, 2008 - 20:52 EST #90
Anonymous has definitely gotten a point in B)... wrong resolution! The right resolution makes things way too small, though. Then try TinkerTool System: set "Quartz" to 96px and you will see how it all should look... But the software just does not support scaling... not until MacOS 21.9.11. and any compatible software. Be bold!
Fred le Bon
Jim T · July 17, 2008 - 19:38 EST #91
Very glad to have found this forum. Have already returned a macbook air for this very reason. Clearly it is not merely a matter of aesthetics: I was getting headaches from the thing.

I want to like the Air, and I think it is a very sexy computer, but unfortunately I am a translator and the screen rendering is not anywhere close to the quality I get running XP on a Toshiba tablet (portege m200) that is 4 years old and available for $300 on ebay. Admittedly, the Toshiba has a much higher resolution (1400 x 1050 on a 12.1"screen) - but the bottom line is: no eye fatigue.

One thing that might be useful to some of you. I also have a 24"imac. That bad boy is huge, which has certain advantages for this problem. When working, I sit (or lie) a full 6-7 feet (!) from my screen, and use distance glasses. (You need to maximize the documents to fill the screen of course, with a comfy zoom.

Doing this, you can read and read all day without a problem. Eyes focused at infinity (or at least not near-focused), and too far away to have to struggle with any rendering issues. Clear as a bell.
Chris · November 24, 2008 - 18:03 EST #92
I too am getting headaches from the thing and I must program OSX apps, so what I do is set up subversion, work on the thing from Visual Studio (about 100 times better than XCode) then compile in XCode. That way I'm not going blind or getting a headache.
Max · December 3, 2008 - 01:25 EST #93
took 5min in windows to make away with anti aliasing, one painful hour in linux (although a bug in recent ubuntu contributed to that) and there's just no way to get this done in osx.

tinkertool did help a bit, but now it's a mess of smoothed and clear fonts (which i can't get down to the size i'd like anyway, although it looks right in the preview).

i know that those that complain are heavily outnumbered, because some don't even get what i'm taking abuot when i show them side-to-side screenshots^^
Nick · January 13, 2009 - 10:44 EST #94
<sigh> So much time, so little progress.

Andrew, back in item 81, hit the nail right on the head for me. My eyes are bad: I suffer from astigmatism. I need high contrast, clear edges to help read without tiring my eyes and giving me headaches.

I love the Mac, but using it wears me out.

After reading this site, I have come to understand why this is happening. And since I have also worked as a graphic designer, and that is Apple's biggest marketplace, I also understand why it isn't going to change anytime soon.

Bother!

Anyone experimented with Windows under Parallels, Fusion or Bootcamp?
Shado · March 18, 2009 - 01:07 EST #95
Nick, I couldn't have put it better - so much time so little progress.

I have just given a new Macbook pro a test run for a few days - instant headache and blurred vision - even with Tinkertool (which since 10.4 hasn't been able to remove all the smoothing). I will continue to persist with my 9 year old titanium.

I'm running 10.3.9 having stripped off all the font smoothing with Tinkertool and set all the fonts to Monaco. The characters look a bit thin but at least they are legible.
Nick · March 18, 2009 - 21:24 EST #96
Update FYI. I finally got fed up, bootcamped my Macbook Pro and am now mostly using Windows XP with the ClearType feature activated. Not a headache since.

Double drat. Looks like I'm stuck with Microsoft for the foreseeable future.

(Ha! Pardon the pun.)
Shado · March 18, 2009 - 22:04 EST #97
Hi Nick, Does XP work well on the Macbook Pro and with all the windows software and with wireless etc? This could be a possible solution for me as well.

If XP works satisfactorily on the Mac this would at least be preferable to going the whole hog and buying a Windows laptop which I can't bring myself to do.
Nick · March 18, 2009 - 22:32 EST #98
Shado, I have been quite pleased with the result. The performance is waaay better than using Parallels or Fusion (tried both).

