Give Your Eyes a Treat


If you’re a developer, there’s an easy way to give your eyes a rest and make yourself more productive. Use the Consolas font Microsoft developed specifically for you.

When we began work on a project to create a new set of fonts which would take maximum advantage of ClearType, we decided to develop a fixed-pitch font for developers – because no one ever thought of their needs, and we realized a highly-readable fixed-width font would make their lives a lot easier.

We call them the C* fonts because their names all begin with C (for ClearType), and we spent a lot of research and development time making them as readable as possible.

Look at the difference Consolas makes, for instance, in the CMD.EXE window. Here’s what the standard 8 x 12 pixel raster font looks like…

CMD.EXE window with standard raster font

… and here’s Consolas

CMD.EXE Window with Consolas font

You’ll see Consolas doesn’t get you as many lines on a screen – but it’s so much clearer and better to read that it’s well worth the tradeoff.

Command Prompt Properties dialog showing Consolas option

Bryn Spears on the Internet Explorer team gave me the following simple instructions to turn on Consolas in the CMD Window:

reg add “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionConsoleTrueTypeFont” /v 00 /d Consolas

logoff

 Note: In Windows Vista, you need to run the reg command from an elevated command prompt.

When you log back in, Consolas will be an option in the “Command Prompt” Properties.  (n.b., Bryn tells me it actually shows up before you relog, but it won’t work.)

You can install Consolas on your Windows system even if you don’t have Vista or Office 2007 with a free download from Microsoft.com

The Windows International fonts team is working on another version that’ll support Vietnamese, and also the line draw characters that we made to support the console window.

Bill Hill
Program Manager
Internet Explorer

Edit: changed logout to logoff

Comments (69)

  1. Shefield says:

    Nice post! – nothing to do with IE! – Better yet, your example completely fails to prove your point!

    The first sample _IS_ more readable, and the whole ClearType thing has been discussed here and around the web many times…. nice try, get back to the drawing board until black text on white, is _ACTUALLY_ black, and white text on Black, is _ACTUALLY_ white!

    In ****ANY**** sample / ClearType setup I’ve seen so far, on CRT, or LCD, not one has got this issue solved.

    If I wanted FuzzyType, I would turn on Microsofts ClearType, cause thats what you get!

  2. Paul says:

    Why not make that OpenType and NOT be operating system dependent? Silly Microsoft.

  3. Shefield says:

    Here’s a blow up of each image for those on the ClearType dev team that can’t see this.

    The original

    http://img528.imageshack.us/my.php?image=zoomedinregularts9.png

    The "Clear"Type version (notice the rainbow of colors!)

    http://img246.imageshack.us/my.php?image=zoomedincleartypeql0.png

    Last time I checked, the text was supposed to be off-white in the console… not magenta, not green, not cyan, not pink.

    oh, and for any trolls that think I’m running at 800×600 or some nonsense, I’m not, I run at 1600×1200 minimum.

  4. Gerard says:

    Great post, I’m a fan of Consolas. I will disagree with Shefeild above and prefer the 2nd sample for readability. Furthermore I don’t like white on black for readability, I always change my background to an "off-blue" as outlined here: http://johnbokma.com/windows/command-prompt-shortcut.html

    Kind of reminds me of Wordperfect 5.1

  5. Joe says:

    Shefield, you sure is an angry man.

    If you don’t like it, don’t use it.  Chill man.

  6. Dave says:

    Stumbled across Consolas a little while back when Jeff Atwood mentioned it in his blog.

    Been a fan ever since. My ideal monospace font.

    … and Shefield, you’re entirely too eager to jump on this topic.

  7. trog says:

    Weird, I tried those exact steps – I get the Consolas option now in my cmd.exe properties (after logging off/back on), but when I select it to change it doesn’t actually change.

    I can change to Lucida Console fine though, so not sure what’s going on. The font is definitely installed (at least, I can see "Consolas (True Type)" in my Windows font directory).

  8. Nick says:

    Shefield:

    Congratulations on completely missing the point of sub-pixel rendering.  It’s the same on every operating system that supports that feature.

    On LCDs ClearType, while it can take a bit to get used it, is much nicer than going without. Consolas looks great on a LCD with ClearType enabled.

  9. John Sedlak says:

    I love Consolas.. thanks for this tip.

  10. Federico MP says:

    I feel kinky by saying that I use Consolas on urxvt. 😉

  11. Fenng says:

    to trog, me too,

    and I can not get consolas option in my cmd.exe properties .

