Windows 8 Font Issues?

hrant's picture

If I upgrade to Windows 8, what kinds of font-related issues should I expect to run into? Specifically in terms of making (and testing) fonts. (No Mac jokes please. :-)

hhp

John Hudson's picture

The most notable difference between Windows 8 and previous versions, in terms of fonts, is the new assymetric greyscale with subpixel positioning rendering in the Metro environment. The good news about this is that it is considerably better than I feared, and still manages to provide better stroke density than Apple's full fuzz rendering.

hrant's picture

Cool.
What about font tools (not working [right])?

hhp

Jeremy Dooley's picture

In windows 7, you could re-install fonts and have the new version appear after restarting Adobe apps. Now that no longer works, and you have to restart to get updated fonts to appear. I don't use any font management tools. Fontlab works just fine.

HVB's picture

"Upgrade" from what and to what flavour of Windows 8? You'll encounter many more differences if you're coming from XP to 64-bit Windows 8 than if you moving from Win 7 to Win 8.

I just unhappily moved from Windows XP to Windows 7 Home Premium (64) and find that almost none of my favourite command line utilities are functional. I may upgrade to Windows 7 Professional - they SAY that some of the 32-bit/64-bit incompatibilities are resolved, as is better support for compatibility with older Windows versions.

- Herb

hrant's picture

I'll be getting a new laptop - and it's hard to find a Win7 system (plus I've heard horror stories about downgrading OSes, and it would cost more). My current one (which is a dinosaur, but it's the king of dinosaurs) is running XP (like a rock) and at least I can see all the rendering problems so many users see but so many foundries look away from... But anyway I use Win7 systems often, and I like it. BTW I've heard good things about Win8 in terms of backwards compatibility; and the other day I connected a funky no-name external DVD drive into a Win8 ultrabook and it "just worked" within seconds.

Concerning what Jeremy said: I wonder if a font management tool fixes that issue; but I really don't want to resort to one.

hhp

Jeremy Dooley's picture

The good thing is that my win 8 computer (and most, I assume, as this machine is new, albeit with middling specs) reboots in 10 seconds, so it is not a huge deal. That is not an exaggeration. A SSD in hybrid mode is amazing.

oldnick's picture

As I understand it, Windows 8 deals primarily with touch-screen issues, so there's no need to upgrade if you're running a Grandpa Box, like me. One thing I find especially appealing about Win7 64-bit Pro is its virtual machines: you can run programs as old as Windows 95 (maybe even older) in their own space, no sweat.

HVB's picture

Nick - AFAIK, that's true for Win7 Professional, but not l
esser versions.

- Herb

Richard Fink's picture

@hrant
Laptopisaurus Rex, eh? Mine died some months back but I had already received a Dell with Win7 that I had ordered in anticipation of the dreaded passing of ol' reliable.

The Win7 Dell Latitude has the "XP Mode" virtual machine installed and I've found it best to just migrate everything font related to XP. Win7 gave trouble with various pieces of my font workflow from the get-go so I just avoided the problems completely by sticking with XP running in a virtual machine.

I've tried to imagine at what point this setup will fail me but you know, I really can't see with what or how it would give me trouble.

Win7 running as the parent OS gives me access to IE9 and other upgrades that won't load in XP for testing so it's the best of both worlds so far.

Bendy's picture

>the new assymetric greyscale with subpixel positioning rendering in the Metro environment

Haven't come across this, is there info anywhere, John?

5star's picture

@Richard, that is exactly the setup I have with my Latitude. I also have the disc option of running a 64 or 32 bit Win7 platform.

Does your Latitude over heat? Mine gets really warm.

n.

hrant's picture

Do you run 32-bit for running old software? Like what?

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Ben, here is a good general description of the change in font rendering in Win8, with examples:
http://www.extremetech.com/computing/138816-windows-8-the-desktop-review/3

Broadly speaking, there are now three main ClearType rendering modes (with some version-specific variations in the GDI rendering):

GDI : x-direction colour subpixel antialiasing, no y-direction antialiasing, full-pixel spacing.

DWrite : x- direction colour subpixel antialiasing, y-direction greyscale antialiasing, sub-pixel positioning.

Metro : x-direction greyscale subpixel antialiasing, y-direction greyscale antialiasing, sub-pixel positioning. [Note also: at small sizes the x,y antialiasing is asymmetric, at larger sizes it is symmetric.]

All three of these rendering environments may be encountered in Windows 8.

canderson's picture

I use Classic Shell to start my Windows 8 system in desktop mode and provide a Windows 7 style start button. I don't think I could continue to use it on a laptop or desktop otherwise.

I'm not aware of any font-related compatibility differences from Windows 7.

