Mac rendering on Windows

Si_Daniels's picture

Just installed the Safari Beta on an WinXP machine, not sure if the rendering is exactly the same as Mac OS, but it looks close. I wonder how people will react, at first glance the ice cubes may be a bit furry.

Randy's picture

Sii, I would like to be able to spec 16 pt verdana bold. Eg headlines on a news site. It is not a problem that Arial 12px and 13px are 50% identical? I recognize your :-) And WRT showcase fonts, I would rather a rendering system not require any showcase magic to look good (though I applaud Microsoft's commitment to commisioning type).

Hrant, how can you say Mac rendering is mediocre and leave no comment about CT when my example above shows PC results can be worse than mediocre? If I ignore the horrid BOLDNESS of the M, the uber tight spacing of the ll and li combos as problems, then yes I am in denial. Also, I understand that cleartype is on by default in vista. It's too bad that won't matter for web designers until vista reaches a critical mass in a few years.

That aside, I spent a little bit of time creating waterfalls. They are 10px-17px reg, bold and italic for arial, verdana, and georgia.


PC - no clear type:

PC - clear type:

The good:
Both Mac and PC with clear Type look pretty darn good. PC's stregnth is 10-12px size. Mac's strength is larger sizes and consistency across the waterfall.

The bad:
With PC-ct there are bad combinations you'd want to avoid 15px arial bold, 16px verdana bold, and there is more variation from the outlines even at large sizes. Mac is not as crisp as small sizes.

The really bad:
While Mr. Mac and Mr. Clear Type are nice passengers, the person still driving teh bus is Mr. Shagnasty (PC without clear type).

In my opinion:
Considering the pluses and minuses of both, my preference is still for Mac rendering. It shines even more when rendering fonts are not designed as "showcase" fonts (see the times comparison earlier). Fortunately, displays are increasing in resolution and today's headline sizes are tomorrows text sizes. Hardware to the rescue!


Randy's picture

I should add this no brainer, clear type is optimized for PC gamma and Quartz for Mac gamma. Effectively, this mean Mac type looks less fuzzy on a Mac, and PC type looks smoother on PC than it does on mac.

Thus, none of the above comparisons are fair when viewed on one platform only.

So to revise my opinion, my ideal rendering system would use cleartype-style rendering at PC gamma from 0-12px and Quart at Mac gamma from 13px+

hrant's picture

I'm no big fan of CT at all. But at least it's trying the
right thing, it's making the user-friendly compromises.

> PC’s stregnth is 10-12px size.

Yeah, reading.
Not purdy pitcherz.


Randy's picture

Two comments in response:

1. On my setup 10px is pretty much too small for reading, and 14px is not too large at all. I'm not yet 30, so I think it has more to do with screen resolution than my eyes.

2. The difference between the two at sub 12px is smaller than the difference above 12px. Which is why originally I said for the full size range I prefer quartz rendering.

Side question:
In the Safari PC test, is the gamma different than the PC? ie. does it change both variables: renderer and gamma? It doesn't look like it based on the screen grabs when I view on my PC.

Rob O. Font's picture

"In all seriousness I think it’s incredibly difficult to objectively compare rendering, especially when you take fonts created for, or tuned for, a particular environment across to another environment...."

So much for cross-browser/platform quality font embedding

"You almost have to compare each platform’s showcase fonts against each other - Verdana and Georgia for aliased TrueType, the ClearType Collection fonts for ClearType, but what for Mac OS? Is Lucida Grande the showcase font?"

The mac has no showcase font. Fonts on the Mac are all created equal in the eyes of its ad hoc rasterizer. Lucida Grande, is the system font, and at the size the system uses it, it is minimally optimized but no showcase.

On the Windows side, are the ClearType Collection fonts said to be made for screen use again now, I forget?

hrant's picture

> Fonts on the Mac are all created equal

Yes, equally unworthy.


clauses's picture

Randy thanks for the great examples. I run at gamma 2.2, but would that alone be enough to fairly evaluate your Windows examples on my Mac? And after seeing all the examples I would still prefer Apples rendering all the way. Cleartype is very clunky both large and small.

