Posts in category apple - page 10

Font rendering philosophies of Windows & Mac OS X

Jeff Atwood asked What’s Wrong With Apple’s Font Rendering? and as I answered in the comments it comes down to philosophy:

The primary difference is that Microsoft try to align everything to whole pixels vertically and sub-pixels horizontally.

Apple just scale the font naturally – sometimes it fits into whole pixels other times it doesn’t.

This means Windows looks sharper at the expense of not actually being a very accurate representation of the text. The Mac with it’s design/DTP background is a much more accurate representation and scales more naturally than Windows which consequently jumps around a lot vertically.

Jeff and Joel both wrote follow up posts agreeing that it is one of philosophy but both are of the opinion that the Windows pixel-grid approach is the better whilst our displays are only capable of low dots-per-inch (DPI).

What they don’t seem to appreciate is the compromise this causes.

Here is an example of Times New Roman on Windows (left) and Mac OS (right) scaled over whole point sizes with sub-pixel precision:

Font scaling on Windows and Mac OS X

The two thing to note here arising from this “pixel-grid is king” approach are

  1. Windows does not scale fonts linearly as the rough line points out
  2. Windows scales the height and width but not the weight of the font

Neither of these may matter to a casual user but for professionals preparing material destined for high DPI (film or print) then it’s a world of difference. How can you layout a page on-screen and expect the same result on the page when the font isn’t the same width?

The issue is reminiscent of the “I hate black bars on wide-screen films” brigade who believe that the film should be chopped, panned, scaled and otherwise distorted from the artists original intention simply so that it fits better on their display.

Typography has a rich and interesting history developed and honed over centuries. It is a shame to misrepresent typefaces especially as the pixel-grid approach becomes less relevant as displays reach higher resolutions.


Some additional comparisons and a note that the gamma differences between Windows and Mac will affect how you see the “other” systems rendering on your machine.

Further update (21 August 2007)

Thanks to Daring Fireball and ZDNet we’ve had a few more great comments which I’ve summarized here:

George thinks the philosophy idea is wrong because “What percentage of Mac users sit around all day doing nothing but pre-press work?” but as Fred points out Microsoft’s desktop-user optimized rendering ends up on images and videos all over the web, thus escaping the environment for which it was crippled.

George also claims that Vista’s rendering is improved, I can’t vouch for that one way or another but from looking at his screen shots the difference there could simply be the contrast level as adjusted by the ClearType tuner.

Nathaniel believes that it’s not Microsoft’s job to manipulate a typeface and that if you want on-screen readability then choose a font designed for that such as Microsoft’s own Tahoma or Apple’s Lucida Grande.

I’d go further and say that Microsoft’s own aggression in sticking to the grid kills font choice at the regular reading size of 10/11 point by optimizing everything to a generic sans or serif look:

Windows XP

Windows fonts around 11pt in ClearType

Mac OS X

Mac OS X fonts around 13pt in Medium (Best for LCD)

James points to an article called Texts Rasterization Exposures that proposes a combination of using vertical hinting only and calculating horizontally to 256 levels and has some convincing screen-shots showing the benefits. Probably too late for Leopard or Vista SP1 though.


Safari for Windows surprises: return of YellowBox?

Whilst Apple’s Safari appearing on Windows isn’t all that surprising given the number of Windows-related patches to WebKit/KHTML they committed back the actual release has a few surprises.

Apple say the reason for Safari on Windows is to give users another slice of Apple pie. I think the real motive is likely to be that they want developers and designers on Windows to test with Safari and therefore improve compatibility for Mac users. Being that before this there wasn’t a single KHTML-based browser for Windows outside the Cygwin environment it’ll achieve just that.


The download weighs in at 7.9MB compared to Firefox’s 5.7MB and Internet Explorer’s 14.8MB (all English-only versions). That 7.9MB isn’t bad considering it also bundles in Apple’s Software Update and Bonjour plug-and-play networking (share bookmarks with other people on your LAN).


Safari for Windows preferences screenshotThe interface takes a similar route to iTunes on Windows – namely render a Mac-like interface but with the Application menu removed and it’s contents scattered elsewhere (Preferences to Edit, About to Help etc.)

The first noticeable difference is the text is rendered different, it’s font smoothing Mac style. The second is the way modal dialogues slide out of the parent like a sheet.

