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Any Relief in Sight for IE10's Degraded Font Rendering? RRS feed

  • Question

  • IE10 has been a part of Windows 8 in both preview and released form for a long time, and Microsoft still hasn't fixed the botched font rendering.

    There's a reason the people who invented ClearType put in the color-assist.  It effectively triples your monitor's horizontal resolution by lighting up individual columns of red, green, blue.  It's just NOT THERE in IE10 on Windows 8

    Been wondering why you're feeling more eye strain?  Now you know.  Look at it closely with the Magnifier application if you don't believe me.  Compare text rendered inside IE with that in menus or other apps.

     

     

    There is a ClearType Text Tuner dialog provided by Windows that could be used to dial it down or even turn it off, for those who didn't like the color, for versions prior to IE10.  Now Microsoft has forced the NO COLOR decision on every Windows 8 user, regardless of the ClearType tuner setting.  Color assist is OFF and you can't turn it on.

    Why?

    Maybe it's being done to support the Surface or other tablets (e.g., so rotations can be done graphically without forcing a repaint or something).  Fine.  Microsoft also sells Windows 8 with IE10 to run on the billion or so actual computers with 100ish ppi monitors already out there in the world (that don't rotate), right?  So make it configurable.  It already worked (and still works with the IE10 RP on Windows 7) - it's not like something new has to be invented.  It's not even consistent in different parts of IE10, as you can see above!

    What's the point in delivering a font rendering scheme that is blurred and inconsistent by comparison to the prior version or other browsers (or even IE10 on Windows 7)?  Since when is "almost as good" good enough?  It's not like it never worked before.  IE has been about faithfully maintaining compatibility with past browsers, but apparently not in this.

    IE10 RP on Windows 7 has the color-assist, and it follows the ClearType tuner setting.  Will Microsoft attempt to degrade Windows 7 through Windows Update by releasing the final version of IE10 without it?  Let's hope not.

      

    -Noel


    Detailed how-to in my eBooks:  

    Configure The Windows 7 "To Work" Options
    Configure The Windows 8 "To Work" Options

    Friday, January 18, 2013 10:06 PM

All replies

  • Noel,

    you know the IETeam doesn't troll here.

    Mind telling us what your Control Panel>Display resolution settings are? Oh look... mine has orientation.


    Rob^_^

    Saturday, January 19, 2013 3:00 AM
  • Noel,

    you know the IETeam doesn't troll here.

    Where's that coming from?  I happen to know that the fine people at Microsoft DO read this forum.

    This is a seemingly small but significant issue in my opinion- subtle enough I imagine that many folks don't even notice it.  People nowadays sometimes don't notice things unless you slam them with it Las Vegas style.  It's too bad, but it's no excuse for designers to make things worse.

    Why nitpick my wording?  I know that many monitors can rotate.  Mine can too.  But DO you regularly do so?  Have you ever done so?  Chances are you, like pretty much everyone else, DON'T - you just leave them in landscape mode.

    Do you or don't you find IE10 on Win 8 harder to read?

     

    -Noel


    Detailed how-to in my eBooks:  

    Configure The Windows 7 "To Work" Options
    Configure The Windows 8 "To Work" Options

    Saturday, January 19, 2013 3:44 AM
  • For anyone curious about how different it looks when rendered on a monitor with or without the color assist, consider these macro photos showing rendering on IE9/Win7 vs. IE10/Win8 of the exact same text.  Note the difference in the smoothness of the diagonals, for example in the y character.

     

     

     

    -Noel


    Detailed how-to in my eBooks:  

    Configure The Windows 7 "To Work" Options
    Configure The Windows 8 "To Work" Options

    Saturday, January 19, 2013 4:14 AM
  • There's a reason the people who invented ClearType put in the color-assist.  It effectively triples your monitor's horizontal resolution by lighting up individual columns of red, green, blue.  It's just NOT THERE in IE10 on Windows 8.

    Not there or not used?   FWIW I recently came across this document and have been wondering how to exploit its information

    http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/ms724947 

    E.g. I have been imagining that there will be some registry values somewhere corresponding to these?  Perhaps something which PowerShell could help me list?

    So, for your example, is there any way that you could exploit any of the various values associated with  SETFONTSMOOTHING?