  12. V. Garg says:

    The option to select Consolas is there in the font tab, but selecting it and pressing OK has no effect. The font does not change.

    When viewing theproperties again, Raster fonts are selected.

    I am running XPSP2 for the record.

  13. Pavel Minaev says:

    > line draw characters that we made to support the console window.

    That’s pretty much the only reason why I still use Terminal in all my console windows, including PowerShell. It’s a pity the present version does not include those; any word on how soon we can expect this new version with them?

  14. uh says:

    @Shefield

    Wow, that’s great. I’ll be sure to turn off ClearType when I blow up my console that much.

    But for just the non-blown up consoles, I’m better with what they have.

  15. @trog – me too, exactly running XP.  Font shows up  as an option but selecting it has no effect.  Another victory for the GUI!

  16. pd says:

    free so long as you’ve got Visual Studio 2005.

    You dill Bill, at least make that obvious!

  17. Alexey says:

    Coincidentally, just a few days I made the comment that Consolas is reason enough for Vista to exist. ^_^

    Thanks. It really is a treat.

  18. Tester says:

    Dear IETeam,

    On XP SP3 with IE7 installed, security update IE7-WindowsXP-KB938127-x86-ENU.exe will not install, saying it has detected a newer version and exits.

    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/938127

    The IE7 installer(7.0.5730.13) that was released back in Oct 2007 installs vgx.dll 7.0.5730.13 while the security update installs vgx.dll 7.0.6000.20628.

    Which is newer? Does KB938127 still applies to IE7 7.0.5730.13 on XP SP3? The April 2008 cumulative security update installed without issues.

    Either you have to release a new IE7 installer with the most up to date versions including the April 2008 cumulative security update or re-release KB938127 which will install on XP SP3 machines and include the latest vgx.dll.

  19. zhouqb says:

    What we need is a better shell like bash, not just a font.

    Working in cmd is so painful.

  20. Hugo says:

    I use Crisp (only good on 12 pt) which is somewhat lighter. But I must say this Consolas font is much better than Lucida Console.

  21. Martin says:

    The page says

    "This package is only intended for licensed users of Microsoft Visual Studio 2005."

    So who exactly are allowed to use the font??

  22. s says:

    For many people (including myself) ClearType actually decreases readibility. Plus, I just love the look of the bitmap Tahoma 8pt, so I always turn CT off

  23. Mitch 74 says:

    First, indeed, this has nothing to do with IE.

    Second, yes, the Rainbow effect is visible – and flagrant. It’s not a testament of efficiency for a fixed width font to not make use of better hinting! I’m sorry, but Consola doesn’t cut it – it is, indeed, too blurry for a white font on a black background.

  24. Cecil Ward says:

    I’m already using Consolas in my favourite text editor for source code (MSE7.EXE) at size=9 and it’s incredibly readable with black text on a white background.

    However, having just tried out your tip in the case of CMD, the result for white on black is horribly fuzzy on the same LCD (a Thinkpad @1024×768) at the default size, and at a larger font size the vertical strokes look very thin and washed-out. Really bad.

    But changing the colours for CMD to black text on a light background does work for me.

    I can’t think off-hand how to make that setting persistent for CMD though?

    Q: Is there a quick way to see what ranges of glyphs the font supports? (How much of Unicode it covers..)

    Cecil Ward.

  25. Leon says:

    to trog, me too,

    and I can not get consolas option in my cmd.exe properties .

  26. Lance says:

    There seem to be those that like ClearType and those that don’t. Choice is wonderful.

    Those (like me) that don’t like ClearType often attribute this to the fuzzyness and rainbow effects it causes.

    I am curious. Those of you that DO prefer ClearType, do you actually SEE the fuzzyness and rainbow effects and don’t consider them important, or do you just NOT SEE them?

    Maybe it’s a difference in the way our eyes work.

  27. David Fauber says:

    I’m wondering how many people reading this have no idea how to get to the Command Prompt properties window.  

  28. I found that under XP SP2, I had to actually reboot my computer before I could see the change to Consolas.  Logoff and Logon only allowed me to specify it in the CMD properties, but didn’t actually take affect on the current window or future windows.  After a reboot CMD windows came up in Consolas and further changes to the font-size, etc after the reboot were seen immediately.  Hope this helps others!

