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Anti-Aliased GNOME and Mozilla 221

Ur@eus writes "Want to see how nice your GNOME desktop and Mozilla browser will look anti-aliased? We have just posted screenshots and a non-stable patch on Gnotices" Here's evolution and mozilla displaying slashdot. Neither are perfect, but its still exciting to see progress.
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Anti-Aliased GNOME and Mozilla

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  • Fonts at small sizes often look better in their raw bitmap (or truetype hinted) form; anti-aliasing makes things look blurry. I'm no big font expert on linux, but is it possible to use anti-aliasing for only large fonts (say, 14pt+) and really tiny fonts as Windows does?
  • The separation into separate processes, at least as it exists now, hinders these goals.
    No! Whatever concerns you may have about the inconsistent UI's, the fact that they are implemented as seperate processes is GOOD DESIGN. You might argue for having a consistent set of these processes, instead of replacable components that differ, but the fact that the WM, Xserver, and gui toolkit are all independant in memory and runtime is a very good thing, and should be kept that way even if you'd like there to only be one choice of WM, one choice of Xserver, and one choice of gui toolkit.
  • Doesn't seem to be that big of a deal, I've been able to get anti-aliases fonts on windows for years now, and the source to do it as well.

    It just goes to show how little you have to do to get attention and praise from the open source world, which is a good thing I guess.


    Streamripper []

  • In typical internet fashion, a few vocal geeks incited ...
    Please do me the courtesy of assuming I can think for myself. Dismissing everybody with a certain kind of opinion out of hand is bigoted, illogical, and (worst of all) lazy.
    Whoa, hold on there cowboy. Did I say that "fm6 incited ..."? The internet I was referring to includes millions of vocal geeks who are not fm6.

    Misreading a post that is supposed to be a humorous comment on human behavior as a personal attack and responding by calling someone "bigoted" is even more intellectually lazy than the behavior you decry...
    You think being a MIB is all voodoo mind control? You should see the paperwork!
    I was trying to figure out why it looked like such crap!
  • To my mind the whole point of Linux, GNOME, KOffice, Apache and every other open source project isn't to produce bleeding edge software. It is to raise the bottom line of functionality for software. Anti-aliased fonts are now becoming a part of Linux, which means that every future operating system from now on needs to offer them.

    Sure, Microsoft is forging ahead with .NET as Linux catches up in so many directions such as with their desktop software, printer support (e.g. CUPS) and so forth. But Linux is raising the bottom line and as the gaps are filled in, its becoming a stable and functional operating system that costs nothing. And Microsoft has to work harder to justify charging money for their operating system.

    In a way I hope Linux doesn't drive Microsoft out of the operating business. The only way that Microsoft is going to survive against the Linux threat is to start pushing ahead and finding ways to be competitive in terms of delivering value, instead of creative in ways of gouging money.

    If Microsoft wants to keep the checklist of features that makes Windows superior and worth paying money for long, they're going to have to keep adding items. Anti-aliased text has just been removed from the list of items that Microsoft can hold over Linux.
  • Hmm, and I wondered where those came from. For a while there there seemed to be applications using the IBM guidelines as stated above, the apple guidelines, and of course the scattering of "I can come up with my own shortcuts" programs roaming around.

  • The reason is may be because at small point sizes, with black text on a white background, the edge of a font might not actually have any black pixels.

  • X (>= 4.0.2) supports AA natively but the apps have to make use of it, which is what they're starting to do.

  • Actually, I'd beg to differ. For AA algorithms that are *properly* implemented, AA gives a larger effective screen resolution, since the blending causes the view to see a perfectly smooth line in between the actual positions of the pixels of the screen. That makes small point sizes easier to read (for many people, anyway) because the blending enhances the real shape of the letter (parts of which are smaller than 1 pixel)
  • they removed the messages and links..'nuff said, obviously /. got scared and ran.. *shrugs* either that or the ISP quietly *removed* the msg's because it figured no one would care to look them up (read also, I am an artist, I have no life ;) ) thereby complying with M$ even though *we* urged /. to fight it.. ah well... c'est la vie noir
  • thats great, lets do something about that hideous times new roman font and youve got yourselves a convert

    NEWS: cloning, genome, privacy, surveillance, and more! []
  • It is indeed shiny. I can't wait this this become standard for the two main toolkits. KDE [] has the capability too.

    Now all they need to do is work out a consistent UI between GTK and QT apps. Roll on the unified UI Style Guide!
  • It is important to understand that there are two ways to perform anti-aliasing, one for very small fonts (which is usually called hinting) and one for large fonts (usually called anti-aliasing.)

    In PostScript Type 1 fonts, for example, each glyph has information contained within the file called rendering hints. These allows the font renderer to shift the "legs" and "stems" of the glyph so that they are on the pixel boundaries by informing the renderer how far it is allowed to move the boundaries without making the font look crappy (i.e. unreadable). These hints ensure that there is at least one "white" pixel between the legs of an 'h' at very small font sizes, where without hinting they would be rendered as a single two pixel wide bar, making 'h', 'b' and 'k' indistinguishable. Similarily, with very thin fonts, a renderer that doesn't use hinting may decide that a glyph doesn't cover enough of the pixel to be rendered at all. Suddenly, many 'I' glyphs would simply disappear... ;-)

    In this sense, hinting could technically be called anti-aliasing, but in my experience, the term anti-aliasing is usually reserved for the case of larger font sizes looking jaggy.

