Microsoft Fudges up my Fonts

I’ve long advised people to use browsers other than Internet Explorer. In the old days Netscape did a better job, while for some while it’s been Mozilla Firefox that has been setting the standards.  So until a few days ago I hadn’t bothered to upgrade the copy of IE that I only use for testing web pages from IE6 to IE7.

But people – or most of them – had told me that IE7 was better, and then various sources began to warn that IE6 might be a security risk, and in any case I decided I really ought to be testing my sites on the browser that most people use, which is now IE7 (of course I also test on Firefox.)

Well, the good news is that my computer still works after the upgrade.  But the bad news is that IE7 still doesn’t work properly, and, at least on my computer,  that it managed to mess up my fonts.

With Firefox, the index for my monthly pages  is fixed in position when you scroll down the items on the page. IE7 still ignores the style=”position:fixed;” that achieves this, and I still have to use various unnecessary invisible images to fix some of it’s problems with layout.

But even worse, I found it rendered the text on my pages fuzzy and hard to read, whereas in Firefox they are clear and sharp. IE6 hadn’t looked quite as good, but the difference was small.

Normally I don’t mention computer stuff here, but this is something that messes up virtually everything I put on the web, and will also effect you if you have a web site, so I think it’s important to let everyone know the reason and the solution.

The problem is that IE7 by default uses something Microsoft calls ‘ClearType’. For some people, especially users with very cheap and nasty screens, this is probably a good thing. But most photographers especially will have pretty decent screens and it is likely to actually make your fonts look worse.

So the first thing I tried was simply to switch it off in IE7. Tools menu, Internet Options, Advanced and you will find it under Multimedia.  Clear the box, ok things and it should make it better (you may need to exit and restart IE7 – its the kind of thing Microsoft like.)

Doing that I still wasn’t happy with the fonts – they just certainly a lot better, but still noticeably worse than Firefox, with some odd weak areas in letter shapes.

Clear type has been around since XP came out, but many of us have never felt the need to use it. I went to Microsoft to find out more about it, and took advantage of their ‘Clear Type Tuner’ to alter its settings.  The instructions told me how to turn ClearType on for my display (Right click onthe desktop…  Properties, Appearance, Effects and click in the box to use a screen font smoothing method, then choose ClearType – I found my previous setting was Standard.)  Then I could use their tuner to select the best effect.

Of course I also had to switch on using ClearType in IE7 and then it gave almost as good a display of screen fonts as Firefox.  The only thing left was to go back to the desktop and reset the screen font smoothing method to Standard, as even with the tuned ClearType my desktop was rather less readable than before.

Rather a performance, and one that would have been unnecessary if those arrogant b’s in Seattle hadn’t decided to mess up my computer in the first place.

So, if you are finding my fonts here or on My London Diary hard to read, then you probably either need to install Firefox or sort out your ClearType settings. Or you could just need to see an optician.

iona- bokeh

Back to photography, I’ve just updated My London Diary with the rest of my pictures from Scotland, including work from Glasgow, Iona and Staffa. The picture above is from Iona and illustrates something I don’t much like about the Nikon 18-200VR lens I wrote about recently. I find it’s rendering of out of focus areas (sometimes referred to as ‘bokeh‘) just slightly unpleasant. Yet another reason for using wide-angle settings where you can get everything in focus!

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