  29. Leon says:

    it’s working now thanks to Jeremy A. Snyder

  30. Brian LePore says:

    For those who are having the problem switching your font to Consolas (even though you see it as an option), you DO have to issue that "logoff" command listed in the instructions. The change to the newly added font won’t take affect until the next reboot.

  31. Glen Fingerholes says:

    How did you get the DIR command to work with a UNC path?

  32. dir \uncpath

    works for me under XP SP2.

  33. There is a great little post on this morning's IEBlog that talks about the (relatively) new Consolas

  34. juan says:

    I ClearType dose take a little getting used to! Less then 10min. After that the others don’t seem so crisp, also It’s easier on the eyes.

    I do agree though that if NEED WYSIWYG this is not the way to go.

    BTW: microsoft dose have a better shell than BASH, much, mush better and more powerfull it’s called PowerShell! You choose cmd, powershell, or BASH(wich you can also install) to run

  35. Joe says:

    have i missed something? is this somehow related to IE? i don’t think so…

  36. Ian says:

    I’m a fan of ClearType and haven’t been bothered by rainbow artifacts. I can imagine two reasons for this, other than the theory that our eyes "just work different":

    1. My LCD display has a subpixel layout that works better with ClearType than yours

    2. I set up my display correctly and you didn’t.

    The ClearType algorithm depends pretty heavily on detailed knowledge of the way your display’s color mask is laid out. If your display driver is lying about that, then rainbow artifacts would be expected.

  37. Robear Dyer, MS MVP says:

    @Tester: Assuming IE7 was installed prior to the install of WinXP SP3 Beta, uninstall WinXP SP3 Beta and see if Automatic Updates offers 938127.

    You’ll need to uninstall the beta build to be able to install WinXP SP3 RTW (final release) anyway.

    Get further support on this by posting in microsoft.public.windowsupdate newsgroup.

  38. Mitch 74 says:

    @Ian: nuances…

    ClearType is an algorithm for subpixel rendering that takes into account both subpixel positioning and color intensity. It is not the only algorithm available for subpixel rendering, but ClearType’s is patented by MS.

    Other OSes also provide subpixel rendering, with different weighing algorithms used; they also allow you to determine what works best for your display, as several factors must be accounted for:

    – if subpixel rendering is used on more than 1 or 2 in a row or column, color bleeding may be perceived by people very sensitive to color

    – some fonts have good hinting for a square grid rendering, but subpixel rendering shifts ratio on a 3:1 scale.

    You are right that some LCD screens work better than others: in best case solutions, you can still get ‘white’ by mixing two contiguous pixels on a line (considering 2 pixels RGB|RGB, you could render ‘white’ with GB|R or B|RG), which work on some LCD with a very small pitch, does create strong bleeding on LCD screens with largish pitch.

    However, it’s not the display driver that tells pixel order: it is normally written in your monitor’s EDID data. However, some monitors don’t provide correct EDID and at the same time don’t use ‘standard’ RGB subpixel order. It may get even worse on cheap monitors that only use analogic VGA connections, in which case you may get a very blurry effect due to bad tuning.

    So, for best effect, ClearType requires:

    – a screen with a small pitch (small size, high native resolution)

    – use the screen’s native resolution (don’t display 1024×768 on 1280×1024, if you find the icons and texts to be too small, change icon and font sizes)

    – use a digital connection (white DVI or black HDMI, not blue VGA)

    – the screen’s EDID must be good (quality screen)

    In short: if you really want ClearType and don’t like how it looks on your screen, get ready to tinker and look at your screen with a magnifying glass.

  39. jeremiah says:

    The colors you see when you zoom are artifacts of how the subpixel rendering works.  If you don’t have an LCD then it could look pretty goofy.

    if you don’t understand why it’s colored, then read this: http://www.grc.com/ct/ctwhat.htm

    And yes, ClearType (and Windows Font rendering in general) are inferior to Apple and Adobe’s PDF font rendering, but it is vastly superior to anything else I’ve seen on Linux or any other freeware OS.

    If MS made it a priority to perfect their rendering (like Adobe has) then Windows would be a typographer’s dream.

    Mac OS X has great rendering if you have a very high definition display – high DPI.  Otherwise everything looks bold.

    kbye.

  40. Jason says:

    @Lance – you are correct, ClearType does have various drawbacks depending on your monitor, your screen resolution, your DPI settings, and most importantly your eye sight.

    Personally I find that if your eye sight is anywhere *near* 20/20 (e.g. you don’t have to wear glasses/contacts to drive), then you most certainly do see the rainbow of colors and your eyes will strain as your brain tries to crisp’n the image.

