Update now available for improved font-smoothing

Today’s batch of Windows Updates included a “Recommended” update to improve the rendering of certain fonts at small sizes (8-10pt). The updated versions of Arial, Verdana, and Tahoma fonts include new hinting logic that renders more clearly using sub-pixel-positioned ClearType text rendered using the DirectWrite APIs used by Internet Explorer 9's hardware-accelerated text rendering.

I put together a simple test page for these changes here: http://www.debugtheweb.com/test/ClearType/. Using the comparison widget, you can see that Arial's c gets a little wider, dots on i and j get a little bolder, 10pt Verdana's 5 changes a bit, 10pt Arial's 0 gets a bit skinnier, and many of 9pt Verdana's characters gain a bit of weight.


PS: The Firefox guys wrote a bit more about this as well.

Comments (11)

  1. Lex Mitchell says:

    Good to see a fix for a problem that some people really couldn't get past. I guess it makes sense that with a higher precision renderer the fonts themselves had to be improved.

    Given the complaints that always seem to populate the IE blog on this issue (probably from a vocal minority admittedly) I'm surprised this hasn't been posted there.

  2. @EricLaw: This is certainly a good news. I personally have been waiting for this blurry font fix. Currently, I'm still evaluating this fix on my notebook to see if it actually hit the spot 😀

    Also, I agree with Lex that I wonder why this hasn't been posted there.

    @Lex Mitchel:

    Actually many people experienced this issue. If you take a look at this issue report on Connect: connect.microsoft.com/…/font-rendering-is-worse-in-ie9-than-ie8, more than 90 people able to validate this issue, not to mention so many duplicates of it. That certainly counts for something 😀

  3. Björn says:

    Still, Verdana's W and w seem sometimes out-of-place at certain font sizes.

  4. Matt Sharpe says:

    I find it odd that this post and the update itself and related pages all say it is for Internet Explorer, when it has obviously impacted other applications just as much, e.g. Firefox 🙂

  5. Lex Mitchell says:


    Well however many people were affected by it, hopefully they will all be happier now. 🙂


    It seems relatively rare for Windows Updates to mention non Microsoft software – possibly becuase they don't test them (so wouldn't want to imply they had) or simply becuase it's not MS's place to do so.

  6. Yowan says:

    Also improves rendering in FF5

  7. Bob says:

    I dislike cleartype and have it disabled.  This update appears to make fonts look like cleartype is on when those fonts are used.

  8. @Bob: Which IE version do you have? IE9 always renders with ClearType on, regardless of the system setting.

  9. Bob says:

    Eric,  Yes.  I just installed IE9.  I noticed gtalk and other applications have it as well.  It seems to depend on the font used since it only appears on the chat screen.  As I recall IE 7 and 8 used to have a checkbox to enable/disable this. I may just have to get used to it

  10. Rick Strahl says:

    Eric – "IE9 always renders with ClearType on, regardless of the system setting." Ah – and therein lies the problem.

    I have serious issues with ClearType causing headaches and the fact you can't turn it off is an instant killer to my use of IE. Having had lots of perf and failure problems with Firefox 6 recently, I would have liked to switch back to IE 9 but because of the ClearType issue this isn't even an option. It's bad enough that any applications using the Web Browser control instantly are forced to use ClearType – which has caused a number of complaints of customers of some of my apps.

    It's bad etiquette to say the least to force ClearType in an app.Why should a native Windows application FORCE CLEARTYPE on you when the system actually supports the option to turn it off? Heck even the WPF team  finally gave in and added GDI font support back into WPF because of complaints for bad text readability and blurriness.

    IE 9 finally feels like a browser heading in the right direction, but this issue for me is a deal killer.

  11. @Rick: I presume you've already run the ClearType tuner and aren't happy with the results?

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