  • Thank you for the explaination, but please add that the PS/TT Font Renderers in XFree don't handle the hinting information very well at all.

    Poor hinting, NOT the lack of Anti-Aliasing, is the #1 reason that text looks like crap on XFree. While Windows has AA, it's only enabled for very small or relatively large fonts. Unless you routinely surf the web with a 16pt font, AA doesn't buy you squat on Windows.

    My fear is that the "solution" to the Font problem on XFree will aliasing now that it's been invented and integrated into the popular toolkits. Well, that's not solving the problem - it's masking a symptom. And really, looking at blurry 12 point text is not as great as it might seem from those screenshots.
  • Its not salesmanship or first impressions. The benefits of anti-aliasing are just as real as higher resolution screens, higher refresh rate monitors, and ergonomic chairs.
  • It's only on the english language page.

    Any bets how long before we see ximians in

  • I think this will slow X Window down to crawl. It's already slow, but at least it only has to transfer bitmaps to the server and cache them there. It's not an option with AA. It will transfer letter images in 24 bit without any caching. And if you remember that X uses IPC even locally and IPC has never been as fast as direct API calls... Goddamit, somebody invent some replacement to X!
  • Windows has been my platform of choice precicely because of the smooth edges on the fonts.

    Really? In all the years windows9x has supported this I have never noticed a difference. I always attributed this to the fact that I run my monitor at a real high resolution where any anti-alaising effect would be diminished.

  • Transmeta and Redhat's venture capitalists and
    stock holders paid for it. Thanks guys, shame
    about the stock price.
  • >Obviously you need to learn something about User
    >Interface and appreciation.

    You say this after flaunting your preference for antialiased fonts, as if to imply that anyone who doesn't use antialiasing in their design is a moron. The first rule of UI, whether graphical or not, is "give the user the choice." You prefer antialiased fonts. I don't, cause they give me a headache, plus I don't need fonts when I'm looking at porn.

    This is definitely a step forward. It just needs to be made into a preference which the user can configure to his taste.

  • X does not do Anti-Aliased fonts.

    From X 4.0.2 on X does have support for things like antialiasing and alpha blending.
    Apps just need to start supporting them, which is exactly what this article is about.

  • It has the same pixel layout of LCD screens? That's why it looks fine. On my triniton Dell, it still looks weird. It just inflames your eyes. Hard to explain.

    d00d ur l337! 31337 |\/|0n10R!

    XML: Leading the way to make the web a ebiz thing
  • My fonts are not antialiased

    Actually, they are... just only in certain cases. Usually large or bolded text is antialiased, but the Windows fonts are, in general, optimized for 10-12 points, so they look better without the antialiasing. Once you try to scale them up, the antialiasing kicks in and smooths things out so it looks better.

  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Friday February 09, 2001 @01:36PM (#442904) Homepage
    Oh, Thank God. I know that a lot of bitheads have a tendancy to rate visual appeal nuances low on the "importance" totem pole.

    Moreover, I can't argue that scalability, reliability, efficiancy and the like are more important than having fonts with smooth edges. Still, for my surfing dollar, Windows has been my platform of choice precicely because of the smooth edges on the fonts.

    Sounds silly, doesn't it?

    But hey, silly first impressions count for a lot. People buy iMacs because they look cool. People spend thousands to make their cars look faster with body kits and the like. And people think that Windows is more advanced because it looks cleaner. It's not logical or fair, but it's true.

    Anyhow, kudos to the Gnome crowd for getting this done. Now if only "Gnome" didn't automatically remind me of that "Scary Indian Fakir with No Legs and the Squeaky Cart" episode of the X-Files a few weeks back (shiver)....


  • What I'd really like to see is some sub-pixel rendering. Then we could start to see what LCD displays (and other displays with very precise pixel placement) can do. -Steve
  • yeah, it is pretty easy to do.

    we can just check the font size and then skip the AA loading if it is small.
  • While I think it is great that is GNOME moving forward, are anti-aliased fonts that great?

    I have been running Nautilus PR3 and they just don't do it for me. I would rather have the current font setup.

    I think this is just a case of "we dont' have it so if must be really cool" or "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence". Microsoft has had aa-fonts for a long time and only uses them in about 20% of the time.

    Slashdot with aa-fonts didn't look too hot :(


  • Obviously you don't read much but just look at porn. To look at porn you don't need anti-aliased fonts.

    If you actually try and wade through the load-of-troll crap .. it's nice to have anti-aliased fonts to help read what FUD you are trying to put on the screen.

    Obviously you need to learn something about User Interface and appreciation.

    Would you like a Python based alternative to PHP/ASP/JSP?
  • I agree.. I used anti-aliased fonts on Mac OS 9 when it came out, but then I quickly changed back to aliased. The reason is that, for me at least, prolonged exposure to those fuzzy edges gives me a headache.

