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Not-so ClearType :: Apple FTW

By Lucas Chan

There’s been much hoohah regarding the font rendering in Apple’s beta release of Safari for Windows. I decided to install the beta myself and see what all the fuss is about.

Here’s why I think Apple gets it right and why Microsoft could learn some lessons from them:

Apple’s font renderer more accurately maintains the intended look of the font. It does this by smoothing the edges and corners of characters where appropriate which can sometimes lead to small letters looking a little blurry. Microsoft’s ClearType technology attempts to make fonts sharper and more readable by jamming characters into pixels in a miscellaneous and sometimes unpleasant fashion.

I’m not a designer, but I own a few typography books and have a strong appreciation for the topic. Which side you choose in this debate is likely to be influenced by which platform you use. However, I don’t see why Microsoft needs to remove the designers ability to use a font in exactly the way it was intended, especially when you consider the availability of various fonts designed specifically for on-screen reading.

OK, so to most seasoned Windows users Safari probably looks a little strange; we’ve got years of mutilated descenders to blame for that. That fact is, designers should be trusted to make smart decisions about the font they want to use and how they want to use it.

Full disclosure: I am currently a Mac user but spend an unfortunate amount of time using Windows on Parallels.

Anyone care to weigh-in (while I don my flame proof suit)? Is it right to morph a font into something that’s close to what it should look like for the sake of readability? Or is typography a sacred art that shouldn’t be messed with?

Lucas has been building the web since 1996. His experience covers Content Management, Online Learning, Documentation Management, Product Ordering and ecommerce systems across Linux(Debian/Redhat/CentOS), Mac OS, FreeBSD and Microsoft platforms.

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