Turning Off ClearType Font Smoothing

As a follow-up to Amy’s post on font smoothing, here’s a quick explanation of how you can turn off ClearType font smoothing before taking a screen capture in Windows Vista. Note that this really only applies to screens that will be used for print publication – such as any article submissions for MSDN Magazine or TechNet Magazine. For desktop or Web use, you’re probably OK leaving ClearType on, but I’d suggest checking with your editor or publishing partner for details.

The first thing you want to do is open the personalization options in Windows Vista. The easiest way is to simply right-click the desktop, then click Personalize.

You can also click the pearl, click Control Panel, then click Personalization. This route requires an extra click, but only one finger. Either way, the next thing you should see is the Personalization control panel.

Something to note here: I’d already turned off ClearType before taking this screen, and obviously some of the text is less smoothy than other text. The address bar, for example, clearly has no font smoothing (excuse the pun). The rest of the dialog contains ClearTyped fonts. That’s just the way it is, folks. Some elements of the Windows Vista UI honor the ClearType setting, and others don’t. The reason has something to do with the new Segoe font for Windows Vista and the way it was specifically designed to look good with font smoothing. You can read more about Segoe in Jensen Harris’s blog.Why Windows Vista refuses to honor the ClearType setting, however, is a question for the ages.

Anyway, we were about to change the ClearType setting. Back in the Personalization control panel, click the first item, Window Color and Appearance. You’ll see this wonderful collection of options:

The “Enable transparency” option will probably be checked if Aero is enabled on your system. For consistency in capturing screen shots I like to turn transparency off, as you can see in this screen. This ensures that you’ll get nice, clean window frames without having to worry about what’s showing through beneath the glass. The Default color is fine and, again, just makes for consistency between screens.

Next, click “Open classic appearance properties for more color options.” This long-winded link just opens the old Appearance tab you’re probably familiar with from Windows XP, only this time in its very own dialog box. Look, the tab’s still there even.


I don’t make any changes here, preferring to leave settings as out-of-the-box standard as possible. That consistency thing again. Instead, click Effects.

This is where you turn ClearType on or off. In this case I’ve disabled ClearType by making sure the aptly named “Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts” setting is not checked. I suppose they could have put a None option in the dropdown menu and lost the checkbox, but what do I know about UI design?

Now just click OK to save this setting, and click Apply in the Appearance Settings dialog. If the fonts in window titles become blocky, you’ve succeeded in turning off ClearType. Note that some windows need to be redrawn before the change is apparent. Generally, minimizing the window and then opening it again is sufficient.

If you configure these simple settings prior to taking screen shots for MSDN Magazine and TechNet Magazine articles, you’ll gain the heartfelt appreciation of the editors and production staff. Plus, you won’t get e-mail from us nagging you to retake the screens.


p.s. Internet Explorer has its own settings for font smoothing in the rendering area. I’ll cover that in a future blog post.

Comments (4)

  1. Anthony Tarlano says:

    I have a question that is off topic a bit from the article, but I am still hoping that you can help.

    Can you tell me how I can get the "Show Windows Side by Side" and "Undo Show Side by Side" to map to a keyboard shortcut.

    I have a friend that’s a Mac user and he just can not get over how funny it is that I can’t get this to work with the keyboard, since it his favorite OSX gimmick. Between you and me I just can not stand it anymore.



  2. matt graven says:

    Interesting question.  Your message just sent me on a little research project. Obviously, this functionality is supported by Windows–you can right-click on the taskbar and select to "Show Windows Stacked" or "Show Windows Side by Side".  The terminology is a little different in Windows XP, but you get the idea.  You might expect there to be a shortcut key combo for this, but sure enough I couldn’t find any.

    So this makes the solution a little trickier.  Have you considered writing some simple scripts that perform these individual actions (Tile Vertically, Tile Horizontally, and Undo) and then assigning shorcut keys to execute these scripts?

    Thanks to some direction from The Scripting Guys, I just put together three very simple VB Scripts in Notepad that handle these actions for me.

    For "Show Windows Stacked" the script is:

    Set objShell = CreateObject("Shell.Application")


    For "Show Windows Side by Side" the script is:

    Set objShell = CreateObject("Shell.Application")


    And to undo the last stack/side by side layout change, the script is:

    Set objShell = CreateObject("Shell.Application")


    I saved these files as tileH.vbs, tileV.vbs, and tileU.vbs, respectively (but, of course, their names don’t matter).  I then created shortcuts for each script (right-click | Create Shortcut) and in the properties of each shortcut (right-click | Properties), I specified Shortcut keys.  Now I can quickly manage the layout of open windows.  And, of course, you can create more scripts to do similar tasks.

    Here are a couple links I found useful in doing this:



    Now, I’m not a scripting expert (I’m an editor!), so you may very likely find a better, more efficient way to do this. But I at least found this task educational.


    matt graven

    Developmental Editor

    MSDN Magazine | TechNet Magazine

  3. MSDN Archive says:

    That’s a great alternative!  To take it one step further, you could store those scripts away somewhere and create shortcuts to them.  Shortcut files allow you to assign shortcut keys (just open the Properties dialog of the Shortcut itself, and you can assign a Ctrl-Alt-something key combination).

    Again, I’m not a real developer either, but this should get the job done.

  4. Hey Anthony–Like any techie worth his salt, Matt chose the most interesting way to approach the solution. If you’re not wedded to the idea of a keyboard shortcut, you can do the same by right-clicking an empty spot on the task bar and choosing one of the tiling options from the context menu. One caution: When you explain the right-click concept to your Macfriend, go slow; he may not have had much experience with a right mouse button yet. 😉

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