    Also, I think that the aliasing actually helps to differentiate between letterforms on current monitor screens, particularly when looking at sans-serif fonts. When fonts are too fuzzy, you have to focus more intently on the actual letterfrom to discern what letter is being represented. Thus, the headache.

    As far as I'm concerned, antialiasing is great in graphics apps but not all that useful as long as our screen resultions are still so horrible. Give me a monitor with 1200 dpi resolution - THAT would be progress. Antialiasing is just a workaround that just doesn't work for me.

  • not to mention even windows 3.1 had true type, which looked WAY better at low resolutions (that is, on the screen) than the fonts in X do today, unless you have a true type server...
  • Um, X doesn't have a UI. That's the responsibility of 'manager' applications that run on top of X.

    This sounds like I'm nitpicking, but it's important to keep in mind. It's a double-edged sword. A lot of X fans defend the separation between low-level API (X), high-level API (a toolkit like QT or GTK) and window manager. But, it's that very separation that prevents the level of interoperability between windowed applications that you see in MacOS, BeOS, or even, in its own endearingly half-assed fashion, Windows. I don't have to worry about what toolkit a given BeOS application was built with; as a user, I shouldn't need to know that anyway.

    I'd also like to submit the idea that this isn't just a "non-technical user" concern. It's an efficiency concern. The fact that someone is competent enough to work around inconsistencies in interfaces doesn't mean they wouldn't be able to work faster if those interfaces were consistent. As a "UI Geek," I'm not arguing that we need to take away the beloved CLI (even in BeOS, I'm using the bash shell a lot myself), but I am arguing that a full-featured, responsive GUI where menu behavior and drag-and-drop behaves more or less consistently across the desktop and all applications greatly enhances productivity and power.

    Ease of learning doesn't necessarily mean ease of use, but consistency, responsiveness and quick feedback usually does factor into ease of use. The separation into separate processes, at least as it exists now, hinders these goals. Some of that can be overcome through brute force as CPU power increases--but it can only be truly achieved through a conscious effort to design a coherent system, not independent pieces.

  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Friday February 09, 2001 @04:04PM (#442917) Journal

    Windows has been my platform of choice precicely because of the smooth edges on the fonts.

    This is really strange. My Windows desktop looks better at 800*600 than that PNG (and I am viewing the PNG with something that handles PNGs very well). My fonts are not antialiased. I never even knew Windows (98) supported that. The antialiased fonts just look blurry to me. It's actually kind of distracting and I wouldn't want it. I've been watching this whole "let's get antialiased fonts" thing with detached amusement. Am I the only one that feels this way?

  • by ZeekWatson ( 188017 ) on Friday February 09, 2001 @02:50PM (#442918)
    This technology existed in Windows 3.0 Is the latest tech news these days really reduced to how open source free software is finally getting some of the features that existed in closed source technologies for years and years? I'd rather see stories on innovation -- open or closed source.
  • by vinnythenose ( 214595 ) on Friday February 09, 2001 @01:22PM (#442920)
    Wow... it's so shiny....
  • why do I care if my fonts are "anti-aliased". what does this mean?

    Alias is a phenomenon you get whenever you sample a system under the nyquist frequency of the system, which is half the highest frequency of the system. Typically, the frequency components above the nyquist frequency will be mirrored -folfing- with respect to the nyquist frequency, and will thus create noise in the frequency band we are looking at.

    This is typically what happens when you listen to an old sound file. Of course a significant part of the noise comes from the fact the bit resolution is low, which gives an SNR of 48dB. Whith 16-bit sound you have a SNR of 96 dB which is much better. But you also get much noise because you sampled at say 22.050 kHz, which sucks.

    This is also what happens to be a big drawback to DIVX ;-) movies I used to download from the Internet : most stupid people encode the movies at 48kHz, and don't take the time to downsample (lowpass filtering) the sound stream to 44.100 kHz, which happens to be the playback frequency of most consumer soundcards. As a result, you get a sound that sucks on most systems, while taking more space.

    As I just mentionned, you can elimlinate much of the alias problems by filtering out the frequency components, a process that will also throw out some of the useful components, because an infinite order filter is not realizable.

    Let's now take a look at the alias phenomenon on computer graphics. As there is no more analog computer with a full analog display, you have to take samples -pixels- of the idealized image. Typically on white-and-black text, the idealized color will go from white to black as fast as possible, maybe in one tenth of a pixel distance. This is by definition not realizable, as the sampler -the rendering subprogram- will only see black, and then white on the next pixel. I don't have enough insight to tell how this folding results in bad quality images, maybe someone can take over at this point.