That said, there have been one or two minor anomalies along the way but nothing I can't live with. For example, closing the laptop lid and disconnecting power ('cause I'm taking my laptop to a meeting) has occasionally resulted in a frozen system that required a reboot. No biggie. Could've been Windows anyway.

So, I keep my Mac OS for when I really need/want it and do my day-to-day work in Windows. Almost best of both worlds.

And no headaches!
Shado · March 18, 2009 - 23:03 EST #99
Thanks Nick, That's really useful. You have given me hope. If one has to use windoze, at least it can be on nice hardware.

Here's to no headaches and no blurry vision!
Bobbi · April 10, 2009 - 14:23 EST #100
Unsanity's Silk... Lets you system wide disable anti-aliasing and overide the default finder font (Lucida Grande), I replaced with Chicago (Original Mac system font) and most everything else in Veranda. The dialog and documentation push "smooth fonts" but it lets you go completely the other way... seriously, free demo and $10 to buy saved me from returning a new Macbook
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · April 10, 2009 - 22:24 EST #101
Bobbi - all well and good, but there are many people who aren't in favor of Unsanity's Haxie method of system modification.
Bobbi · April 11, 2009 - 09:14 EST #102
I agree Silk is not the ideal solution, real control of font rendering should be in the os... Frankly, Its the best I've found and seems to fix it 98% to my liking...

Personally I'd rather keep OS X with a "hack" then return to XP simply because of the fonts.

I'm open to any method that does it better...
Shado · April 12, 2009 - 04:38 EST #103
Thanks Bobbi, I've now tried it in 10.4.11 and it actually works.
Bobbi · April 15, 2009 - 20:44 EST #104
Shado - Glad its helping you out... Also works with 10.5.6
Blanka Jansen · June 20, 2009 - 06:06 EST #105
I do like Clear Type for it's pixel matching sharpness, but I don't like it doing it through RGB sub pixels. I really hate small characters looking purple and green on Windows, much more than a little fuzziness on OS X. Adobe Flash has even worse sub-pixel rendering then cleartype. So please Microsoft, give us cleartype that ignores RGB pixel rendering, but focusses on pixel mapping.

Some here suggest that colour fringing is caused by bad monitor set-up. That is nonsense. I think a bad-VGA cable and some blurring because of scaling hides the colour fringing instead of strengthening it. Colour fringing is very good seen on the best IPS and PVA panels at good DVI connections and decent calibration. Maybe sub pixel rendering looks fine on a cramped 1920x1200 17 inch TN laptop screen, but on a huge quality screen, it looks psychadelic.

Oh, and even worse are Clear type sub-pixel rendered texts that are not black on white but in two different colours.
adam gerow · June 21, 2009 - 17:01 EST #106
This page is the first result on Google for fonts ugly mac. In my case, I was trying to figure out why Georgia was looking off balance. This was exactly what I was looking for, thank you. Also, Firebug is a tool worth noting (it works on Firefox on Mac now), as clicking "inspect" will display the particulars - font family, size, line-height, word-spacing, etc - of anything you hover over or click on.
Quinn Weaver · July 11, 2009 - 05:32 EST #107
Subpixel rendering, not antialiasing, is what bugs me. My eyes pick out the red and blue parts of letters--it's very distracting.

It's worst with small fonts. And it happens even after I turn off antialiasing for small fonts.

Does anyone else have this problem? It's driving me up the wall.

Thanks for all the intelligent discussion so far.

PS: Antialiasing I like, unlike most readers here. I appreciate the way its smoothing makes text look more rounded and, well, smoother. But the subpixel thing is another story.
Me · July 11, 2009 - 05:43 EST #108
Quinn, try selecting "Standard - Best for CRT" under Appearance in System Preferences (presuming you're on a Mac).

If you're still having the problem even on non-antialiased text and your LCD is set to its highest resolution, then try pressing its AUTO button to see if it comes right, and if that doesn't work look through the menu in your monitor settings for "Phase" and adjust that until you see no more fringing.
Quinn Weaver · July 11, 2009 - 05:50 EST #109
Heh, right after I posted I scrolled up and saw two comments about subpixel rendering (the problem: I'd done a search-on-page for "subpixel," but those posts read "sub-pixel" and "sub pixel.")

