Thursday, January 17, 2008

Use and adjust ClearType to improve font display

How do the fonts on your screen look like? Are they broken and ugly? If yes, then you might have Windows font rendering technique ClearType turned off.

Here is a description of ClearType from Microsoft's website:

ClearType is a technology for displaying computer fonts so that they appear clear and smooth. ClearType makes on-screen text more detailed and, therefore, easier to read for long periods of time without experiencing eye strain and mental fatigue. It works especially well when you're using LCD devices, including flat-panel monitors, mobile PCs, and smaller hand-held devices.

ClearType was supposed to be developed and used only with LCD monitors and it's often said that ClearType is ineffective with CRT monitors. This is wrong. ClearType can be used with any type of monitor and it greatly improves font display regardless of the type of monitor you use. Even though ClearType was made to work with LCD technology, it can bring great improvement in clarity when you use ClearType on a CRT monitor because ClearType smoothes jagged font edges, a technique called anti-aliasing.

The following screenshots were taken on a CRT monitor. Notice the obvious differences.

Without ClearType

With ClearType

Evidently, the second font rendering is much better than the first.

To turn on ClearType follow these steps.

1. Click Start, click Control Panel, click Appearance and Themes, and then click Display.
2. On the Appearance tab, click Effects.
3. Click to select the Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts check box, and then click ClearType in the list.

You can see that you have no option to adjust ClearType. You can either turn it on or off. Actually, you do, by using a special ClearType Tuning utility. Download the ClearType Tuner PowerToy.

After you install the power toy, a new icon called ClearType Tuning will appear on your Control Panel. The tuning utility can be used in two ways to adjust the screen fonts. There is an advanced way where you manually set how dark or light the fonts would appear. This is very helpful because you can actually change and adjust the looks of the fonts. There is also a wizard which will guide you through the process of adjusting the fonts.

If you haven't used ClearType before then try it. At first it might look a bit odd, but later you will realize how soothing it is to the eye.


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