     
    Good luck

     
    Robert
    ---

    Saturday, January 19, 2013 8:15 PM
    Answerer
  • Thanks, Robert.

    Without more research I'm guessing just a bit, but I think those values are what the ClearType Tuner application is adjusting.

    Thing is, Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8 specifically IGNORES those settings and does the font smoothing its own way.  That's the essence of what I'm complaining about here.

     

    -Noel


    Detailed how-to in my eBooks:  

    Configure The Windows 7 "To Work" Options
    Configure The Windows 8 "To Work" Options

    Sunday, January 20, 2013 1:48 AM
  • I'd really like to switch from Chrome to IE as my default browser, but because of this font rendering issue I simply can't. I'm even beginning to wonder if I should switch from Android to Windows Phone, since I won't be able to sync all my preferences and history between IE on Windows Phone and Chrome on my laptop. Does no one else see this is a real issue in the long term?
    Tuesday, January 22, 2013 4:56 PM
  • What, lack of integration an issue?  LOL  Of course it is.

    Part of me wants to believe that Microsoft had some initial technical problem with IE10 that caused them to have to avoid doing the color-assisted font smoothing, though the amount of time the problem has persisted is now too long for that to be a viable hypothesis.

    It's encouraging to see it done right in Windows 7, and for those who remember the very first version in Windows 8 DP did it right as well.  Only when the CP came out did we see the problem introduced.   Clearly it was done on purpose.

    It's hard, lacking feedback from Microsoft, to understand why a development organization would visibly degrade the output of their software, ESPECIALLY when it was (and is) quite capable of doing the job right.  It may be that there's a requirement by some manager to do the font rendering without color.  Great!  Make it a freaking OPTION!

    It's clearly not a competency issue, since it was already working.  I even tried rotating one of my displays and I found that refreshing the browser (on Windows 7) re-rendered the characters properly in the new orientation.  And no engineer I've ever met would think that a degraded font rendering process is superior to one that was already better - engineers are not stupid.  So this change (and the lack of an option to allow power-users to retain proper color-assisted font smoothing) must be something that's being FORCED by management.  It was probably no more difficult than hard-coding the system setting for color-assist to zero, then using a different setting (referencing the new configuration screen that showed up in the ClearType Tuner) to gauge the gamma.

    Microsoft:  Forcing inferior, oversimplified products on people is going to net you FAILURE.

    Is there some twisted reason FAILURE could be the actual intent?

     

    -Noel


    Detailed how-to in my eBooks:  

    Configure The Windows 7 "To Work" Options
    Configure The Windows 8 "To Work" Options

    Tuesday, January 22, 2013 5:33 PM
  • It's encouraging to see it done right in Windows 7, and for those who remember the very first version in Windows 8 DP did it right as well.  Only when the CP came out did we see the problem introduced.   Clearly it was done on purpose.

    I just think of all the moaning about green fringes, etc. to imagine that yet again "the squeaky wheel" has been greased, not to the advantage of most.
    Tuesday, January 22, 2013 6:44 PM
    Answerer
  • Thing is, there were opposing viewpoints to the "moaning" (I was there, for one).  Doesn't that say "option" rather than "just remove it"?

    I can't help but get the feeling this is an issue that's so subtle that the majority of people just can't understand it or notice it.  It doesn't hit them over the head, blitz their vision, or slam them with 100dB of sound, so what does it matter?  It's telling that not a lot of people are participating in this thread.

    I suppose I shouldn't be surprised...  Microsoft - though a different division - is deprecating Windows Backup because "only" 6% of users use it.  Must not be a good feature, right?

    This dumbing-down BS is for the birds.  Angry ones.

     

    -Noel


    Detailed how-to in my eBooks:  

    Configure The Windows 7 "To Work" Options
    Configure The Windows 8 "To Work" Options

    Tuesday, January 22, 2013 9:10 PM
  • Noel,

    you know the IETeam doesn't troll here.

    Where's that coming from?  I happen to know that the fine people at Microsoft DO read this forum.

    This is a seemingly small but significant issue in my opinion- subtle enough I imagine that many folks don't even notice it.  People nowadays sometimes don't notice things unless you slam them with it Las Vegas style.  It's too bad, but it's no excuse for designers to make things worse.

