Tiger Blemishes

Several readers have noted some problems in the display of my comments entry form, courtesy of the very recent iterations of Safari released with Mac OS X 10.3.9 and, of course, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. In essence, what were once orderly boxes now appear tumbled and in disarray when rendered by the new versions of this Web browser. The form remains fully functional; it’s presentation has just been more or less destroyed, is all. This is a byproduct of Apple’s vigilant, ongoing improvements to Safari’s CSS rendering engine, a process which I wholeheartedly support, in theory… I won’t lie to you, though, the fact that little bugs like this continue to arise annoys the heck out of me.

Below right: Something’s up. This site’s navigation, rendered by, first, Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, and below it, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger.

This problem can be remedied, of course, and I will try and find a little time to fix it up in the next few days. What concerns me a bit more is the more subtle change to the way Mac OS X renders anti-aliased text in at least some installations of Tiger. Have a look, if you will, at the old, Panther method of rendering the Subtraction.com navigation bar, below. It’s slim and elegant and it respects the shape of the typeface. Compare that to Tiger’s rendering method, directly beneath, which is fatter and less true to the typeface’s forms. Something has changed under the hood here — something having to do with the way type is rendered from my PowerBook, because this isn’t happening on my desktop G4 — and I don’t know if I like it. If you know what’s up, please let me know.

Subtraction Navigation
  1. Text rendering seems generally different on both my desktop and laptop installations of Tiger – I feel like we might have a new cut of Arial at work, as well as some changes to anti-aliasing or similar. But in the case of your nav bar it seems possible that changes to CSS rendering in this new version of Safari have resulted in the text being bolded for some reason…

    By the way, I just noticed something I LOVE about Tiger: you can undo/redo text in textarea boxes in Safari.

  2. I have a hunch as to what’s causing it, but I could certainly be wrong.

    Tiger has a new option under System Preferences > Appearance > Font Smoothing Style: Automatic. It also turns this option on by default. I wonder if what it is automatically choosing for your Powerbook is not what you are used to?

  3. It’s strange to nail down. This “fattening” or “bolding” of the text isn’t limited to laptops. On my Mac Mini connected to a 20in Cinema I get the fat letters as well.

  4. Ugh I hope it’s the font-smoothing setting is wrong or something. Otherwise bold faces now look bad like they do on WinXP. Next we’ll get the blue-cast and ugly gamma of Windows! Ack!

    No Tiger here yet, so can’t confirm…

  5. Font-something is wrong. The text looks like crap in Firefox as well as Safari. Didn’t notice it until you brought it up, since I’ve been working on the XP machine most of the last few days.

  6. I see the ugly, bolder font rendering all over in Tiger: the current selection in a pull-down menu in Safari or Entourage, the text in a GrowlTunes popup window, the selected file or folder name in the Finder. However, I don’t see it in Firefox. This leads me to believe it is something corrupted in a part of Cocoa that all of these applications use to display text. It doesn’t seem like it is specific to Safari or Safari’s CSS handling. Adjusting the font smoothing did not make the problem go away.

    Over on macintouch.com folks are reporting font related problems but most of these are related to third-party font management tools like Suitcase. It sure is annoying but, thankfully it is not hindering use of any application. Just the enjoyment.

  7. Font smoothing has actually taken a step up for me with Tiger. Many websites which previously had blocky fonts, poor boldening and other issues now look fine.

    On my Mini at least, the font in your navigation bar looks fine – Akin to the shot showing how it looked in Panther.

  8. Jeff Croft: You win the gold star. I went to the Appearance preference pane and changed Font Smoothing to “Standard – best for CRT.” At first it didn’t do anything, then I rebooted and now everything is elegant again. There are other settings too which I didn’t fiddle with, “Light,” “Medium – best for Flat Panel” and “Strong.” I suspect that when it was on “Automatic” previously it was selecting “Medium.” Anyway, in my experience all this stuff is subjective; everyone sees it differently. I actually know a friend who thinks that Windows’ font smoothing approach — ClearType, or whatever it is, I don’t recall — looks great. A real person!

  9. Will I be shot if I say I don’t think Windows’ font smoothing is the worst thing ever, or just ridiculed? From what I’ve seen, yes, Apple generally seems to do this better. But Windows has, at least, improved since Windows 95 was released. Not enough to not make me want to switch, mind you, but enough that using the computer each day isn’t a totally soul-destroying experience. Fonts are smoother and more readable than they used to be, by a long way; enabling ClearType is the first thing I do when I log on to a common-use university PC.

    In any case, how Firefox on Windows XP renders your navigation bar is far closer to the Panther iteration than the Tiger one, so clearly it can’t be totally out of whack.

  10. Khoi-

    Glad to hear it worked for you. I wasn’t so lucky to get it right the first time on mine, but it also worked for me. I’m on a Powerbook using it’s built-in LCD and it turns out the only font smoothing option that renders text similar to the “Panther way” is “Standard – Best for CRT display.” Of course, this was the last one I tried. Go figure. 🙂

  11. It looks the same as ever for me on the Powerbook. I actually like Tiger’s new “Automatic” setting – I used to have to manually switch between CRT and Laptop when using the Powerbook connected to my large monitor. Now it detects the display and adjusts appropriately…

    Also, no reboot required when changing the setting – it just won’t take effect in currently running apps – quit and relaunch and it should work – at least that’s how it worked in Panther…

    PS. Laptop / LCD setting uses something like ‘sub-pixel rendering’ – google for more info – gets technical…

  12. I don’t know if anyone else is having this problem, but upon installing Tiger, half of my fonts are gone!!! All i did was a straight upgrade, and now most of the fonts i use are gone. When I did a search for these fonts, all i get is a file called AdobeFnt05.lst. The simpliest solution would be to get where i origanally had these fonts, and put them on my computer again, unfortuantly, i assumed they were part of the OS and dont have them anywhere else that I know of.

    Can anyone help, as all Apple told me was “That shouldn’t happen”


  13. I was having the same problem on my iMac G5 and it was driving me crazy. Setting the font smoothing to “Standard – Best for CRT” returned things back to normal.


  14. Hi guys I had the same problem with my powerbook 17 1.67 I had Panther and the text rendering was just great, then I erased everything and did a fresh installation of Tiger, the text is orrible, I had tried the different rendering option but of course I didn’t try CRT!!! gonna try it out now!


  15. Just wanted to note that I had a similar experience as mentioned above: Installed Tiger and some fonts started rendering poorly (thickly, etc.)– switched to “Standard – Best for CRT” (I have two flat panel monitors, one Apple, one 3rd party) and *poof* the problem went away (after a restart.) Thumbs down Apple for this crappy implentation! Thumbs up Google for having this page show up when searching “font problems in Tiger”

  16. I got myself a Mac Mini for christmas, tried it for a week and found that there were a few subtle things in the interface of MacOS X that makes it unusable for me. The blurry text in Tiger was number one. I work with computers, I have to spend my whole day in front of the computer screen looking at text and the eye strain I get using OS X is just unacceptable. So, I put it up for sale (locally).

    I get the impression that MacOS X throws hinting out of the window. Some common fonts just look bad on Mac with antialiasing off compared to other OS:es with antialiasing off. Common fonts in small types when used in Linux w/ Freetype look sharp when antialiased but just a blur on the Mac.

Thank you! Your remarks have been sent to Khoi.