Another thing is that I completely concur your sentiments that a whole OS should not depend on special fonts to showcase its font rendering system. That does feel very backwards does it not?

hrant's picture

Heck, might as well have people not depend on type designers to
make good fonts, eh? The degree of convenient post-rationalization
here is... unsurprising. That's what graphic designers are best at.


Randy's picture

Heck, might as well have people not depend on type designers to make good fonts, eh?

These are your words not mine. I have designed enough type that I wouldn't disrespect an entire field of professionals with a quip. Did I not just say ... I appreciate MS's commitment to commissioning new type in this very thread?

What I am saying is that type designed specifically for screen accounts for a very small percentage of what is out there. The best rendering scheme would aim to make the vast majority of other typle look good too. So to rephrase your words: I'd rather that type designers not have to depend on hinting to maximize screen use. Who wouldn't? (perhaps Tom Rickner -- no disrespect :-)

The degree of convenient post-rationalization here is… unsurprising. That’s what graphic designers are best at

I'll let that go.

hrant's picture

Randy, I was referring to Clause's "an OS should not depend" bit.

> I’d rather that type designers not have
> to depend on hinting to maximize screen use.

And I'd rather bacon not be unhealthy. But it can't happen.

WYSIWYG is a lie, any way you cut it. When it comes to display setting, it's a livable, generally convenient lie. When it comes to reading onscreen, it's a deadly -but sadly still convenient to some- lie. You don't have to rely on hinting to combat WYSIWYG (bitmaps anyone?) but you do have to rely on something besides a tarted up donkey with blinders.

Yes, most type is not made for the screen. But: we should encourage more of it to be; and most of all let's not punish the ones that are. So the best rendering scheme would not enforce a one-size-fits-all fascism.


Christian Robertson's picture

Thanks for the waterfalls Randy. Those are eye-opening. One other thing to try: If you set the anti-aliasing to "Light" in System Preferences in OS X, it makes for slightly sharper text.

Another factor: as pixel densities get higher, anti-aliaised fuzziness becomes less noticeable, while the wonky spacing and counter sizes (texture) of delta hinted renderers becomes more apparent. This is especially true for mobile devices, which are now commonly approaching 150ppi. Unhinted antialiasing looks amazing at these sizes. I'm really interested to see what the type looks like on the iPhone. When people start freaking out about how slick it looks, they of course won't know that they are reacting to the type, but we type nerds are used to that :)

For those that think that the crisp CT type with bad spacing is more useful... I simply disagree. Ugly spacing is less 'purdy' and less user friendly. As for designers making "good" fonts: at this point I would be happy with *different* fonts. I'm so sick of the web 5. Ack. Of course with CT there is no such thing as different type: it takes every font and crunches them all into the same shapes. Seriously, look at the examples above. The Verdana renders under CT look like Arial stretched out a little. Even the pixel versions have more flavor. [edit: this is a little bit of hyperbole, there are still obvious differences - but the individual flavors of the type are much more apparent in Quartz].

ebensorkin's picture

Nice point Christian.

garyw's picture

Here's the OSX preference setting options:

Stephen Coles's picture

Hrant, your repeated claim that designers stick to their Mac like it's a religion is duly noted and it holds some truth, but I haven't heard you speak to the spotty spacing in the PC renders. I'd also be interested to know if you've spent a fair amount of time looking at OS X type on a Mac.

Rob O. Font's picture

"I doubt porting Safari was their main goal."