    Again, the solution to graphical aliasing is easy : do lowpass filtering. You might want to take a 2D-fft of the image, and filter it in the frequency domain, and then go back to the "time"-domain, but you can also do something easier : calculate 4 times as much pixels, and take the mean out of them. This is in fact the same, as what you then just have done is integrating and the Laplace-transform of an integrator is 1/s , which is a lowpass filter.

    you can also take in account that the 4X supersampling mentionned above also is alias, because of the INFINITE bandwith of the idealized system to be rendered. So again, you can decide to supersample the subpixels. Of course after a certain depth, it won't matter anymore to your eyes, and you can stop. In a well designed system, there will generally be a an automatic choice whether or not to supersample a pixel. This is then called adaptive supersampling

  • Really. I use anti-aliased fonts everyday on BeOS, and these days, I can't stand to be near X (even with the good MS-made TrueType fonts.) Of course, some people are extremely sensetive to visual anomolies (I can see flicker at 85Hz, makes buying monitors an expensive ;) Whatever your preference, do not discount it as a waster of CPU cycles. During your day to day desktop tasks, the alpha-blender on the GFX-card isn't doing anything, so one might as well put it to use. (Kinda like how "free memory is wasted memory")
  • by SpanishInquisition ( 127269 ) on Friday February 09, 2001 @01:25PM (#442928) Homepage Journal
    but will it make it anti-biased?

  • by linuxlover ( 40375 ) on Friday February 09, 2001 @01:43PM (#442935) Homepage
    Dunno if you looked at KDE. But it is pretty decent. If you are 'inside' KDE environment, everything works seemingly (cut'n paste / drag 'n drop -- b/w applications too). Try KDE2, you won't be dissappointed. their window manager still sucks though ( I am a WIndowmaker person)

    When X was 'invented' there is no concept of 'inter-application communication' through GUI (how ever other means as pipes / sockets / shared mem existed on Unix for a long time). Then these things were 'glued on'.

    One advantage windows had however, is they came out at a time these GUI things were around (MAcs) and they set the standard (ie this is how you cut text / this is how you drag stuff). So no wonder every win application behaves the same way.
  • Someone already posted a comment about this, it was at -1 and I was going to mod it up 'till I read it all. The last paragraph really was flamebate.

    So, here's the content:

    KDE and QT can do AA fonts etc too, it's not in the official QT yet, not the official KDE but it looks like it should make it in to Qt 2.3ish and KDE2.2ish. These versions guesses only.

    Some articles are:

    The status of QT and AA:

    More details WRT KDE support: /

    Anyway, I've seen many similar screenshots and it looks great.

    BTW: If you haven't checked it out recently, Konqueror (KDE's web browser) has vastly improved with 2.1B2. Check it out for sure! It does a lot of the things people are waiting for in Nautilus (and it lets you use Evolution at the same time ;)

  • Try my fonts from Linux Font Project [] if you want good fonts for Linux that look as good or better than fonts in Windows.


  • Do you know of, or could you write an antialiased HOWTO so that others can attempt to get an antialiased desktop working?


  • Actually, BeOS anti-aliases ALL point sizes, and it has the best text I've seen (aside from maybe QNX6, but that call is totally subjective) It probably uses a better TrueType renderer (both use BitStream's) but it just shows that anti-aliasing does not make text ineherently blurrier. Also, its a god send when you're trying to read 6-8 point type, since without anti-aliasing, they're nearly illegible.
  • Good god, you grognards piss me off. What makes you think that functionality and beauty are inversely related? Try thinking outside the box for a change.
  • Yup if you want to give up being able to customize your GUI and all of the advantages of *nix because god forbid you might have to think and learn your apps. I've got a news flash for you the Windows GUI is horrible it is just what many people know and they have convinced themselves that it does not suck. Take a couple of hours to set your Linux box up well you will save yourself days with the time you can save and all the other things that work better. AA text can only make this better and is a *really* good idea. My GUI (E + Gnome + the Irix theme) work very well thank you very much and because I took a few minutes to learn it it all works like I expect it to. In contrast Windows "feels" broken to me.
    Linux the choice of smart people!!
  • Is it just me, or is this kind of look-at-my-new-shiny toy what most of the effort in the open source community seems to be going for?

    No, its not a toy. Windows has Anti-Aliased fonts, X does not. I use Word Perfect 8 Under Windows and Linux, and I hate to admit that it looks awful under Linux. This is not the fault of Corel, it is the fault of X. X does not do Anti-Aliased fonts. The lettering in X has "Jaggies" you may be familar with how much 3Dfx was going on and on about their FSAA Technology, its a similar idea. Anti-Aliased fonts are simply easier to read.

    Under X, even though people try to make the skins pretty, the actual UI is anything but clean. Can't we work on cleaning things up, and making the UI more reliable instead of making pretty shiny toys?

    I almost suspect you are an old-style troll, but maybe this is a genuine comment. Perhaps you should try the latest versions of KDE (quite clean IMO) cleaner than the Windows interface at any rate. I myself admit that when in Linux and X I use one of the "wizbang" interfaces on my desktop, but here is the kicker, I prefer it to the Windows desktop. (For those who care, I use Gnome and E with the Blueheart Theme over 9 Virtual Desktops) What it comes down to is choice. If you don't like the wizbang "features" of some of the desktops, don't use them. I have seen KDE and FWMV95 so configured as to be identical to Windows, and by default, KDE looks much like Windows, so if you don't like the interface, head over to [] and pick a really "boring" one. Remember, Linux is not for everyone, nor should it be, but it is, first and foremost about choice.
  • X has support, that is why Gnome and KDE now have support.
    The bravado is because for Gnome to have antialias, X needs to have support and Gtk+ needs to have support.
    Support in X was finished just recently (in XFree86 4.0.2), and support in Gtk+ is now available (as stated in this article).
    You COULD have Gtk+ do this on it's own, but it'll probably be software based and slow. Nautilus already does this the hard way, and that isn't excactly racing.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The reason?