In general, the metro interface is designed to remove features and reduce choice to make the system more useful on tablets and phones. Even for something like a mail client or a web browser, I don't want to be stuck in full screen mode on a laptop or desktop.

I'm also quite fond of having directories and files and knowing where they are in the file system.

apankrat's picture

> In windows 7, you could re-install fonts and have the new version appear after restarting Adobe apps. Now that no longer works, and you have to restart to get updated fonts to appear.

I'd try removing the font first and then installing an updated version.

Bendy's picture

Interesting, thanks John. I'm not clear how the Metro x-direction antialiasing is 'subpixel' since it's using only greyscale. Wasn't the whole point of ClearType that the only sub-pixel elements available are the red, green and blue components of a pixel?

John Hudson's picture

Subpixel may not be the best word, or maybe I need to distinguish between sub-pixel and subpixel. I would classify Metro greyscale as sub-pixel rendering by virtue of it using supersampled outlines with fractional positioning. This means that the pixel tint is determined by where the outline falls sub-pixel.

Bendy's picture

Ah, I wondered if this was the case. Does the 'asymmetric' antialiasing mean that horizontal stems are confined to full pixel positioning?

Jens Kutilek's picture

Does the 'asymmetric' antialiasing mean that horizontal stems are confined to full pixel positioning?

Yes.

In DirectWrite you can control at what pixel size range(s) asymmetric/symmetric antialiasing should be applied. You need a version 1 gasp table for that and use the GASP_SYMMETRIC_SMOOTHING flag.

If a version 0 gasp table is present (or, iirc, a v 1 gasp table without the symmetric smoothing flag), symmetric smoothing will be applied from 21 ppm upwards.

John Hudson's picture

Does the 'asymmetric' antialiasing mean that horizontal stems are confined to full pixel positioning?

No. In the context of Metro rendering, asymmetric refers to the difference in x- and y-direction supersampling (at text sizes). The rendering is 8x4 greyscale, meaning that the x-direction antialiasing has double the senstitivity of the y-direction antialiasing. Because of the sub-pixel fractional positioning, the x-direction benefits from this higher sampling resolution to maintain decent stroke contrast, whereas the y-direction, which is constrained to full pixels, can make do with a lower supersampling. At larger sizes, the Metro renderer switches to symmetric 4x4.

aluminum's picture

This is the second time I've heard mention of the 'greyscale' rendering of sub pixels. I'm confused as to how 'greyscale' and sub-pixel rendering work together (since sub-pixels, by definition, are not greyscale).

John Hudson's picture

See my response to Ben, above.

I think we should try to make a distinction between subpixels as physical divisions of a pixel and sub-pixel as fractional implementation of pixel rendering that affects outcomes. The Metro greyscale rendering is sub-pixel on the grounds that the fractional positioning of the outline affects the pixel tint.

Bendy's picture

>The Metro greyscale rendering is sub-pixel on the grounds that the fractional positioning of the outline affects the pixel tint.

This is what I'm not quite getting. Isn't that true of all anti-aliasing?

aluminum's picture

I understand sub pixel...in that only parts of a pixel may be used to render the outline on screen. And because it's not a 'whole' pixel, it will be colored. That's why I don't understand the term 'greyscale' being used to describe it.

John Hudson's picture

This is what I'm not quite getting. Isn't that true of all anti-aliasing?

No, because in previous antialiasing glyphs have been positioned on full pixel widths, i.e. the 0,0 coordinate of each glyph's advance width has always been positioned on the leading edge of a pixel. This was also true of ClearType subpixel rendering in the GDI implementation. This accounts for sometimes uneven spacing in traditional greyscale and GDI ClearType.

In DirectWrite ClearType and Metro greyscale antialiasing, fractional sub-pixel positioning is used, i.e. the 0,0 coordinate of a glyph may occur anywhere within the pixel. What is means is that spacing is much more even, but that there is variation in the actual pixel pattern for the same glyph at different places in a line of text. In the Metro greyscale rendering, this variation displays as differences in the grey tint of pixels (in DWrite CT it displays as differences in the colour tinting, and is generally more prevelant and noticeable than in the Metro greyscale). This is why I classify the Metro greyscale antialiasing as 'sub-pixel', because the pixel tint is being affected by the position of the glyph according to fractional positioning.

John Hudson's picture

Here's a pretty good illustration:

On the left is the Metro greyscale antialiasing (this screen capture was from the public beta of Win8; I don't know if the rendering was further tweaked for the release version); on the right is the same text string in GDI ClearType antialiasing. Zoom in to see the use of grey only in the Metro rendering and colour in the GDI CT. Note that stem weights are more consistent in the GDI CT rendering, but spacing is more consistent in the Metro rendering. Note particularly the above-line clash of the reph mark and following ikar in the GDI CT rendering, which has resulted from the full-pixel positioning bringing the latter too close; this is much better with the Metro fractional positioning (but would be better still with DWrite CT, which would have better stem weight consistency).

aluminum's picture

"Metro greyscale antialiasing"

Ah! That makes sense, as antialiasing uses the entire pixel, it can truly be grayscale (or in this example, matched to the type color).