You got that right! It's cool though: MS spends a ton to remake it's applications to look more like browsers, while Apple just makes the browser run all the apps. Tickles me even before the Leopard is loosed.
It'd be nice though if Uncle Ying and Auntie Yang wised-up to the fact that neither "we" nor the "public" (nor the republic for that matter), are into their "competition" on this topic. Having caused billions in damages since it started in 92, with no end in sight, and nothing but disadvantage to all parties from the IT department to reader's, it's a lose-lose situation for all that just continues to be dragged on at the expense of all concerned...and for what?


hrant's picture

Spotty spacing? First of all Randy's examples suffer from two major flaws: they're using legacy screen fonts; and they're not using Vista. That said, I've never been highly satisfied with CT. But, again: at least it's trying the right thing. To me intent is the foundation.

And what's "a fair amount of time"? I certainly don't believe that I, or anybody else, can scientifically self-field-test extended readability. I've done two things: gone to Apple stores a dozen times and spent maybe a total of two hours looking; and I've taken very close looks at the bitmaps generated by the Apple renderer. Since I've been looking at -and making- screen fonts since 1982, this is enough to feel safe in arriving at a very simple conclusion: Apple does not care about improving onscreen reading; they care, in that ol' Modernist way, about the pretty gray blocks. And by extension: Apple no longer cares about type. And there's other evidence of this in other things that Apple has [not] done. The thing is, I wouldn't mind that too much if it was out in the open - but instead we get the opposite: the persistence of the belief -especially among graphic designers- that Apple cares about type, in particular cares about type more than MS. This type of denialism chaps my hide.

Now, I don't believe MS, as a corporation, cares about type because it cares about us. In fact no public company can care about anything besides money. But I do believe that most people in the MS type department genuinely care; a corporation is typically made up of good people from whom it tries to milk profits; they resist to a certain extent, and this resistence allows for the persistence of true benefit to people. We know who the MS type people are - we've met them - they come and talk to us, ask us things. Where are the people at Apple's type department? We don't even know them. Peter? Haven't heard a peep from him since 2002. Who else? Nothing, nada. Are they benevolent hermits? I think a much better explanation is that the type of people who are willing/able to make onscreen reading better simply haven't been hired.


clauses's picture

Okay Hrant i read you. Cleartype has made progress in Vista, so now we need to see Randys waterfalls rendered in Vista. For all the capacities and resources Microsoft has put into the Vista version of Cleartype it should show quality beyond Mac OS X.

Can someone deliver such screenshots?

Randy's picture

Can someone deliver such screenshots?
Sorry, no vista here. Any improvement would be welcome. Again the waterfalls were generated at

I also would love to see apple commission new type. I would love to hear that they are constantly striving to improve rendering of type. But the fact that we haven't seen these things doesn't mean that their current results are bad nor that they aren't working to improve things (of course I'd rather hear about it). In the mean time we've heard from at least 4 people in this thread who spend a lot of time reading text rendered on a mac, who say it works for them, at least two of which I can vouch for having a pretty critical eye for type!

I'm not sure I get the angst here. To me, there are areas where both Mac and PC rendering can improve, and it's encouraging to me that both are pretty decent. It's also encouraging to me (as mentioned by Christian and me), that screen resolution is increasing to the point where this is less and less of an issue. I do think there will be healthy bacon (excellent non-hinted screen type). And I also think designing fonts that work well in this environment will continue to be a niche within type design. But the focus will be on the outlines of the type itself, not extra curricular instructions. I for one welcome that possibility.

Coming back to the original topic: can anyone with Safari PC speak to the gamma question I posed earlier? Thanks.

Rob O. Font's picture

"Cleartype [] should show quality beyond Mac OS X. Can someone deliver such screenshots?

Stephen Coles's picture

> Peter? Haven’t heard a peep from him since 2002.

This doesn't excuse Apple's lack of type innovation in recent years, but just FYI: Peter Lofting participated in a panel at TypeCon2006 and he'll be speaking in Seattle, though I don't know his topic yet.

mike_duggan's picture

there is a lot more here, in this very long thread
Visual Communications

Randy's picture

Thanks David and Mike for those links -- lots of informed commentary. I have to say, cleartype is looks much better to me with the grayscale smoothing added in Vista vs my samples of straight sub pixel RGB horizontal smoohting from XP. Can anyone speak to whether Vista CT also improves spacing? I may have fallen asleep for that part.