    Why nitpick my wording?  I know that many monitors can rotate.  Mine can too.  But DO you regularly do so?  Have you ever done so?  Chances are you, like pretty much everyone else, DON'T - you just leave them in landscape mode.

    Do you or don't you find IE10 on Win 8 harder to read?

     

    -Noel


    Detailed how-to in my eBooks:  

    Configure The Windows 7 "To Work" Options
    Configure The Windows 8 "To Work" Options

    Its always part of my testing plans when deploying adaptive layouts (using @media queries and viewport meta) (see jqueryMobile.css)

    Noticeably... font rendering IS degraded in viewport sizes that are non-standard (choose a display option say, 800x600)... ditto for 'wide screen' video formats.

    these are public peer to peer forums. MSFT has a policy of not answering questions unless it has not been answered after a twenty four hour period... (MSFT get a different 'view' to that of a public visitor)

    Eric's rare intervention here has been at our request to him on private lists. (I am not sure on the exact numbers, but there are at least 20 PM's in the IETeam)... they work behind the MS 'Great Firewall'.. they have Blogs and any public announcements are peered reviewed internally. Great care is taken in publishing any information.

    Issue tracking and feedback is highly formalized (http://connect.microsoft.com/ie) to ensure that customer feedback is triaged to the appropriate MSFT employees and actioned in a timely manner....posting feedback in forums will go nowhere... you can however refer to forum posts in your feedback submitted at connect to give your argument some weight...

    Second Lastly.... MS makes software...."Surface" (tm) is their first adventure into the vertical Tablet market.... Components are drawn from a number of different OEM manufactures... win8 is 'offered' by other PC and Table manufactures. The nature of PC's is that you are not limited to the one hardware configuration... you can choose the manufacturer of every component from the motherboard to the screen and in-between.

    Apple has a higher capitalization value because they have a vertical market competitive advantage. Iris (tm) is patented. This limits what competitive technology screen manufacturers can use.

    ..and lastly... the human brain is plastic.... there are large variations around the median. Some are MAC's, some are PC's...

    Apple hardware has in general been more expensive that comparable PC and handheld alternatives.... I suppose you get what you pay for.

    Your font rendering issues has been a long running chest-nut..


    Rob^_^

    Wednesday, January 23, 2013 12:09 AM
  • Your font rendering issues has been a long running chest-nut..

    I'm not sure I quite know what you mean by that, but I can say that this problem is certainly not "mine".

    Microsoft, I'm sure, would like to succeed and pardon my presumptiveness, but it's always been my impression that making the best possible products helps with that.  All through my 36 year software engineering career I've been able to understand "why" things are done.  This represents a departure from that.  I truly cannot understand why something that's been a staple of Windows operating systems for years (and is STILL there in every part of Windows 8 except IE10) suddenly is just removed.

    I'm not sure who this "Eric" is that you're mentioning, and I'm not interested in name dropping in the slightest.  I have reported this to Microsoft via the other means as well (to receive the response, "it's by design").  In light of that I figured I'd pressure them here, publicly.  Frankly I can't imagine someone interested in how the public perceives their product not checking the forums hosted by their own company.  Maybe someone with more sense than the decision-maker will see this thread.

    Maybe a whole bunch of people find themselves with more eye strain or simply find IE10 harder to read on Windows 8 but don't understand quite why.  I thought that perhaps if they learned the root cause maybe they'll chime in and ask Microsoft for a better product implementation as well.  But given the lack of "me toos" here, it's possible that they're too busy shaking their heads over the blatant usability problems of Windows 8 to worry about things as subtle as this.