It gets confusing when when the term 'sub-pixel' and grayscale are used together...but the term 'fractional positioning' helps clear that up (my understanding is that Metro uses full-pixel anti-aliasing but allows the glyph borders to land in the middle (or some fraction thereof) a pixel).

aluminum's picture

and that's likely a natural path to take. Sub-pixel font smoothing has a limited remaining shelf life given mobile (rotatable) screens and high-ppi screens. The Win8 method would seem to be applicable for those uses.

Bendy's picture

Thank you for your patient explanation, John, I see the distinction. I presume one implication of the Metro sub-pixel positioning (and the DWrite CT) is that x-hinting instructions are ignored, since they're trying to align the stems to whole pixels so that glyphs have a consistent appearance when rasterised? Or do I need to learn more about hinting before that starts to make sense?

>In the context of Metro rendering, asymmetric refers to the difference in x- and y-direction supersampling (at text sizes). The rendering is 8x4 greyscale, meaning that the x-direction antialiasing has double the senstitivity of the y-direction antialiasing.

What's supersampling? I'm guessing it's the way the rasteriser is looking at glyph outlines and deciding how much black to put into each pixel. If that's right, then it seems that 8x4 greyscale means that each pixel is assessed by breaking it down and looking at how many of the 32 virtual sub pixels the outline covers, which results in the pixel being attributed one of 32 different levels of grey.

hrant's picture

It's just a damn shame it looks worse than GDI. :-/

Why sacrifice the quality just because you can rotate a screen? So what if text looks slightly different depending on how you're holding a device?

hhp

John Hudson's picture

What's supersampling?

Think of a glyph outline being stretched to a larger number of pixels than actually requested for the target display size/resolution, and then the mapping of the outline to those pixels being downsampled (like a scaled down JPEG) relative to the requested size. So in the case of an 8x4 asymmetric supersampling, each pixel in the requested ppem size is first represented by 8 horizontal pixels and 4 vertical pixels, and then scaled down to the requested size. Obviously at larger sizes more refinement of the relationship of outline to pixels is possible and hence more antialiasing precision (samples) is available. This captured information influences the rendering at the target size, where the relationships that were relative to pixel dimensions in the supersampling become relative to sub-pixel dimensions in the final rendering.

John Hudson's picture

Rotating screens may be a factor, but I believe the issue for Win8 was lack of time to optimise the ClearType code to reduce performance hits in the heavily animated Metro UI. Simply put, the greyscale rendering is faster. If the ClearType code can be optimised to make it render quickly enough to meet the Metro developers' requirements, I hope it will be reinstated for Win9. The stroke density is much better.

aluminum's picture

Performance certainly may have been a priority.

But it also seems like Microsoft really wants Win8 to succeed on the tablet. I think both the screen rotation and higher PPI of that screen would justify this method (IMHO).

"Why sacrifice the quality just because you can rotate a screen?"

Well, one argument would be consistency. Having type look better in one rotation than the other might not be the best user experience. (But I'm not even sure if that's really all that important anyways, as I *think* most of the handheld Win8 devices are using high PPI screens, so sub-pixel rendering is likely moot).

JamesM's picture

> But it also seems like Microsoft really wants Win8 to succeed on the tablet.

Yep, tablet sales are growing rapidly while PC sales are stagnating. Many analysts are predicting that tablet sales will exceed laptop sales within a few years.

John Hudson's picture

I really don't think the whole rotation question played a role in the switch to the Windows 8 greyscale rendering. Remember, the alternative -- already implemented through most of the development cycle -- was DWrite ClearType, so there was already bidrectional antialiasing (unlike GDI). If tablet and phone rotation had been a concern for text rendering, I would expect this to have been something addressed quite early in the new operating system development cycle. The Metro greyscale rendering was implemented at the last minute, after initial beta versions of Win8 had shipped with ClearType, in response to performance complaints.

Rob O. Font's picture

Did you specify grey, or is it time to change the ribbon? "On the left..." is both specified and set in black type, off windows. :)

John Hudson's picture

Yes, the illustration text -- taken from a website viewed in different versions of IE with different renderings -- was spec'd grey. For illustrating the differences between the rendering models, it could have been pink, orange, purple or, indeed, black. It just happened that the example I had to hand was grey, but I should have mentioned that in case anyone thought it was intended to be black.

hrant's picture

I might have been suspicious too but recently saw another comparison (in black) and concluded that GDI was better.

hhp

Rob O. Font's picture

This one too? (from your link above).

