View Full Version : Cleartype

4th July 2007, 03:15
Most of you know that cleartype exists, but do you know how it works and why it is far better than any other screen font technology? Also why Apple's screen front technology is very inferior to it?

In simple terms, Apple use print based outline fonts and to make them seem similar and look better on screen they add a basic anti-alias blurring effect to them. This may make them look cooler onscreen in terms of asthetic design, but it doesn't make them easier to read. In fact it has the opposite effect. In complete contrast cleartype in Windows doesn't blur the text to create nicer looking and less jagged characters (as Apple do). Instead they use very advanced algorithms that use the human brains perception of colour and space to create the much better resulting typefaces you see with cleartype switched on. Watch the video to find out more.

Some of you may find this too boring to consider watching, but here is a video about cleartype, with an interview involving the key members of the cleartype development team which I personally found very interested (although being involved in typeface design and their use in my job does make this of more interest to me that to most others).

Cleartype team video (http://channel9.msdn.com/Showpost.aspx?postid=146749)

Also of interest and maybe of more use to most of you is the cleartype tuner available from a link on that video's page, and also from here (http://www.microsoft.com/typography/cleartype/tuner/Step1.aspx). It really does work and improves how cleartype looks on your screen. This tuner only works with XP so don't try it in Vista. And also as it as activeX based you will have to force yourself to actually use Internet Explorer for it to work. It is worth it though.

Stephen Coates
4th July 2007, 10:58
I'll give that app a try next time I use XP, although I still can't see myself having cleartype switched on all the time though.

I usually have a hard time deciding whether Apple's anitaliasing is better than ClearType or not, but as I generally don't like either I don't like either,I don;t tend to have them switched on. And when I do it is usually on another computer which has a different monitor/settings to others.

And the text which I find easiest to read, is text which isn;t antialiased.

I am assuming that Safari for Windows uses Apple's antialiasing? I have only used it in windows 2000. Maybe someone with XP could try Safari with different Cleartype settings and see if it makes a difference.

4th July 2007, 12:19
It would be interesting to know if Safari is just using Apple's inferior antialiasing technology. If this is the case then disabling it and instead switching on XP or Vistas built in cleartype technology would be much better.

You do need to consider that cleartype is not antialiasing text, which is all that Apple's onscreen type technology is doing. The video I've linked to explains in quite good detail how cleartype actually works, and this is directly from the lead developers of the technology.

It is actually taking things down to the sub pixel level, the three primary colours used by a monitor to create the colour and full single pixels on screen. By manipulating the pixels around the font shapes using colour and advanced understanding of the human brain's colour perception it genuinely does create crisper and easier to read text, and even at very small type sizes.

They show how good this technology is in the video with a lot of examples and it is best highlighted by showing how the Japanese cleartype typeface works. This is very impressive and can actually display the Japanese type face at the same small type face sizes as the western Latin type faces and they do remain very crisp and easy to read. They also align perfectly with Latin type which is an industry first.

4th July 2007, 12:44
Safari does indeed use Apple's 'Font Smoothing', but there's no option to turn it off, only three settings - Light, Medium and Strong.

4th July 2007, 13:13
That is very annoying then and would put me off from using the browser for more than just testing purposes.

One thing I was wondering is if cleartype is switched on in Windows, does this also get applied to the type along with the Apple font smoothing techniques? If so this could conflict.

I've not taken a look at Safari and as expected I dislike the text smoothing. The fact you cannot switch it off is very annoying and it makes fonts darker than they should be, even on the light setting, and it muddies and mutes the colours. You only need to compare one of the game page thumbnail pages such as Highest Rated Games loaded into Firefox and Safari to instantly see this. The red text in Firefox is bright and crisp, whereas in Safari it is overly bold and much darker, giving it a reddy brown colour. Not nice.

Safari is still very usable if you ignore the slight over darkening of fonts and does render pages much better than any version of IE. It is however still noticeably slower than both Firefox and Opera.