The best solution I've found: use thick typefaces, high point sizes, and often bold weights. For instance, I write code in Bitstream Vera Sans Mono Bold 14. For some reason, subpixel artifacts are less frequent this way (still there, but less frequent).

This helps me much more than System Preferences > Appearances > Font smoothing style > Standard—best for CRT—to me, that makes no noticeable difference.

Overall, I'm glad I'm not the only one seeing fringes, but I'm frustrated that Apple gives me no way to banish them altogether. Steve, please accept that sometimes the user does know what he wants, and let me turn off subpixel rendering.
Me again · July 11, 2009 - 05:55 EST #110
The instructions that I gave you *ARE* for turning off subpixel rendering. If you're still seeing RGB fringing even with subpixel rendering off, then your monitor is not detecting RGB phase correctly or your monitor is broken.

There's no helping some people...
Quinn Weaver · July 12, 2009 - 23:51 EST #111
Hi, me,

Thanks for the tip and the clarification. As it turns out, my display simply wasn't registering the change in System Preferences > Appearances > Font smoothing style. To make it take effect, I had to shut down the computer, turn off the monitor, and then turn both back on. I would complain that this is un-Mac-like, but it may be the fault of my display (a Dell 2408WFP).

Once I discovered this, I found that both Standard - best for CRT and Automatic - best for main display do turn off subpixel rendering (and hence RGB fringing).
Quinn Weaver · July 12, 2009 - 23:53 EST #112
PS: FYI, I ran across a defaults setting that turns off antialiasing globally:

sudo defaults write CoreGraphics CGFontDisableAntialiasing YES

I don't know if this does exactly the same thing as System Preferences > Appearances > Font smoothing style > Standard - best for CRT, or not. On my display, the results are indistinguishable.
Quinn Weaver · July 13, 2009 - 05:27 EST #113
Continuing my quest for readable text, I found that reducing brightness can help a lot.

I have a Dell 2408WFP. On this page of an Anandtech article, Jarred Walton describes how he tweaked some settings before using a colorimeter:

Just to be clear, we set the brightness and contrast to 50, selected the custom color profile, and dropped the RGB settings to 80; otherwise, the default settings tend to be quite bright.

I followed suit and found my display was instantly more readable. Not only did I squint less at the blindingly white backgrounds of most web pages, but antialiasing artifacts became less visible. Everything seemed smoother.

Hope this helps someone.
Me · July 13, 2009 - 08:12 EST #114
I just tried setting my monitor as Quinn described above and have to agree that fonts are more pleasing to the eye with the new settings than with my previous settings, regardless of the antialiasing settings.

Thanks Quinn.
Quinn Weaver · July 13, 2009 - 17:10 EST #115
Glad you found the brightness-reduction tip useful.

Continuing my quest, I found this review of ergonomics literature. Great article, and it challenges some of the common myths about good posture.

Anyway, it suggests placing your monitor 25" to 45" away from your eyes, as long as you can still read the text. For me, with my big monitor, this works well. Specs:

Left eye: 20/20
Right eye: 20/18
24" 1920 x 1200 LCD
18 point Verdana (for Web)
14 point Bitstream Vera Sans Bold (for code)
→ Distance from eye to monitor: 42"

I was surprised by these results; I had thought I should sit closer. But I guess a greater distance improves the working of the optical illusion inherent in antialiasing: the blurry edges are less visible. So if you're willing to give up some screen real estate and use larger fonts, this can help smoothing.

PS: I'm still playing with the angle of the monitor relative to my eyes. The literature agrees that it should be lower, but how much lower is in dispute. Anyway, all this is a highly personal stuff; your preferred settings may vary.

