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Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?


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This weekend, because I was at Code Camp, I went to Hanselman’s speaker orientation session and there were a few cool tips for managing fonts etc. I’m becoming a Hanselman groupie I guess – I end up using most of the tools he points out now, including SlickRun (which just rocks especially when you’re doing presentations!), TaskSwitchXP, NotePad 2 and a few other tools I’ve been using for a while like Process Explorer.

 

Anyway one of the tips was to use the Consolas font at 15 points (generally), which is an installable proportional font. I checked this out, installed the font set it up to 15 point and aaaaaargh – it looked absolutely like shit. Can he be serious?

 

Well, it turns out I usually don’t run ClearType or any font enhancing on my systems. I find the anti-aliasing does nothing for clarity or readability of the text, all it seems to do to me is make my eyes get tired a lot quicker and give me a headache in short order. I’m not a fan of ‘blurry text’ which is all that anti-aliasing really is.

 

After turning ON ClearType, Consolas at 15 point indeed ends up being a very nice looking font. But only at 15 point. Reducing to a non-presentation size (10 or 12 point) still ends up being a very muddy font IMHO. Without ClearType the font has bold spots everywhere and just is next to unreadable. Even with ClearType at these lower resolutions it looks funky – nothing like the smooth outlines that you see at 15 point.

 

I haven't used font smoothing for quite some time, so I spent a little time experimenting with different fonts and schemes, but I find the experience very hard on my eyes at the font sizes I use, which are relatively small - I like to not waste my screen real estate <g>. Unless I'm running at large font sizes, the anti-aliasing is just not doing anything for readability. In addition, it seems that a lot of fonts end up being smaller with ClearType enabled. Not sure what that's all about, but switching back and forth I see a definitive apparent size difference between the displays.

  

So what do you use for code fonts in your application? Are you running with ClearType on?

 

I must be old fashioned but I use Courier New at 10 pt for regular work, (sometime 12 if I get tired <g>) and 14 point for presentations. I think for presentations using ClearType and Consolas might be a good idea, but for day to day work that doesn’t like a solution for me.

 

I've experimented in the past with non-proportional fonts for code, but that's just too weird. I forced myself through that for a few days, but I couldn't get comfortable with that. I suppose all of this is a matter of preference, but it's pretty important for coding to get to a font that works for you.


The Voices of Reason


 

Brian Vander Plaats
July 25, 2005

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

Thanks for the program links Rick! I found out about process explorer quite a while ago after reading one of your posts, and have found that program to be indispensible. I'm already liking TaskSwitchXP. I know it will come in handy when I have a dozen IE windows open...


Miki Watts
July 25, 2005

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

I use Lucida Console at 11 pts. without ClearType or anything of the sort.

J.Gregory
July 25, 2005

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

My font of choice for programming is Andale Mono at 8pts with ClearType, gives me pleanty of room on screen. I'll sometimes bump it up to around 12 if it's a long day.

wOOdy
July 25, 2005

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

Another vote for ANDALE MONO. You get it from www.Microsoft.com/typography.

As for Cleartype: I have it constantly on with my laptop and TFT monitor (It's of no use for old CRT cubes!). But depending on your LCD model, it could need different settings to look best. I'm using ClearTweak (Freeware) from http://www.ioisland.com/downloads/. There's also an Online Tweaker at the above mentioned MS website.

Bob Archer
July 26, 2005

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

Bill Hill on the Chanell 9 Video talks about tunning clear type. He discusses how different people and monitors need different settins. Of course, he doesn't really say HOW to do this. But, comming from the guy that invented it, I assume he knows what he is talking about.

I hear they are comming out with some new fonts that will be the defaults when Whidbey ships.

Jason Mauer
July 26, 2005

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

I found Consolas settles well with my eyes at 11pt... some like to bold it but I think that's blasphemy.

Thanks again btw for coming to Code Camp and I hope you enjoy that Xbox! :)

Rick Strahl
July 26, 2005

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

Thanks Woody. I played around with the ClearType tweakers and while it helped a little it didn't do much. I think a lot has to do with the fonts I do use. I use Courier New a lot and that font in particular looks very bad with ClearType (it's all washed out). The exact opposite as some of the other types mentioned here. Consolas is plain awful without ClearType.

I'm going to switch my fonts out a bit and see how it goes.

Rick Strahl
July 26, 2005

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

Jason,

Yeah, I'm using Consolas now to give it trial for a while. I think I have to 'unlearn' my bias. It amazes me however how much ClearType is changing the font looks. Most of the fonts (i use Verdana in my Web interfaces mostly) look like a completely different font. The ClearTyping completely squashes the font down making it look fatter. Everything appears smaller actually.

Thanks for CodeCamp - it was a lot of fun. As to the XBox - well, it's still sitting here unpacked - no time to play.

See you on Wednesday...

Nicholas
July 27, 2005

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

Any idea where I can get Consolas?

Rick Strahl
July 27, 2005

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

Officially there's nowhere to get it except as part of LongHorn. You can copy it out fo a LongHorn install although that probably isn't legal <g>...


Jeff Atwood
August 03, 2005

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

I also don't care for antialiasing of any kind on PROGRAMMING fonts, but I do like it for other reading chores (eg, websites, etc). Antialiasing is much more effective on mythical high-DPI displays, like those ridiculous 15" 1600x1200 laptop displays. On a 1600x1200 23" LCD it makes less sense to me.