    What is really frustrating about this, is that many of us hate this feature which is now turned on by default in IE7.

    First it sucks because you have to manually turn it off after installing/upgrading to IE7 (new PC, etc.)

    Second it sucks as a developer, because *all* your websites and applications *look* to your clients like you’ve bolded all the text.

    Third it messes up your designs because what you specified as "12pt" for example, is a different width for a "string of text" in IE6 &  IE7 (CT off) & Firefox & Opera… versus IE7 (CT on).

    (not that we are after pixel perfect sizing, but you now need to develop and specify widths expecting your users to have potentially not turned off this feature)

    If there were a JavaScript or CSS way of telling if the user left this feature turned on, at least we could handle it.

  41. Alexey says:

    ClearType is not inferior to Apple and Adobe’s rendering. Its focus is different. Microsoft considers readability more important, while Apple prioritizes likeness to print.

  42. O3noBLOG says:

    今天看到IEBlog有篇文章Give Your Eyes a Treat,教你怎麼在命令提示字元裡用Consolas這個字型。相信有調過windows命令提示字元的字型的人,都會對字型設定感到很討厭,因為根本沒字型可以選,看了IEBlog的文章,我才知道原來要在登錄裡面加上相關設定,而且不同的code page也會有影響,所以如果和我一樣是用中文windows,甚至是日文windows,照著IEBlog上的步驟做完一定是沒用的,因為你還要改一下code page,目前我只知道可以改到65001變成UTF-8編碼:

  43. Lance says:

    @Jason

    >Personally I find that if your eye sight is anywhere *near* 20/20 (e.g. you don’t have to

    >wear glasses/contacts to drive), then you most certainly do see the rainbow of colors

    >and your eyes will strain as your brain tries to crisp’n the image.

    That might explain headaches that ClearType gives me. I thought it was unrelated.

    My setup is DVI, 1600×1200 native on a dell 2001 LCD. Checking the pixel order etc, it does appear the ClearType is behaving ‘correctly’

    My bigger beef is with disabling it. I don’t mind when things like this are options, as long as I can opt-out. IE7 follows its settings, but Vista and office 2007, not so much. It is disabled in all the places that it should be, and the default fonts all changed away from the new C* fonts back to the same as XP. But for some items, Vista and Ofice ignore the settings, and use ClearType anyway.

  44. t800t8 says:

    I tried to follow the description but it didn’t work. Only after restaring my laptop the font setting was applied.

    But it only affects when I run Command Prompt from Accessories menu. Run Command Prompt by typing "cmd" in Run dialog doesn’t take effect –> useless.

  45. Tester says:

    @Robear Dyer, MS MVP

    I’m using XP SP3 Final build 5512, not any betas or RC releases.

  46. Anonymous says:

    My eyesight is better than 20/20.  I have a large monitor (3, actually) with very high resolution and quality (so they have the right EDID).  I cannot notice any the rainbow effect.  I do notice the blurring, but it’s minor enough that it’s preferable to the aliasing without ClearType.

    I can see the pixelation on typical 1080p televisions at typical viewing distances, and I can see the rainbow/shadow effect on DLP displays, but I cannot detect rainbowing on a properly configured high-quality monitor.

    That’s not to say that you can’t, even with "mere" 20/20 vision.  Maybe you’re just really sensitive to that nuance — I’m willing to bet that you’re in the minority even among the 20/20s though.  Hell, I can hear a piercing high-pitched whine coming from muted TVs and have to cover my ears and shift uncomfortably while others look at me like I’m a crazy person :).

  47. I like it, granted I had to turn on ClearType. The font-weight has increased but it’s not obese to the point of being full blown bold like in Safari. Thanks for the post.

  48. Nick says:

    It’s probably worth mentioning that there is a pretty cool tuner for ClearType available.  You can adjust how "bold" the text looks as well as a few other options.  Tweaking the settings made ClearType a lot easier on my eyes but YMMV.

    http://www.microsoft.com/typography/cleartype/tuner/Step1.aspx

  49. The only screwy thing is when you do a TREE command…

    The ASCII art gets replaced with Unicode NULLs.  This doesn’t happen with Lucidia Console.

  50. David says:

    My eyes seem to like the raster font.

  51. Bill Hill says:

    Oops! The download page did specify Visual Studio 2005, but that’s now been changed to VS 2005 and 2008.

