Aleksandar • Vacić

iOS bits and pieces

Font rendering on Windows and Mac

Introduction of Safari to Windows has rehashed old discussions about which font rendering is better, Windows ClearType way or Mac OS X way. My experience so far tells me that it is largely a matter of habit: each and every Windows user I talked to thinks that Mac font smoothing is “shit”, “unreadable”, “hurts” etc. Mac users use the same adjectives, just vice-versa.

Here’s what some long-time Windows users say…

The always-opinionated Joel Spolsky says this:

Safari even managed to bring the inferior font rendering of the OS X platform to Windows, no easy trick.

On another hand, this post is perfect example of “I fucked up writing on impulse, realized my main argument is mute and then dug my self even deeper trying to cover my mistake with half-ass attempts to irony”. On my office computer (Pentium 4 3GHz, 2GB RAM) 1st time Safari startup took 5s. Joel later wrote a quality post on font rendering, which is usually his norm.

Jeff Atwood obviously agrees with Joel:

I’m curious why Apple’s default font rendering strategies, to my eye – and to the eyes of at least two other people – are visibly inferior to Microsoft’s on typical LCD displays

Jeff also wrote a great article on font smoothing.

Mac users are another story

Jeffrey Zeldman uses examples to drive his point:

It’s worth pointing out that these tests were done on Macintosh computers, which are known for their superior handling of text…

Jon Hicks clearly agrees:

Its wonderful looking at a website on XP, and seeing gorgeous text smoothing.

Truth is somewhere in the middle

Me, as a long time Windows user who have long time ago fallen in love with ClearType but am increasingly using Mac, agree in parts with both.

Non-italic font smoothing is better with ClearType, but is ugly with most sans-serif italics, like Verdana or Tahoma. Mac handles this much better. Here are few examples, made using Firefox 2 and Safari 3 beta, on Windows:

Tahoma rendering in Firefox and Safari

Mac rendering to me looks better. Which is the reason why on this site I use different fonts for italic and non-italic styles.

But, like I said, it’s a matter of habit. I even know few people who disable all font smoothing and use blocky fonts. They are usually non-front-end programmers. ;)