No timetable
for the readability wars

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And the winners are...

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Cleartype serif comp.

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Bin & bang.

aFTER A FLURRY of discussion about the Microsoft proposal on EOT font embedding, I have some further thoughts on the subject of screen fonts.

This study on Cleartype vs. Bitmaps... "Subpixel addressing is a font-rendering technology that triples the apparent horizontal resolution of liquid crystal displays."

Sit human beings down with the same font and text in the same point size and composition, and get a majority to say there was no apparent difference in the resolution between 96 dpi and 288 dpi monitors... did they?

"Taken together, these findings suggest that subpixel addressing provides substantial benefits to users while adding no costs to display hardware."

Taken, however from the truth in the field, from the originators of many ClearType fonts, and in all practical typographic practice aimed at products for reading and writing type, 120 dpi is the lowest resolution arguably, that users are clearly better served with GreyScale or ClearType rendering as it is...144 dpi is the first uncontested resolution at which all users will be satisifed exclusively by subpixel rendering to the smallest sizes, and that happens regardless of underlying "technology" i.e. at 144 dpi "greyscale" will be the thing users choose, because it adds no color at any size when defining what should be by definition, a monochrome definition.

At 96 dpi, the market is now fragmented between ad hoc, greyscale, B&W and ClearType, with browsers offering various interfaces to "the font" one can choose, so, although this 96 dpi clot is adding no costs to display hardware, they are spending much more time figuring out what they need to do to read and write, this and that comfortably.

And also, we have a fresh surveyor in over at Filipe Fortes' Web site.

I like this for several reasons; It goes beyond the butterflies I collected of Cool, Clear and Quartz types, and it uses some other fonts. It shows a good understanding of the "color" issue, as I explored in an early thread on, but with a lapse in proper terminology, I guess, assigns terms like "readability", and "winner" quite lightly.

This: "The lack of subpixel positioning destroys the serif font at small sizes"... Must be some kind of misunderstanding I don't understand. If serif fonts were subpixel positioned at small sizes, the design would not be destroyed, being the implication? contains a demonstration of serif cleartype, some of which is re-selfpublished here. [Serif Comp.] [Bin & Bang].

The left specimen is careful to every pixel and sub pixel in the direction of reading, the right is what happens to the same contour "Naturally Rendered" as fonts made for ClearType are, which is not in control of every single pixel and sub pixel in the x direction. I'm not really interested in the "readability" of the other technologies mentioned if they simply do ad hoc rendering in x or y, as they depend on resolution or pixel-precise contour alignment in the design stage for quality readability to be possible. (The specimens at make a "read" impossible by fading at the end of each line of every specimen, so perhaps they are instead intended for "a look", instead.)

I discussed the san serif color issue down to earth on — One either has control over text color via variation technology or lots of drawing as I show (or both ), or one goes to publish with the text one gets from whatever rasterizer/font combo(s) one uses. This is a limitation in several ways to be thought about. Nevertheless, the "winners" listed at are poor in readability, I think, for a reason I excerpt from an essay, "Meme, Myself and i-no-dot": " a 'sans' for 'text readability' at 'economical sizes' the [i-no-dot] description is: 'optically appropriate' 'lowercase' 'straight stem (foreground)' followed by 'optically appropriate 'inter-character' 'lowercase' straight space' (ground) , 'optically appropriately reduced' from 'lowercase n' 'intra-character straight space'."

So, if that's the basis for an i-no-dot that can be read in text, and I strongly believe that it is, then how do you define a winner with an "i" like this one; [illustration: the winners are] On the bottom, as illustrated in a clip from, the "winner" lost me. I know, I'm picky, but pickiness I can tell you, is spreading as fast as the type fog that is trying to envelope it. If a technology makes an i, an el an I or a 1 into a blur at any size above 8, without beginning or end, it's ad hoc.

Letting go on: "Considering the lack of cross-browser font-embedding, this probably isn't a problem for most." The cross-browser font-embedding scheme being offered for donation, and Roger's blog title are the last issues of this entry, "Now if it would only rain" Roger says, but to add water, I mean; "Now if it would only rain water" might be best. For years I've wanted a way to silently and skillfully embed fonts in web content, primarily for text. Now, with the current state of fragmentation on rendering, hints, line layout and embedding, it's not such a nice kind of rain.

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