    I want one too! =)

  • This is a toolkit problem, not an X problem. Besides the lack AA fonts (which is IMHO an overrated problem) You're blaming X for something it has no control over.

    If every app you run uses a different toolkit, then you're going to end up with an inconsistant desktop. Pick GTK+ or Qt, and standardize on that if it is important to have a constistant look to your desktop.
  • What your really want is the UUWA (Unix Unified Widget API) It's really time to seperate the apps and the widget sets. Widget sets provide a standard API, apps use the standard API, and the user chooses whichever widget set they like best. Everyone ends up happy (except those programmers belonging to the XWSDC (X Widget Set of the Day Club)

    As for speed, the anti-aliased text could probably be cached at some point (since 99% of text is drawn in white). Even if it wasn't, lots of OSs do full time anti-aliasing, and the performance hit is extremely minimal.

    Still, as a graphics-oriented person, I find your comment "yet more processor and memory overhead just to draw the screen" very funny. From my POV, drawing the screen is the single most important task of the OS ;)
  • by baboon ( 4086 ) on Friday February 09, 2001 @01:57PM (#442975) Homepage
    The idea of antialiased font rendering sounds great, but in this implementation it seems to cause me increased eye strain.

    I download the images and compared the slashdot pic in xv next to Netscape 4.75 using Lucida B&H 12 which is about the same size. The antialiased version makes me strain my eyes.

    I question why there red and yellow pixels when antialiasing black text on a blue-grey background. Is this just limited color depth and, if so, what's it like in 24bit?

    The only other reason I've could imagine for the colorful text is if they're trying to compensate for the displacements of the individual color elements, like with LCD screens. In either case, I can see the tiny red and yellow edges on my screen.

  • not quite. that seems to be an internal link?
    http://primates/~vladimir/aa.tar.gz ?

    I tried replacing "primates" with but it didn't work either.
  • It sounds to me like you have anti-aliasing set to operate on too small of font sizes. You really want to have the boundaries of the glyphs to be much smaller than the average size of whitespace within the glyphs. What is happening is that the intensity of the whitespace within the gylphs is not completely "white", so that your eyes (and brain) have to work extra hard on recognising the boundaries of the glyphs.

    So try upping the threshold at which anti-aliasing takes effect. You should notice an improvement and still get to see pretty typesetting on the screen.

  • I've got to disagree with you.

    We've worked very hard to have Gnumeric import workbooks from MS Excel correctly. This has meant figuring out more than I want to know about MS fonts. However, when viewing the same sheet in gnumeric and XL MS looks better. It all boils down to the fonts. Until Unix can render fonts (at odd sizes) in a nice pleasing fashion we will always look rough around the edges (pun fully intended).
  • by _fuzz_ ( 111591 ) <me AT davedunkin DOT com> on Friday February 09, 2001 @02:15PM (#442981) Homepage
    You mean here [].
  • here []
  • Windows 95 does AA with MS Plus, and 98 has it as an option... Display Settings, Effects tab "Smooth edges of screen fonts" and it does it... but certain sizes of text isnt aa, like the text im typing, and posts on /., but bold stuff and bigger fonts are, unlike the gnome/mozilla screenshot where all the text was AA making the text blurry and hard to read. (see [])

  • Are you indicating that when it comes to web surfing, you're unable to get past superficialities?

    Well, no. I'm indicating that antialiased fonts tend to be easier on the eyes, and the various UN*X web browsers tend to be particularily big offenders. I'm lazy -- that's why I like UN*X. If something is easier to do, read, maintain or whatever, I'll take it.


  • Or IE 5.5, which seems to have very good PNG support.


  • Why not a movement to add TrueType fonts as a more standardized option in Linux GUIs?

    Would be cool not to have to jump through hoops every time I set up a linux box just to get all the websites to show up nicely.

    It's also pretty hard to argue with the fact that there are more freely, and commercially available truetype fonts than any other, and when exchanging documents with people on other platforms, or viewing most web pages, truetype fonts are a neccesity.

    To me, I'd rather see wider font support overall than efforts to blur existing fonts, which most likely don't look like they should anyway.


  • I can't wait till the day irony blue screen's my bionic eyes. []

  • You didn't mention IE, so I figure you were talking about Linux. But then why did you fail to mention Konqueror? It's as if everyone ignores this browser, yet it's likely the best one available for Linux.

    And if it's because you haven't tried it, well.. try it! KDE won't bite =) (take that both ways).