    If you have Vista or Office 2007, you already have Consolas installed.

    Good tip by Nick above about the ClearType tuner; it will help you detect RGB/BGR pixel configurations (factor most responsible for color fringing) and help you tune CT as much as possible for your own eyesight/monitor combination. Your display should be running at its native resolution.

  52. Samuel says:

    I can’t get over my love affair with Courier New. It makes me feel comfortable, I guess.

  53. Heh… Actually for me both Raster and Consolas look equally comfortable. But I prefer Raster 10×18.

  54. Whijo.net says:

    I subscribe to the IEBlog because it is always good for a laugh, or good to see exactly how much they are copying from the rest of the community. Recently Bill Hill, the Program Manager for Internet Explorer posted a little blurb about using their nice

  55. Brad says:

    It is a bit less complex, but you can do this under linux as well: http://whijo.net/blog/brad/2008/04/24/give-your-eyes-treat.html

  56. anonymous says:

    ClearType looks like s**t on my CRT, looks wonderful and crisp on my LCD. But its high time MS updated the core of cmd.exe, the Win32 console API. Something more powerful would be 4NT or Console (http://sourceforge.net/projects/console/).

  57. mocax says:

    I prefer Proggy fonts for programming

  58. Igor says:

    If you are seeing too much color distortion in cleartype, try the ClearType tuner Nick mentioned or the ClearType control panel http://www.microsoft.com/typography/ClearTypePowerToy.mspx

    I’m using an LCD and a Trinitron CRT, my ClearType contrast is set to 1.9. It looks quite nice on the LCD and slightly blurry on the CRT, but I find that better for smaller fonts than no ClearType.

    Consolas also looks very ugly without ClearType, maybe MS font team will make a Consolas with hinting? :)

  59. Tak, wiem. Windows nie ma konsoli. Nie przeszkadza mi to jednak spędzać sporo czasu w CLI. Ostatnio natrafiłem na ten post. Muszę przyznać, że te czcionki rzeczywiście są ciekawe w konsolach (PuTTy, cmd.exe). A i 0 od O łatwo odróżnić, bo kres

  60. Mephitus says:

    i think enough has been said about fuzzy/blurry/rainbowtype but i still wish is was disabled by default so those doing new installs of windoze dont get a headache from looking at the screen before everything is "correctly adjusted" (as someone else quaintly put it) for fuzzy type to be turned on…

    btw, what does this have to do with IE?

  61. Andrew says:

    I like to use 20-pt Lucida. When I’m banging in commands, I have no desire to squint.

  62. wisher says:

    Even if I don’t use so much command line I appreciate this tips.

    Thanks!

  63. update: after a few reboots the past few days, I gave it another try and changing the property persisted.  I like it indeed.

  64. cj says:

    i fail to see why this was entered on the ie blog, but for me the first example is infinitely preferable to the second.  the second example’s text seems to blend right into the black background, rendering it almost invisible.  for the first few seconds, i literally could not even see the "/" characters in the dates.  my eyes are young yet and better than 20/20.  i use 1856×1392 resolution, and i have yet to see a cleartype example that i could make out very well, much less read better than "normal type".

  65. Harbinger of Tragedy says:

    A) Why is this even posted here. I know the C fonts are supposed to be the new defaults in IE7/Vista, or some such silliness like that, but does that really mean a way to change the command line font to use the new fonts belongs here?

    B) A treat? Really? My eyes personally disagree greatly with your assessment. I’d rather these new C fonts were never made, and I haven’t seen one yet that I like more than the font it’s supposed to replace.

    C) What’s the point of these new fonts really? All I’ve seen is more CSS work to give a Vista user their shiny new font that they may or may not like. Pair that with the fact that I haven’t seen a demonstration of the new fonts where they’re the same size as the old ones means that in precise layouts the use of these new fonts may completely wreck the design of a site or at least add a lot of time to the construction of it.

    There’s a lot to answer for, and I’ve seen nothing posted that satisfies me enough to even consider using these fonts for anything, but go ahead, keep on "treating" me, it’s at least a little amusing to see.

  66. Teamzille.de says:

    Die Kommandozeile ist ein Tool, mit dem ich gerne und viel arbeite. Normalerweise verwende ich bei der Arbeit mit meinem Betriebssystem allerdings eine ClearType-Schriftart, da diese f�r mich angenehmer zu lesen sind. Die Kommandozeile bietet auf den

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