Hope this helps.
thommango · August 27, 2009 - 13:28 EST #116
Great article. I recently switched to mac and it took me a while to figure out why I didn't enjoy looking at the screen. Hopefully, the new fonts announced in Snow Leopard will help.
Bobbo · January 26, 2010 - 11:54 EST #117
"Hopefully, the new fonts announced in Snow Leopard will help."

They don't.

How can Apple get something so fundamental, so wrong, for so long? Say what you want about MS but Windows fonts look great at all sizes! It's supposed to be Apple that gets the user experience right...
kestudi · February 12, 2010 - 17:33 EST #118
I'll just add my name to the chorus of people dissatisfied with MacOS font rendering (am currently authoring this message from my PC..). I am in the process of porting much of my computing tasks over to my new MacBookPro (I do a lot of audio stuff, and the Mac wayy more stable), and cannot believe how fuzzy and blotchy browser text looks on my secondary display (coming from the mac via DisplayPort/DVI).

For what it's worth, I sent apple some feedback:

http://www.apple.com/macosx/feedback/

, as someone on this thread had suggested. I would suggest all of you do the same.

Squeaky wheel gets the grease.
David Beaman-Scott · February 25, 2010 - 04:42 EST #119
Hi,

Same here: Brand new Philips 230C1 Brilliance 1920x1080P HDMI monitor, Core 2 Duo Mac Mini, Snow Leopard (10.6.x), when connected by either Mini DVI or MiniDisplay Port, fonts are ugly as hell.

Tried all the usual fixes:

Font Smoothing 'when available' Yep
Open Terminal session and type:

defaults -currentHost write -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing -int 2

Logout, restart, reconnect monitor = same.

I have had 2 previous third party LCDs on this Mac and they were lovely, this is a degraded service over those.

So, it IS possible to have nice fonts under Snow Leopard, I think Snow Leopard is having a problem 'reading and understanding' my new monitor; this sounds like a HW identification issue. I know there is a difference between Windows ClearType and OS X fonts, but not enough to make them plain ugly and remember, I know it works OK as I have seen this on my previous monitors.
Clare · April 17, 2010 - 20:49 EST #120
Any news of what the new ipad is like in terms of the blurry font problem? Is it better than the laptops and desktops?
Frungi · April 19, 2010 - 02:20 EST #121
I don't see how it would be any different on the iPad from on the computer screen or iPhone (the iPhone renders text the same as the desktop OS, doesn't it?).
Michael Tsai (ATPM Staff) · April 19, 2010 - 09:39 EST #122
@Clare The rendering is the same, but the fonts look better on the iPad because the screen has a higher dpi. On the other hand, the user has far less control over which fonts are used.
Clare · April 20, 2010 - 01:57 EST #123
Thanks for this info. I will check one out as soon as I can find one. 10.3.9 with Tinkertool is starting to show its age...
Scott Lowry · April 26, 2010 - 22:37 EST #124
Bad news on the iPad, at least for me. I played with one this afternoon at the Apple store in Palo Alto, and the font rendering seemed at least as bad as it is on Macs. Reading text on sites like NYTimes, my eyes couldn't establish a focus, which was annoying and even a bit painful. Some fonts were a bit better, but in the end I found the product very unpleasant to use.
Clare · April 28, 2010 - 00:36 EST #125
So much for this plan! I've been relying on my windoze work computer for top end computing as I've been reluctant to spend my own money on a PC.

But much as I love my 500 mhz tibook (with lovely matte, not too bright low resolution screen and nice keyboard) - the lack of computing power and the aging OS are becoming real problems.