The real “oh” is in preferences where some of what lies beneath starts to show through.

Where iTunes went with Windows controls against a Mac layout Safari has gone a step further and used Mac OS buttons, check-boxes, radios and the graphical style preferences tabs. The only time you realize you are on Windows is when you go to choose a font or color and are presented with the standard inferior Windows dialogues.

Beneath the surface

Heading into the C:\Program Files\Safari directory shows us the program files and a few surprises namely DLLs that appear to wrap up some of Cocoa’s programming libraries – namely CoreFoundation, CoreGraphics and CFNetwork which all at first glance expose quite possibly APIs for a YellowBox revival.

For those not in the know OpenStep applications (the basis for Apple’s Cocoa programming system) used to run on Windows. In fact Apple’s WebObjects system comprised of a ProjectBuilder programming system that was Cocoa-on-Windows known as YellowBox.

YellowBox died a death because some of it included expensive-to-license components such as the Display PostScript rendering system therefore preventing a free run-time. Now that Apple have wiped that out with their own free Quartz engine…

Language support

Language support is English only at the moment but the standard resource plumbing system used in Mac OS X is there. I wonder if you can just copy the Mac folders to Windows to make other languages available? If not, I’m sure they’ll be in soon.

Free fonts

Apple have included TrueType fonts of the Mac OS X system fonts known as Lucida Grande and Lucida Grande Bold in the C:\Program Files\Safari\Safari.resources folder.

Drag them into your Windows fonts folder and enjoy them everywhere :)


More free gems for the Mac

It must be that time again already… here we go!


Everyone needs a calendar to hand. In Windows using the time in system bar seems to be the quickest option although it’s obviously not meant for that and one false click sends you to the future.

Vista and OS X come with widgets to do this but there is something just satisfying about this calendar-in-the-menubar app.


Mac OS X comes with a built-in package installer that won’t uninstall applications. Curiously NextStep had just that but it never came across to OS X with everything else although the installer does still write the receipts (logs).

Perhaps Apple believe dragging the .app to the trash is enough but if you like to also junk the various other files occasionally held in places such as in /Library/Application Support/ then AppDelete is for you.

App Update widget

This cool widget checks Apple, MacUpdate and VersionTracker for new versions of the applications you have installed and lets you download with a couple of clicks.

It’s a little buggy sometimes at recognizing you already have that version especially when the developers use build numbers etc. but the author anticipated this so there is a “yeah that’s the version I have” option to let it know.

kuler color widget

Adobe’s web site exists to help you create sets of 5 matching colors, name them, share them and rate them. It’s the Flickr! of color palettes and comes with a handy widget for OS X.


So you believe Apple is more expensive than Dell…

Apple are often accused of being more expensive and that Dell are much cheaper.

The reality is that Dell offers a wider range that includes real low-end products that are often constrained or using older technology. Apple, quite rightly in my opinion, doesn’t compete there.

Okay Apple have some other gaps in their line-up most notably the typical home power-user who doesn’t want a twin processor Mac Pro, needs more configuration options than the Mac Mini and already owns a display so doesn’t want an iMac. A box half the size of the Pro with a single dual/quad core CPU and no supplied peripherals would be perfect.

That aside I was checking out the prices for their new twin 3GHz quad Xeon boxes after some individuals balked at the price. They obviously haven’t seen similar specifications from Dell…

Apple Mac Pro Dell Precision 690
Processor 2xQuad Core Xeon 3GHz 2xQuad Core Xeon 2.66GHz
Memory 4x1GB DDR 667 4x1GB DDR 667
Storage 500GB 7200RPM SATA 500GB 7200RPM SATA
Optical 16x DVD-RW 16x DVD-RW
Input Wired keyboard/mouse Wired keyboard/mouse
OS Mac OS X 10.4 Vista Ultimate 64-bit
Graphics Nvidia Quadro FX4500 512MB Nvidia Quadro FX4500 512MB
Price ex.VAT £3,605.95 £5,890.00
Price inc.VAT £4,436.99 £6,920.75
Graphics Nvidia GeForce 7300GT 256MB Nvidia Quadro FX550 128MB
Price ex.VAT £2,712.34 £4,595.00
Price inc.VAT £3,187.00 £5,399.13

In this scenario the Dell is over 60% more expensive and comes with slower CPU’s.

So much for the “Apple Premium Tax”.