Rob O. Font's picture

"For illustrating the differences between the rendering models, it could have been pink, orange, purple or, indeed, black"

Really. I think, when comparing rendering or any kind, but especially one that involves color subpixelation vs one that doesn't, an appropriate comparison cannot be done without black.

hrant's picture

David, what are you getting at?

hhp

John Hudson's picture

David, if the purpose is to compare for particular purpose, I fully agree, especially if that purpose is reading text. I just wanted to illustrate different characteristics of the two rendering systems, for which purpose I considered the screenshot that I had on hand to be sufficient: you can see the difference in spacing and the difference in stroke weight regularity and density.

Renaissance Man's picture

"If I upgrade to Windows 8, ..."

Don't upgrade. Buy a new computer. Read the following:

Walter Mossberg (WSJ) on upgrading: www.j.mp/w8noup

Thomas De Maesschalck: Two months with Windows 8 www.j.mp/win666

hrant's picture

Thanks for the tips. Actually I was never planning on upgrading my Rex; the plan is to get a new machine. And I've decided to go for Win7 Ultimate with XP support.

hhp

Renaissance Man's picture

Win7 the New XP SP3?
If you’re still running Windows XP, take the time to review your options. Microsoft ends support for XP in 15 months, on April 14, 2014—the last official day the OS will get security updates. With the verdict still out on Windows 8, now might be a good time to give yourself the present of a new Windows 7 machine. Think of Win7 as the “new XP SP3.” It might be the next long-lasting, long-supported Windows operating system that Microsoft will need to pry our fingers from.
—Susan Bradley, WindowsSecrets.com, Dec. 6, 2012

Richard Fink's picture

Sorry for my tardy return....

hrant: For font production, I think you made the right decision. And yes, I just migrated my entire setup from WinXP to XP running in XP Mode. I suppose if I had really had the time to spend, I could have gotten everything going OK in Win7 64 bit, but what for? A waste of time. Everything I use was built during the XP era. I don't have the patience for tweaking a Windows configuration anymore. Sucker broke my command line scripts and that was it - back to XP in XP Mode.

5star: I run my Latitude and ANY laptop I own on a cooling pad so I'm not sure if it's getting too hot or not.
As for running 32 bit apps - see my response to hrant above.

BTW - Nice to see MSFT finally enter the tablet/touchscreen fray after watching, watching, watching endlessly it seemed. But "creative imitation" has always been their strategy and it requires watching the other players for awhile before entering the market.

I think it will work yet again and we'll see a major rebound. And I like how they took their myopic fixation with developing a stylus-on-screen interface and found a way to turn it into a plus.

Richard Fink's picture

@Renaissance Man:

I don't believe MSFT will discontinue security updates by that date -April 14, 2014.
That might be what they are announcing but I'll believe it when I see it.

And...... since I'm not running Office apps or anything sensitive within the XP Virtual Machine, I really don't care if they freeze security support or not.

oldnick's picture

Richard,

“Creative imitation” may be a misnomer in this case. From what I can gather, Windows 8 Metro interface is considered to be the wave of the future—less is more, if you will. The whole Apple thrust—higher res, more glitz—turns the interface into a bandwidth hog, which is great for the ISPs, but it totally lousy for the people who have to pay for that bandwidth. If I were a person given to conspiracy theories (which, I am, but I don't like to advertise it…too often), I would aver that Apple's ultra-high-res approach to tabs/mobile/etc. has been developed in cahoots with carriers to ensure that that maximum amount of data transfer occurs (billable units) at any time. Win 7 Pro 64-bit rules. Totally. Indubitably. My story and I’m sticking to it…

oldnick's picture

Richard,

“Creative imitation” may be a misnomer in this case. From what I can gather, Windows 8 Metro interface is considered to be the wave of the future—less is more, if you will. The whole Apple thrust—higher res, more glitz—turns the interface into a bandwidth hog, which is great for the IPSs, but it totally lousy for the people who have to pay for that bandwidth. If I were a person given to conspiracy theories (which, I am, but I don't want to advertise it), I would aver that Apple's ultra-high-res approach to tabs/mobile/etc. has been developed in cahoots with carriers to ensure that that maximum amount of data transfer occurs (billable units) at any time. Win 7 Pro 64-bit rules. Totally. Indubitably. My story and I’m sticking to it…

JamesM's picture

> Windows 8 Metro interface is considered to be the wave of the future

Maybe, but Win 8 PCs and tablets are selling poorly so far. Google for numerous news articles about disappointing sales.

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