Despite starting an Ubuntu tips site, I’ve been trying out using windows at work. The main reason? Fonts.
Yes, fonts can look pretty or ugly, but there is one major advantage that Windows has with regards to fonts. That is: small fonts look good.
At work, the more information I can keep on my screen at once, the better. I use a small programming font (proggy clean), which works fine on both Windows and Linux. What isn’t available on Linux, however, is a small, readable, UI font. Having such a font can make a huge difference, as it reduces the space needed by menus and the like, and also allows lots of information display in applications like a mail reader.
So last night I tried to see, again, if I could win this battle. The goal was simple, find an 8pt UI font and font rendering settings that I would be happy with. I tried a long list of things:
- Various hinting settings
- Luxi fonts from the ubuntu ‘t1-xfree86-nonfree’ package.
- Patched freetype/cairo/xft libraries that you can get from Ubuntu forums
- Redhat liberation fonts
- Lots of different fonts.conf settings. Turning off anti-aliasing, doing things different based on weight or font family.
It was pretty much all in vain. After hours of fiddling, I still couldn’t come up with a configuration that I liked as much as the Windows default. That’s just too sad.
But I did find some intersting links out of it, which I present here.
- A paper from the Anti-Grain Geometry project that has a very in-depth survey of different font rendering techniques
- The whitepaper for the “FontFocus” technique of making small fonts readable. Apparently this method was described a while ago, and its now unpatentable?
- Daring Fireball article about the changes in Mac OSX 10.3 that add a slight amount of vertical pixel alignment.