Improve Screen Readability – Enable & Tune ClearType

Leading on from yesterday’s article which looked at modern digital displays such as LCDs, LEDs and plasmas, the concept of the native resolution and how lower resolutions may not align with the physical rows and columns of pixels on a display.

Today, I have another tip to further improve the readability of text on your screen.

ClearType, a technology developed by Microsoft, has been a feature of the Windows operating systems since Windows XP was released however it was disabled by default (which is a norm for Microsoft when it introduces new technologies such as DEP support and the built in firewall in Windows XP Service Pack 2). This technology attempts to smooth the rendering of fonts by using the sub-pixels of adjacent pixels to help remove the jaggedness from curves. A lot of businesses still use Windows XP as of 2011 so there are also a lot of computers that are not reaping the benefits of ClearType.

To put things in perspective, each pixel on the majority of screen is comprised of three sub-pixels (one each of red, green and blue). The resolution presented on screen can be effectively tripled by using adjacent sub-pixels to provide finer definition. For instance, if part of a character requires less than a full pixel only the necessary sub-pixel(s) are lit to reduce the blockiness and improve the presentation of the curvature.

Given the above, one might think that we would notice strange deviations in colour around the curved edges of the fonts however the human eye is more sensitive to changes in light intensity as opposed to changes in colour. This becomes more prevalent as the size of pixels shrinks as screen resolutions continue to increase.

Looking beyond Windows XP, people using Windows Vista or Windows 7 should already be enjoying the benefits of ClearType as it is enabled by default. However, if ClearType doesn’t look quite right you can tune it to suit your vision (as the perception of light intensity and colour can differ between individuals). Windows XP and Windows Vista can use the online ClearType tuner whilst users of Windows 7 can use the built in ClearType tuner (just click Start and type in “ClearType” and “Adjust ClearType text” should appear in the list).

Stay tuned tomorrow for another tip to help improve screen readability and reduce the strain on your eyes!

1 comment

  1. The ClearType tuner is one of those little hidden treasures that most people aren’t aware of and it can make font rendering so much smoother. Personally, I’ve grown fond of the text smoothing and rendering that Apple boast in their Mac OS and, for Windows users, in their Safari web browser. To mimic this style of font rendering/smoothing, I use GDI and have never looked back since.

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