  • Now lessee. Windows was conceived first as OS/2 in 1985. The first Microsoft OS to have anti-aliased fonts was Windows95. A speedy ten years to provide something. However Linux folks have taken a mere four years to provide the same from scratch. Remember that MS has had 25 years and has only recently produced an OS that doesn't crash at least once a week. That's because Linux was allowed to become a good platform before the pretty pictures were added, not the other way around.
  • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Friday February 09, 2001 @02:02PM (#443006)
    I'm reading an article on slashdot about screenshots. Click on the screenshot and it shows the article on slashdot!

    Which came first? The article or the image?

    I feel like my brain is about to blow core.
  • by tchristney ( 133268 ) on Friday February 09, 2001 @02:02PM (#443008)

    Text of this sort is called "aliased", for reasons which escape me.

    It is called aliased because of the boundary effects. In essence, when a glyph is rasterised for display without anti-aliasing, a binary decision is made as to whether or not a given pixel is on, depending on how much of the pixel would be filled if the screen were of infinite resolution. This causes an effect called aliasing, where the boundary of the glyph is not in the same place in the theoretical infinite resolution raster and the real screen (printer, whatever) resolution. The boundary of the glyph is aliased to the boundary of the pixel.

    With anti-aliasing, the intensity of a pixel is a function of how much of the pixel is covered by the glyph being rasterised. For mid-to-large size fonts, this results in a much improved visual appearance, since, to the eye, the boundaries appear to be where they would be with a screen of much higher resolution. For small font sizes, anti-aliasing usually blurs the gylph beyond recognition.

  • yup, thanks. Don't know how my link ended up that way :)
  • I'm surprised this wasn't a priority a couple of years ago. I must admit that I'm a basically a linux newbie, I've only started running the OS regularly in the past 2 years, even though I played around with it for a little bit back in '96.

    I was so surprised when I first brought up the slashdot page in linux, it looks so bad without anti-alaising. Anyway, congrats to the AA team, I can't wait to download a stable version.

  • gnome news is /.ed, where can I get the patch?
  • One thing to notice is that both images posted here use subpixel rendering, which is only useful on LCD displays. Subpixel rendering uses the knowledge that each pixel is made up of a discrete set of red, green, and blue rectangles, that are next to each other. The glyph rendering code can then use this knowledge to make text appear smoother, since it can turn on, say, the red channel of an adjacent pixel, knowing that it's it's physically next to the blue channel of the previous pixel. Keith Packard has more info on his pages at his web page [], including a few sample screenshots with subpixel rendering turned off and on.

    However, this only helps on LCDs. It is not possible on CRTs to have as fine of control over individual color channels. As such, these screenshots might look suboptimal or blurry on non-LCD displays. Note that some may recognize that this is very similar to what Microsoft calls ClearType (R, tm, whatever). Indeed it is -- however, that name is owned by MS. Jacob suggested SchweetFont as a possible alternative name. :-)

  • by Brento ( 26177 ) <{brento} {at} {}> on Friday February 09, 2001 @01:26PM (#443021) Homepage
    Antialiasing basically means blending the edges - not so bad that things appear "blurry", just that they have smoother blends from one edge to the next. Fonts are usually the easiest to appreciate - they look finer, more distinct, as opposed to blocky and pixelated. They're smoother, easier on the eyes.
  • Oh, using POVray do draw the screen - what [an] excellent idea
    If you're going to be anal, be careful about your *own* word usage!
  • I'm sorry, but you are incorrect.

    The end users are benefitting from this. KDE comes out with a new feature. The GNOME people say "hey, that's cool... we should do that... but here's what we can do to make it better..." and the KDE people then see the improvements, and incorporate those improvements, and add improvents of their own. And then the GNOME people... you get the idea.

    KDE and GNOME are different projects, have different goals, and have different design philosophies. I dig KDE because of a few little usability differences. I program for KDE because I love Qt's signals & slots event system. I learned UI development using propegated event handling in Java 1.1 (the EventListener model) and Qt's model makes perfect sense to me. As does KParts and DCOP. I feel at home.

    GNOME people, however, are probably more comfortable in the way GTK+ handles things. I personally have a hard time following GNOME code, but that doesn't make it bad, just different.

    Although I think interoperability between the two (shared file formats, themes, hints, messageing [KParts talking to Bonobo components, etc.]) would be a great thing, I don't think the projects should merge. Linux is all about choice. KDE and GNOME have distinctly different flavors, both of which are cool. I prefer KDE. About 1/3 of my friends and co-workers prefer GNOME, 1/3 prefer KDE, and 1/3 prefer any number of other window managers and environments (the CTO at my company uses TWM!) It's where they all feel comfortable.

    "Evil beware: I'm armed to the teeth and packing a hampster!"

  • by vukicevic ( 199951 ) on Friday February 09, 2001 @01:26PM (#443024)
    The slashdot screenshot referenced was done using an older version of some color code; this has since been fixed. I've placed a new screenshot in place of the old one.

    There's a few buglets, but they're mostly related to memory usage and getting the right font based on the requested X font; other than that, things work fairly well.. (I run my entire desktop antialiased with only minor glitches).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 09, 2001 @01:27PM (#443027)
    Well, All systems use a few standardized fonts like Verdana, Arial, Heveltica, etc... Sometimes these fonts will try and get sneaky and change their names to something like Deep Throat, Professor X, or Batman so that when you open up Microsoft Word, you won't know where your favorite font is. Anti-Aliasing is a method to keep your fonts from changing their names without your consent.
  • by kyz ( 225372 ) on Friday February 09, 2001 @01:27PM (#443029) Homepage
    It means they look nicer and take longer to draw, unless your gfx card does it for free. That's about it.