Can anybody email me privately to suggest a PC laptop that is vision friendly (not all of them are) that will work well with Ubuntu? One with a 15 inch screen, LCD (not horrible blinding LED), low resolution (better for text) and a chassis that doesn't look really ugly (!)
ATPM Staff · April 28, 2010 - 10:01 EST #126
Clare - articles such as this may certainly invoke conversation about the PC platform and make comparisons, but we focus on the Macintosh platform. I'm afraid virtually no one here is going to have PC purchasing advice for you.
K. Dawkins · May 2, 2010 - 02:24 EST #127
Funnily enough, I'm pretty much the opposite, and find Mac OS X's rendering very readable. When I work with Windows, I find the text rendering jagged and difficult to read. I don't have excellent vision (I wear glasses, and am ridiculously shortsighted), but it still feels as though Mac OS X is easier to read, because the letterforms are more recognisable as letterforms, and are more similar to the printed page. Windows' type rendering looks more 'computery' in a way I really don't like. It's as though Microsoft chucked aesthetics *and* readability out of the window when they worked on ClearType.

Windows' text rendering is a bit better with ClearType switched off, but ClearType is horrendous. I had a PC with Windows 7 for a little while this year, and Cleartype was one of the reasons I became fed up with it.
john jozwiak · May 3, 2010 - 14:21 EST #128
The issue is antialiasing, or "font smoothing" as it is euphemised. On OSX, you can disable it below a certain size for most apps :
 Click on the Apple logo at the upper left of the screen,
 click on System Preferences,
 click on Appearance
 disable Use LCD font smoothing when available
 set the size as large as possible for the largest unsmoothed font.

On the iPad and other OSX versions, the font smoothing is programmatically settable (by the programmer, which doesn't help unless NYTimes, for instance, does it):

CGContextSetAllowsAntialiasing( context , false );
CGContextSetShouldAntialias( context , false );

may work.

John
Michael Tsai (ATPM Staff) · May 3, 2010 - 16:41 EST #129
@john jozwiak If you read the article, you’ll see that the problem is more complex than turning anti-aliasing off.
john jozwiak · May 3, 2010 - 18:11 EST #130
@michael tsai

Yep, I'd read it...I should have said "One issue" rather than "The issue"...thanks for noticing. Great article, by the way.

I too suffer exhausting eye fatigue with any "smoothed" font, so would love to find a workaround.
Ron Redstone · May 11, 2010 - 02:00 EST #131
This is painful. I just bought a brand new MBP 15" with the high resolution screen. and. I. can't. stand. it. I've been dreaming for years of the day I could afford a beautiful apple laptop. Now, I get a blurry blurry mess for all my money.

I don't know if i'm going to return the thing and buy a dell, or just install windows 7. Does anyone know if there will be a version of Silk out for 10.6 soon? Does this really kill anti-aliasing system wide?

I think the issue is with people with good eyesight vs. people with average eyesight. My eyesight is 20/10, and the fuzzy anti-aliased fonts are an absolute horror.

And, no, I'm not a design-unconscious neanderthal. I'm even a font geek. I just happen to have freakishly good eyesight, and I keep trying to focus my eyes to make the blurry fonts clear, and, it doesn't work. and it hurts.
john jozwiak · May 11, 2010 - 15:42 EST #132
I randomly have freakishly good eyesight too, and so "smoothed" fonts cause incessant and intolerable eyestrain for me also.

I thought Silk turned anti-aliasing on...not sure if the version I saw is out of date.

You are probably able to turn smoothing off with TinkerTool, as i've done on work machines I use.

http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/system_disk_utilities/tinkertoolsystem.html
Ron Redstone · May 11, 2010 - 15:47 EST #133
Thanks for the suggestion--- Tinkertool is a great help. I'll see if that satisfies. although I find it irregular--- it seems to affect chrome but not safari, and other weirdnesses. . . oh well.

:)
john jozwiak · May 11, 2010 - 17:52 EST #134
In Safari things are sometimes different: css on a page can specify a font which is always smoothed (i.e., purposefully blurred), so sometimes that's just out of control, but is no good for eyes like you and I otherwise enjoy.

I should try on chrome and firefox, come to think of it, too.

Another thing worth a try is to click on the Apple logo at the top left of your screen, System Preferences, Appearance, then the bottom things let you encourage Quartz or CoreGraphics to disable font smoothing for some sized fonts . It sometimes works.

