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Thread: Wherein I Realize, Again, That Windows Fonts Are Really, Really Bad

  1. #1
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    Wherein I Realize, Again, That Windows Fonts Are Really, Really Bad

    This is in the nature of a rant:

    So, I bought a ThinkPad W530. A very capable laptop that came with Windows 8.

    My intent was to keep Windows on the machine for several weeks while I helped a friend finish a project. I figured I could put up with Windows for that long.

    I thought wrong.

    After 2 days with Windows, I replaced it with Ubuntu 13.04. We'll have to find another way to finish that project.

    'Twas the stunningly awful font rendering that did it. I couldn't believe how bad it was.

    If you look around, you can find plenty of explanations that Windows has a different concept of how to render fonts. That's all well and good. But, is there an edict in Redmond that says text in Windows must look like it was splashed on by a drunken sign painter?

    Regular and small fonts were spindly and pixellated. (No pixels, please!) Bold fonts, large and small, were smeary and often of varying shades of black; edges and lines that are supposed to be straight and smooth were not; curves that are supposed to be smooth and curvy were stepladdered and notchy. (For example, the pixels on the left edge of an 'E' should line up perfectly. If it was bolded, black pixels extending to the left of that edge were clearly visible.

    In Win8, IE10 defaults to msn.com as a home page. You'd think Microsoft would make sure that site would look really good in IE10. They don't, though. It's a miserable looking piece of work.

    I know Windows carries around with it all kinds of compatibility requirements. It uses, I think, 6 different approaches to rendering fonts on screen. That's no excuse, though, for continuing to market software that conjures up text that looks like rubbish.

  2. #2
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    Re: Wherein I Realize, Again, That Windows Fonts Are Really, Really Bad

    As a drunk sign painter, I take exception to being compared to Windows fonts.

    Perhaps your graphics display is not set to the native resolution of the screen. Sometimes a tweak to the resolution by a few pixels (either top or sides) will improve font rendering. I haven't used Windows for years, but I do paint and drink.
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  3. #3
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    Re: Wherein I Realize, Again, That Windows Fonts Are Really, Really Bad

    My apologies to pixellated sign painters everywhere.

    Yep, the display was at its native resolution. Frankly, I tried all the fixes and workarounds I could find, to no avail. Everyone on the Windows forums kept recommending Cleartype. I know about Cleartype and used it, but, even the samples it displayed ranged from wretched to merely bad.

    Win8, apart from the Metro biz, I could live with if I could get fonts as clean as Ubuntu's and its derivatives.

    [EDIT: Windows people also regularly seem to recommend buying a new graphics card to get better fonts (seems a bit over the top), and buying a monitor with 200 DPI (not sure there are any of those creatures, at least below a 5-figure price.)]
    Last edited by buzzingrobot; August 18th, 2013 at 09:27 PM.

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    Re: Wherein I Realize, Again, That Windows Fonts Are Really, Really Bad

    [EDIT: Windows people also regularly seem to recommend buying a new graphics card to get better fonts (seems a bit over the top), and buying a monitor with 200 DPI (not sure there are any of those creatures, at least below a 5-figure price.)]
    Isn't that the default solution to many users' woes? Gotta be a hardware flaw, fault or problem. Time to buy a new (insert device here).

  5. #5
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    Re: Wherein I Realize, Again, That Windows Fonts Are Really, Really Bad

    Yeah, and it wouldn't be bad advice if it would actually work.

  6. #6
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    Re: Wherein I Realize, Again, That Windows Fonts Are Really, Really Bad

    I actually found the opposite to be true. Fonts seen to render better in Windows for me.

    As a side note, Ubuntu's default included fonts suck too, but that's easy to fix.

  7. #7
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    Re: Wherein I Realize, Again, That Windows Fonts Are Really, Really Bad

    Speaking for drunk sign painters everywhere, I've never seen these font problems in several machines that I have with both Windows and various linux distros. But then my beer goggles may distort the truth. Perhaps buzzingrobot can post a screen shot of such rendered ugliness that we can admire. Afterall, art is in the eye of the beholder.
    Last edited by tgalati4; August 19th, 2013 at 04:29 AM.
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  8. #8
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    Re: Wherein I Realize, Again, That Windows Fonts Are Really, Really Bad

    Windows is off the machine right now, so no screenshot.

    I realize perception of text on screen has many variables. I've recently done Windows 7/8 installs on this ThinkPad W530 (1920x1080, 15.6-inch) Quadro K1000M, and on an i7 box with an Nvidia 550ti and a Dell 2410 1920x1200 monitor. Not marginal screens. In all instances, the fonts looked as I described earlier. I've examined them from near and far, with and without eyeglasses, in bright lighting and dim, etc, etc. The problem was consistent. The worst issues, I think, were dark pixels in what should be white space inside loops in characters and strings of dark pixels adjacent to, but separated by a few pixels, the edges of large bolded character, e.g., headlines at web sites.

    Adjusting sharpness on the Dell had an impact, but wasn't practical because I had to set it so low the entire display became murky.

    The look of fonts in Metro apps in Win 8, like IE10, is consistently poor. This seems down to Microsoft's choice to use grayscale rendering there, which rules out Cleartype.

    I know I'm not the only one who sees this because the Windows forums have plenty of complaints about it, stretching back several years. (There are a few outliers who want the XP look with Cleartype turned off. When I see a screenshot of that, the characters seem composed of elongated oval-shaped pixels.)

    On the other hand, Ubuntu rendering looks sharp, distinct and clear to me on the same hardware. So, too, for OS X. I just don't see anything fuzzy at all. (I've used Win7 on a Macbook Pro and the rendering had the same issues. Conclusion: It isn't a hardware issue.)
    Last edited by buzzingrobot; August 19th, 2013 at 12:29 PM.

  9. #9
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    Re: Wherein I Realize, Again, That Windows Fonts Are Really, Really Bad

    Just to update, I put Windows 7 on the ThinkPad. Fonts look considerably better than on Windows 8. Not at all as clear as on Ubuntu, and bolded text is, again, rather ragged. However, the obvious artifacts and poor shapes I saw in Win8 are gone.

    Text in IE10 is also better, but Firefox does a better job.

    I wonder if/how changing font families impacts the rendering? Something that looks good bolded would be nice.

    All in all, I give it a grade of C, which is a big improvement over the F I gave Win8.

  10. #10
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    Re: Wherein I Realize, Again, That Windows Fonts Are Really, Really Bad

    I have to say that I agree. I dual boot Windows 7, and especially with large fonts it's very obvious that the edges are pixely instead of straight and clear. It's just one of the many reasons I prefer Linux. Heck, with Linux I can install Infinality and get really nice font rendering even if the default is sub-par.

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