    The bravado is because X has absolutely no support whatsoever for antialiased fonts, and deliberately makes it difficult for the toolkit writer.
  • No, you are incorrect in suggesting that I'm saying the projects should merge.

    I'm arguing for a consistent UI. Yes, competition is good, but first and formost is a consistently behaving UI (really - those that have standardized interfaces don't worry about competition, those who have competition worry about standrized UIs). You're a developer, and it sounds liek your workmates are - you seem to pick toolktis based on how easy theya re to develop for. But face the inevitable reality that end user spick apps based on quality rather than toolkit. There's no reason File -> Open should look different in KDE than GNOME. Yes, let them use different keyboard shortcuts. Bet let them use different keyboard shortcuts over every applciation, rather than 45% each.

  • You are probably using Netscape classic it can't render png images correctly. Try Mozilla or an external image viewer.
  • by larien ( 5608 ) on Friday February 09, 2001 @03:38PM (#443041) Homepage Journal
    I wondered the same, but there's a post [] above (ie, it's been modded up to +5) which says the poster changed the image after the submission.
  • Fonts at small sizes often look better in their raw bitmap (or truetype hinted) form; anti-aliasing makes things look blurry.

    True--but below a certain size (roughly, when the pixels are bigger than the features of the glyph), blurriness is the lesser of evils. In this domain, un-smoothed text is so blocky, it's hard to recognize. (On the other hand, it's probably best not to try to read such small letters in the first place!)

    is it possible to use anti-aliasing for only large fonts (say, 14pt+)

    14 points is not big enough at typical screen resolutions, IMO. Blurriness persists until lines are more than a pixel wide.

  • by Ur@eus ( 148802 ) on Friday February 09, 2001 @02:11PM (#443046) Homepage
    The patch is available here [primates]
  • Gnotices is completely slashdotted and the submitter neglected to explain what project this involves. A patch to what is available? Given that it affects both the Gnome desktop and Mozilla, I assume it's a new feature of GTK....?

  • This isn't JUST anti-aliasing -- it's subpixel font rendering, which Microsoft calls "ClearType []." It's used in their Reader product. For a more technical view of subpixel rendering, check out Steve Gibson's page [] on the matter.

    Anti-aliased text in X isn't new [], but subpixel rendering definitely is.

    Some people have posted about the color fringes around the edges of the letters. This looks kinda weird on a CRT but the effect on an LCD is very clear. This is only really nice looking on an LCD screen, and that's what subpixel rendering is designed for.

  • "Then your fonts would be too small to see, so you would have to scale them up, oh look, your fonts look like shit again."

    If a monitor could display at 1200 dpi, it would actually be showing 1200 dots per inch, rather than 75 dpi like most current monitors. 1200 dpi is the resolution of high-quality print on paper.

    Take a look inside a professionally-published magazine. The print is clear and sharp because paper can "display" with such clarity. The dots are smaller. However, if we had monitors capable of 1200 dpi display, there would be no need for anti-aliasing. Our eyes can't really even distinguish the individual dots at 1200 dpi, thus 1200 dpi text is inherently smooth and crisp to the human brain.

  • by Qwaniton ( 166432 ) on Friday February 09, 2001 @02:32PM (#443052)
    The reason this is happening is those antialias examples use ClearType technology, which is meant for LCD screens. It "borrows" reds and greens from neighboring pixels, to make a kind of subpixel effect. But, for CRTs, it just burns your fscking eyes out. I don't know why the developer chose it this way, but he's made a goof. Idiot. Windows 98 may be evil and occult, but it uses *REGULAR* anti-aliasing. That doesn't burn your eyes out. It uses different shades of the same fscking color to produce the anti-alias effect. It's easier to read. If you look at the evolution pic, you can see in the zoom, different reds and blues are used in the anti-alias process. Now type foo in GIMP and zoom in. The GIMP uses conventional, and non-eye-incinerating antialiasing. Like I said, Cleartype may make wonders on LCDs, but on the tube that everyone plus bob has, it burns your eyes out.

    XML: Leading the way to make the web a ebiz thing
  • by Mark Gordon ( 14545 ) on Friday February 09, 2001 @01:28PM (#443054) Homepage
    The screenshots PNG's have transparency and therefore look lousy under Netscape 4.x. To see how they really look, you'll need to use either Mozilla or a standalone image viewer.
  • This [] is a nice explanation with examples. Those screenshots are better looking then Kobe Tai and Jenna Jameson in a shoot with each other. I want it and I want it now.
  • Rasterman [], the creator of enlightenment [], has been working on Imlib 2 [] and EFM []. From what I can see, it looks very impressive. I don't have access to the source code for Efm but from the screenshots [], I can imagine.

    My question is : doesn't imlib2 has some sort of mechanism to do exactly what I saw on gnotices?