For example, in Safari on this very page as I type this in the Comment text area, the font used therein is smoothed, so looks blurred, but the rest of the page is sharp and NOT antialiased...
Nonnymouse · May 25, 2010 - 01:21 EST #135
"I think the issue is with people with good eyesight vs. people with average eyesight. My eyesight is 20/10, and the fuzzy anti-aliased fonts are an absolute horror."

Of course! You're a superman and everyone else is going blind, that must be the answer.

It's obvious that you're in a vanishingly small minority, despite the majority of people having good eyesight for most of their lives. By your logic the world should be packed with people complaining about blurry text.

But honestly, the one thing I just can't understand is how any of you coped before LCDs were invented. Was everyone here disabled with constant brain-splitting pain until LCD monitors became common?
S Lowry · May 25, 2010 - 20:11 EST #136
Nonnymouse, your sarcasm is out of line here. This is an issue that genuinely bothers some people on both a physical (eyesight) and philosophical (why Apple can't provide a means to at least equal Win font display).

As for the CRT monitors, the difference, I believe, is that fonts are displayed in a uniformly "soft" or fuzzy way, whereas the Mac/iPod/iPads render fonts (to my eyes) where some characters or even individual strokes of characters are sharp and others are not, making one's eyes go on a continuous hunt trying to find focus, thus producing nearly instant eye strain. Many people obviously don't have this problem, but others obviously do. With my eyes the difference in clarity of Clear Type over Mac is almost as great as an LCD over CRT, and the difference in eye strain is considerably more than that. Indeed it is "an absolute horror", particularly when it precludes my buying something that I would find both enjoyable and useful, like an iPad.
Frungi · May 26, 2010 - 01:27 EST #137
Nonnymouse, I'm not sure I get your point. 20/10 sight is exceptionally good, and Ron was theorizing that most of the people complaining about the blurry smoothing in these comments have similarly good sight. Do you have a better explanation? Or a counter-argument, like having 20/10 sight and not being bothered by OS X's text smoothing?

"By your logic the world should be packed with people complaining about blurry text."
You contradicted yourself there. Better-than-average sight means that the world isn't packed with people with it.

Zoom in your display and turn off image smoothing (see the Universal Access pane of System Preferences), and you'll see what those with very good eyesight see without zooming: blurry text made up of varyingly colored pixels. It doesn't bother me, but I have to wear glasses.
BobTurbo · June 2, 2010 - 08:55 EST #138
I have this problem with OS X (including the new iPad). All of the text just looks really fuzzy to me in comparison to my Windows XP computer. I believe it is not anti-aliasing per se, but the sub-pixel anti-aliasing that is used by OS X and also Windows when cleartype is on. When you turn cleartype off in Windows, I believe that you still have anti-aliasing on fonts, it is just the normal anti-aliasing, not sub-pixel anti-aliasing.

Sub-pixel anti-aliasing involves using the colours of the sub-pixels to trick the eyes into thinking corners are smooth. I am red-green colourblind, so maybe that has something to do with it, but the trick doesn't work for me. I just see fuzziness (on OS X) or some kind of 3d effect (cleartype on Windows).

So basically, I have no choice but to use old Windows as I literally cannot stand reading the text in OS X.
Heikki · June 18, 2010 - 09:40 EST #139
I have a MBP 15" with 1680x1050 resolution. The font rendering is okay except for the terminal, for which I couldn't find an easy-to-read fixed-width font. When the font size is increased, all the fixed-width fonts become too bold.

Now that I plugged in an external 24" display with 1920x1200 res, the terminal fonts are OK but everything else looks just downright horrible. It's too fuzzy for this larger screen.

Of course Windows does not have any issues in either case. ClearType font smoothing can be adjusted to whatever level you like. I'm seriously considering switching back to Windows because of this.
Toxxiq · June 27, 2010 - 02:41 EST #140
I bought my first Mac 2 months ago and since then I am continuously fighting with the blurriness as well.

I found Calibri to be the best replacement for Lucida Grande.

For terminal and code I use Liberation Mono. It looks decent on black background.

