12 June 2007

Forward Looking Font Display

Yesterday, Apple released their own Safari 3.0 web browser for Windows XP and Windows Vista. Amid the security and performance comparisons, folks are also noticing that Apple has also ported their own sub-pixel display technology to Windows. Joel Spolsky summarizes the differences sucintly:

Apple generally believes that the goal of the algorithm should be to preserve the design of the typeface as much as possible, even at the cost of a little bit of blurriness.

Microsoft generally believes that the shape of each letter should be hammered into pixel boundaries to prevent blur and improve readability, even at the cost of not being true to the typeface.

I think Apple's method will turn out better when we all have resolution independence along with hi-resolution displays. The real question is will the current font display fuzziness in Safari turn off the current unwashed masses, so that even when hi-res displays become standard, it's too late. If that happens, Safari will follow a great Apple tradition: high technology ahead of its time.

3 comments:

David Weiss said...

P.S. Dave Shea just posted some interesting comments about this topic. He also concludes that high resolution will put an end to this problem, but that maybe, just maybe, the Windows approach might even make more sense from a type designers perspective.

alcatholic said...

Just read Shea's piece, and it seems your last sentence gave me the wrong impression about Shea's argument. I originally understood your last sentence to read that Cleartype's "lead" would grow with higher DPI's, which of course is the opposite of Shea's point.

Sorry about the inelegant nitpicking. :0

BTW, if you recall Hyatt had a big Surfin Safari post last year about resolution independent website graphics. He was arguing for standards such as scaling factors and multiple image servings depending upon browser provided screen DPI info, and it seemed that he was clearly thinking about the high DPI future be it with a possible resolution independent Leopard or the high DPI iPhone type devices.

Two things from that. 1. Webkit is optimizing for high DPI's today. 2. It could be that Hyatt's high DPI work in Webkit works hand in hand with the entire rendering technology, such that Hyatt could not separate out the anti-aliasing if he wanted to, i.e. Apple may not care as much about their anti-aliasing approach per se as the overall balance of technologies built into the Webkit rendering engine geared toward high DPIs.

alcatholic said...

Well, Apple may not be so far ahead of its time if its antialiasing works like gang busters on the relatively high DPI iPhone screen. Nokia also has very high DPI mobile's that Safari may be installed on.

At the D: conference Jobs talked about how PC UI's can't change too radically because of installed based, but he expects a lot of UI innovation in the post-PC space, eg iPhone, iPod, AppleTV. Given that, I think Apple is investing and targeting its UI R&D toward the Post-PC devices, most of which seem to be small screen/mobile. It is those smaller screens that are going higher DPI much sooner than 20" computer screens.

So, it just might be the small screen, high DPI roadmap that Apple is targeting with Webkit and it's resolution independence technologies.