Have you looked at the programming font comparison?

http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000157.html

More here (also linked in comments for above post)

http://www.lowing.org/fonts/

I am a big fan of the proggy fonts:

http://www.proggyfonts.com/


Hermann Klinke
August 08, 2005

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

I ALWAYS use ClearType. It just looks so much nicer and it's the text certainly better to read. On the monitors that I usually read on, I also increased the DPI to 120 (large), it's great. It's like reading a newspaper or book, because you can't see ANY pixels. For programming I use ProFont at 9pt and a DPI of 96 (normal) which is absolutely the best font to programm in.

Hermann Klinke
August 08, 2005

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

P.S.: I am not sure if everybody knows it, but ClearType only works on LCD monitors. Just to make sure.

Rick Strahl
August 08, 2005

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

Yeah I'm using an LCD monitor.

As it turns out I needed to reboot. I'm not sure how or why but after the reboot things started clearing up and looking smoother. I still think that many things are too fuzzy though especially some fonts like Courier New which is all washed out. Other fonts seem to work well.

Some applications (FoxPro in particular) seems to have major issues with ClearType fonts blurring or partially bolding characters - something in the renderer isn't working right somehow...

I'm sticking with it for a while... still not convinceed this is a better way.

Rick Strahl's WebLog
September 20, 2005

# ClearType had to go

My use of ClearType lasted 2 months and it has to go. I've been having major problems with my eyes while using ClearType, getting headaches and eye aches (

Random Surfer
October 17, 2005

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

Might be interested to know this is the second link in google when you search for 'cleartype is shit'.

I agree.

I only wish the XP font smoothing looked as nice as Apple's efforts in OSX. It's the only thing I envy about Macs.

J. Random Lusr
July 16, 2006

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

XP font-smoothing *can* look as nice as Apple's. The missing link is that the TrueType fonts supplied with Windows FORCE no AA at 7-13 pt sizes. To get over this, simply use PostScript Type 1 fonts. Type 1 fonts are antialiased (standard, of course) at all point sizes. The PostScript Type 1 IBM Courier font beats the crap out of Courier New, and one look at the beautiful Luxi Mono will make Microsoft think about why it released the horrible Consolas in the first place. Be warned---the Luxi font is also available in a TrueType format, which must be avoided like hell. Stick to the Type 1 version.

Frnando
October 13, 2006

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

When I switched from a CRT monitor to a LCD type, the biggest difference I saw is: "my headaches are gone, wow!"

My eyes can really focus on pixels, it was great! I can work all day long looking at the monitor and feel good.

Microsoft Cleartype brings to LCD the CRT "feeling" of seeing out-of-focus, Oh no!!! My eyes can't focus again! There's no edges to focus! My eyes keep trying, trying, trying....

On the first look, they're ok, but for an extended period of working,... sorry but I can't. I don't want to get my headaches back!

Coding Horror
January 27, 2007

# Coding Horror: Consolas and ClearType


..anthony
May 10, 2007

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

I for one am really happy with ClearType and Consolas in particular. I've switched to Consolas in all my development environments (mostly Visual Studio 2005) not only because of the look, but because the 0's and O's are different, as are the 1's and l's, and so on. The code's a little tall and thin, but the disadvantages are far outweighed by the legibility IMHO.

I used to use the ClearType tuner, but I find that the defaults (especially on my new Compaq nc8430 laptop) right on. As was stated above, Consolas is completely unusable without ClearType.

For those of you asking for Consolas, here you go: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=22e69ae4-7e40-4807-8a86-b3d36fab68d3&displaylang=en

john
September 10, 2007

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

I'm with you, Rick. Courier New, 10pt, no font smoothing at all.

I had to uninstall MS Office 2007 after I realized (to my dismay) that it only runs with ClearType. Even if it's turned off for the OS, Office 2007 will still be its own little world of blurry fonts. yikes. I tried the tweaker and everything, but there's no getting around the fact that I prefer crisper fonts to smoother ones.

Thomas Hettenhausen
August 15, 2008

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

As an ABAP developer I would actually like to point out "Arial Monospaced for SAP" made by MonoType AFAIK. Close to Lucida, but IMHO much more readable...

Thomas Hettenhausen
August 15, 2008

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

Forgot this link: http://www.topcatusa.com/FontList/TopCatUSAfontPrintSamles_files/ArialmonospacedforSAP.bmp

Too bad I cannot find a download / buy option for this, it only seems to come with SAP GUI...

Dave
September 17, 2008

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

I stumbled on this site after Googling "Clear Font Headaches". Add me to the list that got major eye pain and migrane headaches using Clear Type. No joking, after about 3 hours of use I had the worst headache, it was actually making me sick. I had to take 3 advill and go to bed. This headache was similiar to working on a CRT at 60hz refresh rate. But much worse.

Andrew Glockenspiel
April 30, 2009

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

Ditto! I loathe ClearType, regardless of monitor type. think it has to do with your ability to perceive colour. Some people perceive intensity more than colour or details, and apparently for them ClearType seems nicer. But for people with good colour distinction, ClearType is terrible and causes headaches / eye fatigue.

I'm really worried that MS is going to shove this one down our throats.

Paul
September 28, 2009

# re: Clear Type – this is supposed to be better?

For those of you running Windows 7 or Windows Vista and Office 2007 who wish to disable ClearType, this is for you:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/926705/en-us?FR=1

You may also disable ClearType in Office 2007 manually:

1.Start -> Run -> RegEdit
2.Navigate to the following key:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Common
3.Add a new DWORD value named "RespectSystemFontSmooth"
4.Set the value to 1
5.Close RegEdit

My dad suffered from headaches until we properly tweaked his system, and now he couldn't be happier.

Best of luck everyone!
 

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