Ok. Now all PC users go out and buy a new computer so you can upgrade to Vista. Oh well. I've set a countdown widget for a decade so I'll know when I can freely use the technology availble now. I think my decade countdown for CSS is winding down.

SuperUltraFabulous that link is pretty funny. I wonder if there's anything behind the story.

Depite additional samples, if anyone with Vista would be willing to make a waterfall like the above for comparrison, that would be nice.

hrant's picture

IIRC, Vista's rendering has two advantages over XP's: subpixel positioning, which effectively triples interletter spacing resolution; and vertical anti-aliasing, the effect of which is very visible in the spine of the "S" for example.

> Now all PC users go out and buy a new computer so you can upgrade to Vista.

Even if this were true, which it generally isn't, it would still be less
costly -and less dumb- than buying a Mac for its onscreen rendering...

Plus XP's rendering is still less bad than OSX's.


SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Randy I wonder that too...

Mikey :-)

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Randy I wonder that too...

Mikey :-)

Randy's picture

hrant, i'm unclear about where you stand on all of this.

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

My double post is a new feature of the Safari Beta...

Mikey :o)

hrant's picture

Randy, I'm interested in a few things.
Progress, serving the user, honesty/objectivity.

The OSX rendering philosophy has been a step backwards; and too many people deny this. CT, even under Vista, has been a step sideways; but a comforting proportion of people realize this (even if they can't always put their finger on exactly what parts have gone wrong).

MS has to refine its rendering philosophy, in some aspects sharply.
But Apple has to chuck its rendering philosophy and start over.


hrant's picture

Oh, and most of all, if a font has superhinting
or embedded bitmaps, please friggin' use them.

Display what the type designer thinks his users need,
don't trample roughshod over all that careful work.


Randy's picture

That last post required the sarcasm dingbat...

I don't think the situation at Apple is as dire as you make it out to be. I do welcome vista's advancements in Clear Type as it will someday make my life easier and my work more flexible, but I won't be switching platform any time soon.

vinceconnare's picture

Having looked at Safari on Vista I believe Apple did not make a real serious version for Windows. They just converted the Mac code to run on Windows.

They are not using the standard interface for the Vista translucent windows but making their own old Win31 style windows.

If you maximize the Safari window in Vista you can't access the 'task bar' to launch other applications. the Safari window takes control of the top layer. You can alt-tab to select other active windows or minimize or restore down to get at the rest of the OS.

Rob O. Font's picture

"But Apple has to chuck its rendering philosophy and start over."

Really? Apple is moving in a direction where they define the graphics and typographics of their OS and applications, beyond the reach of normal users and font developers. This is hardly surprising considering the relatively revolutionary nature of the changes coming in Leopard whereby type at a particular size is much less important to the UI relative to the graphic appearance of a more agile set of objects. That is to say, Apple has finally made an OS where all the items are scaleable, (zoomable) in their appearance, even if they are not zoomable in their creator applications. As we all know from Adobe's success, zooming is a big boost to the user's perception of font quality. Apple's not stupid, ya know.

"More interesting reading."
Not really. This is someone talking about what someone else who doesn't know what they are talking about said...

"Vista’s rendering has two advantages over XP’s: subpixel positioning, which effectively triples interletter spacing resolution"

Really? How you define "effective" and "triples", I'd like to know;)

jasonc's picture

(Pardon me if I'm re-stating the obvious here) but I'd like to point out that Randy's problem with the PC screenshots he's provided are due to the TrueType Instructions in the Verdana font, not with ClearType as a rendering system.
The TrueType instructions are effectively not used by the Mac, so the result is closer to what you'd get by simply scaling the actual outlines, therefore it appears pretty bold. On the PC without ClearType, you see the effect of the TrueType instructions in the font, which for smaller sizes (below 20ppm) affect the weight greatly, in an attempt to make the font more legible. Cleartype makes use of some of the TrueType instructions, but overrides others, which is why Randy sees the effect as "slightly improved."