    Note that this problem has been known since March:

    http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/ieitprocurrentver/thread/9e219d56-e3d7-4f29-b19a-9ffd6e264add

       

    -Noel


    Detailed how-to in my eBooks:  

    Configure The Windows 7 "To Work" Options
    Configure The Windows 8 "To Work" Options

    • Edited by Noel Carboni Wednesday, January 23, 2013 1:50 AM typo
    Wednesday, January 23, 2013 1:47 AM
  • Same here, I was one step from buying a windows phone, but I'm so used to syncing my (Chrome) browser, that I'm reconsidering now. Strange the there is some talk about this not being a noticable issue for many. I noticed it about 10 minutes after giving IE10 a try. It's incredible that I can put IE10 and Chrome (or any other browser) side-by-side and see the huge difference. 
    Wednesday, January 30, 2013 5:57 PM
  • I used IE10 to read this thread. My eyes are already hurting... I'm not kidding, they really do!
    Wednesday, January 30, 2013 6:02 PM
  • Microsoft:  Forcing inferior, oversimplified products on people is going to net you FAILURE.

    Is there some twisted reason FAILURE could be the actual intent?

     

    -Noel


    Detailed how-to in my eBooks:  

    Configure The Windows 7 "To Work" Options
    Configure The Windows 8 "To Work" Options

    If you read a specific, infamous Vanity's Fair article that shaked some water, you will understand in what great extend competition within MS exist... I seriously believe this is a silent, insidious sabotage by an aggrieved group of developers.

    On the other hand, I really don't understand who are these people who say, "I don't have the problem; everything is perfect". Are Microsoft's Indian Fanbois that just discovered the 640x480 resolution on a CRT monitor, and everything seems fine to them?  They simply can't be serious... Unless this problem exists only on 1680x1050 or 1920x1080 resolutions...Noel, have you seen how the rendering is on Tablets or small laptops with much lower resolutions? Still as bad? I've seen a tablet in a store and it didn't look as bad, to be honest, but had no time for further testing. And I mostly opened pre-loaded MS websites that have had non-verdana/segoe/arial etc classic fonts.

    IE's font rendering is tied with Metro's font rendering, but simply I don't care about Metro because I don't use anything related. I truly want to start using IE10, though, since I believe is a quality browser, but... I can't find elsewhere such good smooth scrolling or hardware acceleration, but the font rendering is one of the major features on a browser... and it's completely broken. They ignored too much their stronger user base, which is the traditional PC users, on Windows 8, because they can, but this is unacceptable...

    Currently only on Firefox you can have the best possible font rendering on Windows: Tweaked Directwrite according to font families and sizes that are being used in order to get the best results. Chrome has stuck with simple GDI/Cleartype like we're still on XP, but even this, is better than IE on Win 8.

    • Edited by PC EliTiST Saturday, February 16, 2013 7:14 AM
    Saturday, February 16, 2013 6:46 AM
  • I haven't looked at a tablet running Win8 / IE10, but I suspect with the higher dot pitch (the Surface Pro is well over 200) the problem will be not visible, hidden by the seriously higher dot pitch.  However, since even the high ppi displays have R, G, B columns, there is no question that the font rendering there would benefit from the color-assist in ClearType as well, we just might not be able to see it so easily.  I guess Microsoft doesn't care about "subtle quality".

    I look forward to the day when I can have 5120 x 3200 pixels on a 30 inch desktop monitor.  But that day is not this day, not at any price (okay, there was once that IBM T220/T221 20 inch 200 ppi display that was so ahead of its time and exorbitantly expensive that almost no one bought it, but even those aren't being made now).

    "Retina" / high ppi displays are now in the hands of consumers, in their tablets.  You know they're going to want them in their monitors.  But we can't mention monitors, because they no longer exist as part of a failed market, right?  Who is Microsoft kidding?  One might ask, "why is Microsoft trying to force the the market to fail?"

     

    -Noel


    Detailed how-to in my eBooks:  

    Configure The Windows 7 "To Work" Options
    Configure The Windows 8 "To Work" Options


    • Edited by Noel Carboni Saturday, February 16, 2013 2:22 PM
    Saturday, February 16, 2013 2:16 PM
  • Well thank you for defining the reason. I too wonder why the fonts in IE10 looked worse then IE9. At least you provided a explanation for it. I guess staying with IE10 and Windows 7 is OK. I personally will NOT ever adopt Windows 8. I beta tested it and found it to be a annoying OS that I could not get used too. But that's another story meant for another comment blog.

    Thursday, March 7, 2013 12:53 PM
  • Yes, that's right, in IE10 when running under Windows 7 the problem identified at the top of this thread does not exist.

