Windows font smoothing

I have been using “smooth edges of screen fonts” option in Windows from the day it appeared. It made web browsing experience much more enjoyable, especially when page uses italic fonts.

On recent Win versions, there was a choice between two technologies for font smoothing: Standard and ClearType. I always used Standard, because I read that ClearType is created for TFT screens, and that it was not suitable for CRTs.

I have tried ClearType on my CRT monitor and the menu options looked blurry, just as that page says. Thus, I gave up on it.

Now, that is not true. I was so wrong.

Turning point was when Andrei introduced his new layout, with large italicized headings. On my screen they looked…ugh. With Andrei being very picky as he is, I doubted that it looked the same for him. So I switched ClearType on, and forced myself to use it over the weekend.

To my surprise, I quickly got used to it. Menu and taskbar fonts are still blurry, but far from unreadable. And web pages….web page fonts look absolutely fantastic. Here is how serif fonts are displayed with Standard smoothing:

fonts with Standard font smoothing

And there is the same text with ClearType:

fonts with ClearType font smoothing

Almost identical display is shown on MS Typography pages. On the very same page you can also fine-tune the ClearType settings (page works properly only in IE as it uses ActiveX control). I tried several of the available six options; all of them worked great for web pages, but the upper middle (sort-of semi-bold), is the best for general system fonts.

If you want to learn more how ClearType actually works, check How sub-pixel font rendering works.