This all boils down to the advice that Simon and hrant gave; for a better comparison, use the Cleartype fonts. What you really don't like about Verdana on the PC doesn't have much to do with the rendering system - you just don't like the TrueType instructions in the font. (I'll make no comment on whether I like them - for obvious reasons.)

Jason C

hrant's picture

> beyond the reach of normal users and font developers.

Yes, beyond the reach of people who matter and people who know.
Apple is a control freak.

But I never said Apple is stupid: they're targeting their 5%, graphic designers.

> revolutionary

That word again. This philosophy dates back to about
1990, with that OS Apple bought - I forget the name.

> Apple has finally made an OS where all the items are scaleable

More Modernism.
Sounds great. Doesn't work.

> How you define “effective” and “triples”

"Triples" is easy.
But the "effectively" I'll actually withdraw, in favor of "virtually". :-)


Randy's picture

Hi Jason. Yep I understand what your saying. It seems like the best comparrison would be to show several unhinted fonts, several tt hinted fonts, and several cleartype fonts side by side since that's what lives on our computers. I chose verdana, arial and georgia not because of their prowess under a particular rendering system, but because that is what we spend 99% of our time reading on the web (and will for quite some time). I can't wait for Calibri to make the "safe" list, but I must.

David: the last paragraph of Stephen's link and your comments about resolution independence in leopard are two parts of the same argument (and also says to me that Apple doesn't have their heads in the sand). Which will get here first: Vista market saturation or higher resolution displays? Either way the future, for screen type at least, looks better.

But I never said Apple is stupid: they’re targeting their 5%, graphic designers.
At the moment I think they're targeting the section of the PC market that wishes they were graphic designers :-)

Apple has finally made an OS where all the items are scaleable
More Modernism. Sounds great. Doesn’t work.

At 160ppi, 10px type is only 4.5 points (.0625 inches) and shrinking. So, we need things to be scalable. This is not modernism it is survival. Oh, and 16 px verdana bold is starting to look more important.

hrant's picture

> that is what we spend 99% of our time reading
> on the web (and will for quite some time)

Yes; no.
It's the easiest thing to change.

> Vista market saturation or higher resolution displays?

I don't know about you, but I was waiting for the latter since 1998.
I gave up 2-3 years ago.

> we need things to be scalable.

Some people need some things to be scalable some time in the future.
Users need type to be readable, now.


Christian Robertson's picture

Higher res displays are already here, just not on computers. I read books on my treo at 150ppi (I installed at third party antialiasing rasterizer; it's terrible, but it beats the default bitmaps they have on there). Computer high res will come. It just won't be driven by the needs of graphics professionals. It will come from crazy graphics processors designed to play games and people who want to watch movies at 4xHighDef on their laptops.

hrant's picture

> Higher res displays are already here

But what size dude?

And when you factor in the distance at which
you're viewing that screen, 150dpi is not enough.

BTW, can custom TT fonts be loaded into the Treo?


Christian Robertson's picture

Ha! A spread in that book really is about the same size as most mobile displays. It's true that 150 ppi is not enough (even my 1200 dpi laser isn't enough as far as I'm concerned), but ppi isn't everything. 150 ppi with 16 bit color can carry more data than 150 dpi at 1 bit. This is true of pictures, but it's also true of type. There really isn't a correlation to this principle in the print world, since the ink is always there or not, with a maximum of maybe six colors (3bits ;). That being said, I'd rather have a 300dpi screen to read on, for sure.

I haven't found a TrueType renderer for my Treo 650, but as I understand it, the 700p uses ttfs and sub-pixel rendering. I haven't looked at it closely, though.

aluminum's picture

The frustrating thing about this debate is that it would all be remedied if OSes started rendering with DEVICE INDEPENDANT settings and manufacturers started increasing the resolution of our displays.

