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What program or configuration is responsible for making fonts sharp and clear?

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We call it Subpixel-Smoothing. See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subpixel_rendering –  omnidan Jun 21 '11 at 9:59
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@Daniel0108, post an answer. –  Oxwivi Jun 21 '11 at 10:18

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Both systems, Microsoft's ClearType and FreeType, use Subpixel Rendering, which utilises the RGB subpixels on your TFT display to make the glyphs appear sharper and improve their form.

One important difference is that Windows tries much harder to fit the font into 'the pixel grid', which is why it looks 'sharper', at the expense of the glyphs' contours:

ClearType also uses very heavy font hinting to force the font to fit into the pixel grid. This increases edge contrast and readability of small fonts at the expense of font rendering fidelity and has been criticised by graphic designers for making different fonts look similar.
from Wikipedia's ClearType

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Thank you for the information summary. I like the Ubuntu method more, btw. Not just because it's open, I like it because it looks smoother and it's easier to read. Am I allowed to add your post to the askubuntu.com/questions/tagged/subpixel-rendering wiki? –  omnidan Jun 21 '11 at 15:17

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