Coding Horror

programming and human factors

Consolas and ClearType

You know you've entered the highest pantheons of geekhood when you get excited about Microsoft's new fixed-width font, Consolas. I am always on the lookout for a better fixed-width programming font. After reading Scott's post, and then Steve's post, I was intrigued enough to copy it from a Vista install on to my XP box.

And that's when the disappointment set in. Here's Lucida Console, 9 point. Just to clear your visual palate.

lucida_9_standard.gif

Consolas, 10 point, standard font smoothing. MY EYES! THE GOGGLES! THEY DO NOTHING!

consolas_10_standard.gif

Consolas, 10 point, ClearType font smoothing.

consolas_10_cleartype.gif

I'll definitely agree that Consolas is one of the best looking ClearType fonts I've ever seen. That's probably because it is part of the first font family designed from scratch with ClearType hinting in mind.

However, I prefer not to use font smoothing on my programming fonts. And Consolas looks like crap without ClearType! Consolas appears to lack any kind of hinting for reasonable display at small point sizes. Consolas isn't just optimized for ClearType, it can barely be used without it.

Well, so much for that. Consolas, you are dead to me. Here's hoping someone at Microsoft wises up and adds the normal font hinting so Consolas displays legibly at 9 to 13 points.*

For the record, I am not anti-ClearType. On a high DPI display-- think 15" laptop display with a resolution of 1600x1200-- I definitely like it. But on a display with a more typical DPI, say a typical 19" 1280x1024 panel, the ClearType RGB pixel noise around the fonts is extremely fatiguing to my eyes. Particularly when reading fixed-width programming fonts.

Now, before you write me off as a font hatin' luddite, let me point out that Rick Strahl has almost exactly the same problem with Consolas, ClearType, and programming fonts that I do. It's a great technology, but it's also a high-DPI display technology, and Windows sucks for high DPI displays. That's a huge disconnect. And it won't be resolved until Windows Vista ships.

* If the whole hinting thing doesn't work out between us, it's good to know that Consolas can find some alternative work in spanish-speaking countries.

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Exchange and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: http://twitter.com/codinghorror