Seems like both Apple and MS are putting a lot of effort into what really just amounts to being a bunch of hacks.

hrant's picture

> 150 ppi with 16 bit color can carry more data

And 150ppi with hand-made a-a can actually carry useful data!
As opposed to spending the resolution/depth on blur...


Randy's picture

Darrel, I think what we've been saying is that MS has been putting a lot of effort in what "might" amount to a bunch of hacks (strong language) depending on your point of view...whilst Apple's approach anticipates high res displays and features workable rendering now (strong language to some :-).

BTW, Clear type will benefit from higher res displays too. It's great that they can throw money at it and we can get some nice new typefaces, and for those on the cutting edge of upgrades there are benefits now. So hrant, go with Vista today and you'll be happy as a clam anti-aliasing Mana by hand for years to come.

Christian, love the bit depth humor.

hrant's picture

> go with Vista today

On my XP, CT is off. :->


k.l.'s picture

Jason C -- but I’d like to point out that Randy’s problem with the PC screenshots he’s provided are due to the TrueType Instructions in the Verdana font, not with ClearType as a rendering system. [...] This all boils down to the advice that Simon and hrant gave; for a better comparison, use the Cleartype fonts.

The comparison screenshots are valuable since they exhibit the rasterizers' different philosophies. Maybe the comparisons could be more systematic as regards the choice of both fonts and rasterizers: test Apple system fonts, older heavily hinted MS system fonts, ClearType fonts, each of them in all environments, OSX, WinXP, Vista.

As to the advice to better test the ClearType rasterizer with ClearType fonts ... that would make a strange 'comparison', wouldn't it?   ;-)

jasonc's picture

k.l., "As to the advice to better test the ClearType rasterizer with ClearType fonts … that would make a strange ‘comparison’, wouldn’t it? ;-)"
I know it sounds like a strange idea, but that's because the CT fonts have less restrictive TT instructions in them. The point is that to evaluate optimal results, use fonts designed to give optimal results for each rasterizer. But because of the way tha Mac OS works, it doesn't much matter which font you use, there's no such thing as optimal tuning for the Mac.
It's true that if you instead wanted to test pure results, not optimized results, you should use fonts with no TT instructions.

From a technical perspective, the Mac solution is really the problem. We've got different TrueType font engines here, but the Win rasterizer scales and renders type as one would expect from reading the TT (OT) specs, while the Mac rasterizer follows most of the TT (OT) specs, but virtually ignores a fairly critical section of the spec (Hint Instructions.)
I don't want to dredge up the old fight about whether the TT hint instruction set was a good idea (for the 12 or so of us who care ;), but technically, the Win engine follows the specs more closely, and is truer to a font developer's intentions, than the Mac engine.

However that whole idea doesn't affect the real quality of display type. Shifts in hardware technology, and sociological changes in the way we read and process text over the last 10 years have really changed what the "optimal" way to render text is.

I've gotten off topic here, but my real comment on the Verdana problems is that the TT instructions in the font were designed to specifically work in a 2-bit, black and white rendering mode. They suffer more than many other faces in some greyscale rendering situations.

Jason C

Daniel Denk's picture

"Is Lucida Grande the showcase font?"

Have you tried cross-referencing with Geneva?

Daniel Denk's picture

I suppose one of the things that I'll express as a potential caveat to your analysis - is in that I sense you're assuming the future of computing is on the desktop.

With a continued penetration of 50% of all households in the US alone having a desktop in the home, I don't find those demographics encouraging toward development. But the mobile and wireless market poses an interesting occurrence -- having potential to break penetration once the paradigm shift occurs -- allowing the possibilities for concentration of type technologies being placed toward the newer paradigm. That's where we could see the most development impact moving forward, as the smaller realestate foot-print poses critical challenges in type rendering for both functionality and the aesthetic.

(No one really wants a mobile device that makes their eyes bleed.)

typovar's picture

"Mac your choice"

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