ClearType improves the efficiency of typical office tasks

In two earlier posts I talked about studies that showed that word recognition is 17% more accurate and sentence comprehension is 5% faster with ClearType. Given these findings we should certainly expect that that there are reading benefits for ClearType when reading extended text. But what about other common office tasks that involve reading, but are more complicated than just straight-forward reading? Andrew Dillon and his colleagues at the University of Texas’ School of Information investigated both of these questions.

Participants in the extended duration reading study read five screens full of 12 point Arial text rendered with ClearType and five screens with 12 point Arial black & white rendered text. All of the expected controls were used so, for instance, half the participants saw a particular article rendered with ClearType, and the other half saw the same article rendered in black & white.

As expected from the earlier findings, people were reliably faster with ClearType without any differences in accuracy of visual fatigue. Participants read for 9 minutes and 9 seconds on average with ClearType, and 9 minutes and 39 seconds with black & white rendering, a reading speed advantage of about 5%. The reading speed for each of the five screens of text was also faster with ClearType.

More interesting was the participants’ performance on a spreadsheet scanning task. In the spreadsheet scanning task participants were asked to perform a task that involved more navigation around the spreadsheet than would typically occur while reading a regular page of text. In the below example, participants were asked how many books are acceptable for an age 4-7 reading level and cost $21. To answer this question, participants need to look at each row of text and count how many rows meet both conditions.


Dillon and colleagues found that people performed the tasks reliably faster when the spreadsheet was rendered in ClearType without any differences in accuracy or visual fatigue. Participants took on average 4 minutes and 40 seconds to complete tasks with ClearType compared to 5 minutes and 4 seconds with black & white rendering, a difference of about 8%.

ClearType not only improves reading speed for traditional page reading, but also improves the efficiency for completing any task that involves recognizing words or numbers.

Kevin Larson

Dillon, A., Kleinman, L., Choi, G. O., & Bias, R. (2006). Visual search and reading tasks using ClearType and regular displays: two experiments. CHI ’06: Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in computing systems, 503-511.

Comments (6)

  1. Rice Crispie says:

    ClearType is very, very good. As is Consolas etc.

  2. says:

    I’d like to mention that probably the shell team in Vista forgot to add some special menu items which the Font folder has in Vista’s Explorer. I can’t locate "Hide variations (Bold, Italic etc)" command in Vista’s Font folder which was very useful in counting the actual number of fonts and quickly previewing them. The preview pane is a lot useful for the fonts folder but now in Vista, you have to skip every 2 files (Bold, Italic), when previewing fonts. Also, view fonts by similarity seems to have disappeared by itself. Hopefully, this’ll be fixed in Windows 7.

  3. stephan says:

    I would like to share with us a recent finding:

    is a spanish magazine who give for free a lot of experimental types



    ps: ones you choice the font you have to click ACEPTAR

    and them you can download for mac o pc

  4. font_guy says:

    Comparing ClearType versus Black&White ("aliased") rendering is dishonest.  Black&White rendering looks like crap at low resolutions, so pretty much any method will outperform it.  An honest research study would have compared ClearType versus the default smoothing mode (called "Grayscale" or "Standard" in XP).

    Also, the article fails to mention that ClearType must be tuned for a specific LCD monitor.  If you capture a screenshot, you cannot resize it or view it on another PC without an ugly rainbow ("color fringing") around the fonts.  The Black&White and Grayscale methods do not have this problem.

    Lastly, a minority of people with sensitive eyes can see the rainbows even at normal resolution, and find ClearType really annoying.  The other methods do not have this problem.

  5. janner says:

    I have to agree with font_guy, I must be one of those minority people (yeay, go me, he says with mock enthusiasm), because I find that whenever I enable either type of font smoothing (ClearType or Standard) the type actually becomes blurry, whereas without font smoothing the fonts are depicted crips and clear.

    It would be great to see that there are reports which acknowledge that font smoothing isn't actually of benefit to everyone (i.e. that the choice of enabling font smoothing should be a personal choice, and not a corporate one).

  6. Koert van Kleef says:

    It's quite ironic to be reading this post with ClearType forced to be off in the newest MS browser on the newest MS OS.