The default X11 font rendering settings have changed considerably since Hardy: Karmic and Lucid render fonts very differently -- it seems that more subpixel hinting and antialiasing gets applied. Is it possible to get the old settings back? (The new default hurts my eyes, and have a strong negative impact on my productivity.)

In System / Preferences / Appearance / Fonts, I have all fonts set to Arial. I have Arial installed on both my Hardy and Lucid machines. Smoothing is set to Grayscale, Hinting is set to Full, Subpixel Order is set to RGB.

A visual illustration of <span style="font-family:Arial;font-size:13px">Peter, <b>Peter</b>,</span>:

  • hardy_gray_good: hardy_gray_good
  • lucid_gray_bad: lucid_gray_bad
  • lucid_subpixel_bad: lucid_subpixel_bad

Hardy renders the HTML fragment above as hardy_gray_good above, and I'd like to get the same on Lucid -- but Lucid can only render it as lucid_gray_bad or lucid_subpixel_bad (depending on my font rendering settings in System / Preferences / Appearance / Fonts / Details / Smoothing. How do I get hardy_gray_good on Lucid?

See http://dl.dropbox.com/u/635918/fontrender/fontrender.html for all the sample images and their zoomed counterparts.

I'm not asking which font I should use. In this question I'm interested in fixing the rendering for all fonts, with the existing renderings (lucid_gray_bad and lucid_subpixel_bad) and the desired rendering (hardy_gray_good) illustrated for Arial at 13px.

I'm not asking which of the 3 variants above are more readable -- for me, hardy_gray_good is much more readable than the 2 others, and I'd like to have it on my Ubuntu Lucid system.


I've figured out that the font hinting setting is responsible for the quality difference I perceive. The rendering of hardy_gray_good was done with the medium hinting setting, while the others used the slight hinting setting.

One straightforward way to solve my problem is doing all these:

  1. Change the value of System / Preferences / Appearance / Fonts / Details / Hinting to Medium. Other settings there such as Smoothing doesn't matter much: Subpixel is a great default for LCDs, but Grayscale can be fine too.

  2. Edit the fontconfig configuration to set the hinting to medium. The simplest way to do this is the following:

    cp -i /etc/fonts/conf.avail/10-hinting-medium.conf ~/.fonts.conf

    This editing has proved to be necessary for Firefox and Chrome, because they ignore the System / Preferences / Appearance / Fonts / Details / Hinting setting.

  3. Restart applications such as Firefox and Chrome. The simplest way to restart all of them is logging out and back in.

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  • If this solves your problem completely, please accept your own answer. – Marius Gedminas Nov 3 '10 at 11:44

Why don't you try the new Ubuntu font? Maybe is more optimized for new settings.

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  • Thanks for your answer, but it didn't help me. I am looking for a solution which fixes every font (about 5 of them) I use regularly. There are no problems with the font files, there is a problem with the rendering software or its configuration. I'd like to fix that. – pts Nov 2 '10 at 12:19

I would recommend using ubuntu font as well. You can also try Droid Sans font. Both these look good.

You can change the default settings from Appeareance Preferences. The previous defaults AFAIR are slight hinting, RGB and subpixel(LCD) smoothing.

Full hinting is not always good.

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  • 1
    Thank you for taking time writing an answer, but it didn't help me. I have already mentioned in another comment that in this question I'm interested in fixing the rendering of all fonts -- not trying different fonts. My point is that both machines have the same rendering settings and the same fonts, but only Hardy renders beautifully -- Karmic and Lucid are ugly for me. – pts Nov 2 '10 at 12:50

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