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I'm running 10.04 which uses libfreetype6 version 2.3 and which is not able to do proper hinting of certain fonts. However, if I understand correctly, later versions are capable of hinting fonts properly. So why does Natty still have slight-hinting by default?

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I think that each font should have its own setting, but since that is not possible and the Ubuntu font looks better fully-hinted, I think that the default should be full hinting. – daithib8 May 24 '11 at 10:04
up vote 7 down vote accepted

It's a matter of taste. Full hinting can be very aggressive, as it changes the original shapes of the glyphs to fit the grid. Some people like this XP-like crisp look, but others prefer slightly fuzzier Mac-like style. There has to be some default in Ubuntu, and slight hinting sounds like a good compromise.

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This depends on the font itself. Usually when the font does not contain hinting information, then it gets uglier with heavier hinting. On the other hand, when the font does contain hinting information, it usually looks better with the highest hinting. – Let_Me_Be May 22 '11 at 19:03
Uglier or prettier hinting is a matter of taste, and I'd seen long threads with people arguing over that. That's why I tried not to favor neither approach in my answer. – Adam Byrtek May 22 '11 at 19:23
Ok, sorry, bad chosen words. Should be "easier to read (prettier), harder to read (uglier)" – Let_Me_Be May 22 '11 at 19:43
@Let_Me_Be that's still a matter of taste... – TM. May 22 '11 at 22:35

Because the patent for font hinting expired just recently and the old version of libfreetype simply isn't compiled with font hinting.

Plus because Ubuntu doesn't provide major software upgrades within one version, you can expect font hinting only in the upcoming Ubuntu releases (talking about the official packages of course).

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10.10 and 11.04 come with freetype 2.4, which according to wikipedia at least, is able to do proper hinting – daithib8 May 22 '11 at 13:43
@daithib8 Freetype is capable of doing proper hinting for many, many years, the problem is that the patent expired just recently. Packages compiled before the patent expired are compiled without this feature (for obvious reasons). New packages should be compiled with hinting enabled, since the patent is already expired, leaving no legal issues. – Let_Me_Be May 22 '11 at 15:37
The patents expired a year ago, and the bytecode interpreted is enabled by default starting with FreeType 2.4. – Adam Byrtek May 22 '11 at 18:02
Also note that it doesn't imply there was no hinting before, only that the quality was lower. – Adam Byrtek May 22 '11 at 18:03

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