But still I hate how my fonts look in general. :(

If I want to ease my eyes I boot into my Ubuntu install. I really hope that we will have the choice to further fine tune font rendering like how it is in Ubuntu.
Adam Capriola · July 9, 2010 - 13:24 EST #141
I just got my first mac and though I've used them before, I never realized how much I'd be bothered by the font they use. Everything just looks somewhat blurry to me and it's bothering my eyes.

I've tried using tinkertools to get rid of the blur which helps some. I wish there was a default option somewhere to use windows text fonts.

I may have to install Windows 7 so I can use this baby. :(
Edy Oilven · August 31, 2010 - 10:18 EST #142
No one but the most short sighted of Mac owners could seriously argue that a its heavily smudged letters are easier to read than the sharply defined fonts found on Linux or XP. Prettier from a distance maybe, like when looking through a shop window from across the street say, which I think is the point - that Mac fonts are painfully blurred is an exemple of Apple's ability to successfully market shiny things (to dull people?) It's what sells that counts, and smooth, shiny things sell. iPhone 4 anyone? Wobbly iPad perhaps? PS: I work with OSX every day and for 5 years it's never crashed, so I do like the product, but the font blurring is awful.
mikemike · June 12, 2011 - 14:19 EST #143
Based on the strong pro-Apple bias regarding font-smoothing, which is incredibly terrible in OSX, I'd say that the average Mac user has a lower IQ than the average Windows user, but thinks the opposite is true (a typical response). In XP, you can use ClearType to adjust the font smoothing to suit your eyes just right, and the matter is more objective than you'd think. A small study of 62 computer users (half Win 7, and half OSX Snow Leopard) at MIT found that most Mac users' favorite font smoothing setting rendered text unreadable at closer distances than other available settings. The opposite was true in the Windows half of users. The professors conducting the study concluded that readability at a range of 12-20 inches was an objective way of declaring a "better" font setting.
Clare · July 22, 2011 - 00:59 EST #144
Any advance on this front with the new release of Lion and new machines -if anybody has tried them yet? I am not holding my breath...
Nick · December 9, 2011 - 17:47 EST #145
As long-time subscriber to this thread, I am hoping this bump will find an answer to Clare's question from July. Anyone?
Michael Tsai (ATPM Staff) · December 10, 2011 - 22:42 EST #146
@Nick I don’t think anything has changed with Lion.
Óscar · December 11, 2011 - 06:24 EST #147
Things are still the same with Lion. But my life is a little bit "clearer" thanks to Pathfinder.
Kramlin · March 18, 2012 - 15:07 EST #148
I've done hours of research on this. I like OS X but I regret buying a macbook pro because of this font antialiasing issue. I've tried all the tinkertool settings too. I can't believe for such a long time there still isn't a solution to this! I'm not used to not being able to fix a technical problem.
Toxxiq · March 18, 2012 - 16:42 EST #149
@Kramlin, We will see retina displays in macbook pros within a year. That will be the only solution to this issue.
Igor Vukomanovic · September 4, 2012 - 09:15 EST #150
Toxxiq, this is not the solution for people who want to use retina MBPs also with external displays. I'm one of those people and after spending 20+ hours of research and tweaking, still find external display completely unusable.
Panopticon · September 4, 2012 - 17:24 EST #151
I have to agree with Igor. There are still problems - even if one is not using an external screen. For example, although Apple claims the retina pro has an anti-glare screen, it is still very glossy and harshly lit and external software like ms word looks pretty awful on it.

Perhaps a different line of Macs designed for people who were using mainly text (and not worried about graphic output) would be the way to go...
Somuchfornothing · August 26, 2014 - 12:27 EST #152
Two years later and the problem is still there with OSX 10.9.4 and non retina displays ... At least I'm happy I'm not crazy, i thought it was only me who was seen the blurriness.
Henrik Lund-Hanssen · December 11, 2014 - 11:39 EST #153
And it is still a problem on OS X Yosemite (10.10.1) on my external non-retina monitor connected to my rMBP.

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