    It's only in IE10 running in Windows 8.  It's clearly been done on purpose, but for what motive we can only speculate.

     

    -Noel


    Detailed how-to in my eBooks:  

    Configure The Windows 7 "To Work" Options
    Configure The Windows 8 "To Work" Options

    Thursday, March 7, 2013 7:15 PM
  • I'm seeing terrible font rendering in IE10 on Windows 8 too.  I started troubleshooting the problem today and opened developer tools for the web page.  I chose the element selector tool and started to highlight the page element to inspect and all of the sudden, voila, the fonts looked fine.  I closed developer tools and the text reverted back to its uglier form.  I repeated the same steps several times with the same results.  Very curious.  I'll see if can do the same thing on different machines and pages.

    Inspecting elements using developer tools does effectively change the page being inspected (highlighting items by assigning border/outline styles, for example).  If only I knew what it was doing.  I know that in previous versions of IE, text placed on an element that has a filter applied would use a different rendering method.  I suspect something similar is afoot.

    Actually, the font rendering reminds me of Mac OSX. I wonder if Microsoft was trying to emulate Apple. I think that is in line with the motivations behind Windows 8 in general.

    UPDATE: I'm able to reproduce the behavior on another computer with Windows 8.  Furthermore, I'm able to reproduce the behavior on this forum page.


    • Edited by irefactor Wednesday, April 17, 2013 1:17 AM
    Wednesday, April 17, 2013 1:11 AM
  • VERY interesting observation, irefactor - thanks!

    Yes, I can reproduce it too.

    Doesn't really surprise me that IE's programming can do the job.  Clearly the APIs exist, as some of IE10's fonts are rendered with color-assisted smoothing.

    I captured a small animation to show the changes when one does what you've described:

     

     

    -Noel


    Detailed how-to in my eBooks:  

    Configure The Windows 7 "To Work" Options
    Configure The Windows 8 "To Work" Options

    Wednesday, April 17, 2013 1:49 AM
  • Great job with the animation!  I need to make better use of technology. :)
    Wednesday, April 17, 2013 2:57 AM
  • I'm sure this is a dead topic, but I came across a tidbit that I wanted to included. In an old thread I had made the suggestion that the lack of clear type in win8/IE10+ might be because clear-type wouldn't work as well on tablets when the pixel layout can be rotated. I was reminded of that thread when i came across this article:

    http://blogs.msdn.com/b/oldnewthing/archive/2015/01/29/10589474.aspx

    Apparently, it isn't due to rotation, but it is because IE uses Direct Manipulation.

    ...and again, it seems like they could simply disable clear-type only in the presence of a touch-enabled device.

    Tuesday, February 10, 2015 6:04 AM
  • Interesting article, thank you for posting the link.

    Thing is, GPUs are not getting less powerful.  Most folks expect the user experience to get better, not worse, as the hardware gets more capable.  But the whole thing I guess becomes moot at another level as monitor ppi goes up.

    There's another aspect to this as well...

    Since having participated in this thread above, I have changed my monitor layout.  I now have three 100 ppi monitors now, with the one in the center in the normal wide orientation with the typical RGB vertical LCD color stripes, and the two at the ends turned up sideways to a 1200 wide by 1600 high arrangement (so that the color stripes run horizontally).  Lo and behold color-aware ClearType does NOT render properly on the side monitors.  What's worse, with Windows 8.1 x64 MCE the ClearType Tuner application does NOT properly alter the actual ClearType color content on any monitor other than the center one.

    Perhaps the IE people know/knew about these upcoming Windows 8 limitations and figured their fonts would just look best overall if rendered without the color.

    And finally...

    There's been some lowering of expectations on my part and/or there's been some tuning.  The pure grayscale-rendered fonts don't seem (to me) to look as distorted or crunchy or worse as they once did.  So, after all my ranting above, I'll be honest and say that I still use IE and I really don't find the degradation of the font rendering feels like a big problem any more.  Maybe that's a result of my having lowered expectations for the Windows 8 UI overall.

     

    -Noel


    Detailed how-to in my eBooks:  

    Configure The Windows 7 "To Work" Options
    Configure The Windows 8 "To Work" Options

    Tuesday, February 10, 2015 11:47 AM