  • So uses transparent GIFs. Who cares?

    Well, part of it's the usual religious bullshit. But a lot of people have legitimate concerns about how they can use GIF files or GIF software without paying royalties.


  • I have trouble reading anti-aliased fonts; I can read them rather well, but after a while I get the strange feeling my eyes get tired. I asked a few friends and some of them have the same problem. Does someone have a clue why this is? I do by the way think anti-aliased fonts look much better than normal ones, but for the reason above, I'll stick to my normal fonts.
  • Windows doesn't AA fonts until they get > 16 pts.

    I've always wondered about the rationale behind this. The point of anti-aliased text, it seems, is that without it, jagged edges seem like characteristics of the actual glyph. I.e., its like walking through a forest at night - there are things which look like the path you're travelling, but aren't. When you're reading the text, your brain goes `the glyph seems to curve here', but it actually doesn't - you're just following the arrangement of the pixels.

    At smaller point sizes, the size and frequency of these `false paths' increases. It would seem to me that small characters are more important to antialias than large characters. Try reading Verdana at size six antialiased and non-antialiased. AA is readable, otherwise isn't.

    Anyone have any ideas? Microsoft typography generally know what they're doing, so I trust there's a rationale behind the decision. Or maybe its a technical limitation of their GDI...

  • The patch updates GTK+, GAL (gnome application library), gnome-libs and mozilla
  • Believe it or not, there was actually an interface guideline for Windows 3. It was an IBM document that was also used as the basis for the OS/2 interface.

    The document specified that the standard shortcuts for cut/copy/paste was Sh+Delete/Ctrl+Insert/Sh+Insert. Of course, Microsoft went and broke this standard right off by supporting Apple-style shortcuts in MS Word, but it took a couple years before all Windows apps supported Ctrl+X/C/V.

    There was also the issue of Borland, a major framework vendor at the time, making up it's own UI widgets. Anyone remember those gigantic OK buttons with the green checkmark?
  • If every app you run uses a different toolkit, then you're going to end up with an inconsistant desktop.

    That's not the solution.

    Non technical people pick their apps based on quality, not toolkit. I use Konqueror because its good, I use rp3 because its good. There's absolutely no reason why GTK and QT couldn't...

    a) Use the same theming engine
    b) Make sure a similar rnage of widgets is available on both platforms
    c) Write a combined style guide similar to the MacOS Human Interface Guidelines for consistent application interfaces, so file -> open in Gimp looks the same as file -> open in Konq.

    They already share the same drag and drop protocol, and soon they'll share MIME types.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Windows doesn't AA fonts until they get > 16 pts. Either you use HUGE FONTS all the time, or what you are really seeing is Microsoft's superior font hinting engine which makes screen fonts look much nicer than XFree does. The 'jaggies' aren't an aliasing problem they are a combination of shitty fonts and a shitty font renderer.
  • Once you understand the UI in windnows, it's simple and clean

    Once you understand the UI in X, it's simpler and cleaner. And it works. The difference is that it takes longer to understand the UI's on X than on Windows. Some would naively say this means Windows UI is better, but they are forgetting that easier-to-learn does not always mean easier-to-use. MS still to this day hasn't been able to fix the annoying hung-app-no-WM problem. (There is no window manager process in Windows, and apps are in charge of their own moving when you move, resize, or minimize them. This means that an app that isn't responding is physically stuck on your screen where you can't move it out of the way while you wait for it to unstick.)

  • by be-fan ( 61476 ) on Friday February 09, 2001 @03:44PM (#443084)
    Anti-aliasing only uses shades of the same color. What Evolution is doing looks like my first AA line (got the shading wrong, ended up with lots of pretty colors ;) Somebody said it had something to do with a ClearType-type technology, so maybe that's it.
  • why do I care if my fonts are "anti-aliased". what does this mean?

    Text is often composed of a two-dimensional array of black and white (say) pixels. (Duh. You knew that.) Text of this sort is called "aliased", for reasons which escape me. The problem with aliased text is the jagged edges on diagonals and rounded characters. Anti-aliased text, by contrast (pun not intended) has greyish pixels on certain borders between the black and the white, lending a more rounded shape to things that would otherwise look stair-stepped.

    Some people like this. And sometimes, especially with TrueType fonts at very small point sizes, it can be very nice. (Notice how damned unreadable Netscape is on UNIX? Aliasing at work.) But other times, like in the screenshot, it just makes things look fuzzy.

  • Now lessee. Windows was conceived first as OS/2 in 1985.

    Erm, nooooo....

    However Linux folks have taken a mere four years to provide the same from scratch. Remember that MS has had 25 years and has only recently produced an OS that doesn't crash at least once a week.

    You may be right about the stability issue. But when we talk about GUIs and fonts, and anti-aliasing, you have to talk about X, not Linux. X has been around far longer, and is maintained on something over a dozen different operating systems... you may even buy a commercial X server for Windows. Linux is an operating system kernel only. Not a single program nor its libraries are considered to be "Linux," as the vast majority of them were/are developed completely separate of any system bearing the Linux kernel.

    This is particularly the case with X. X was begun in 1984 by some clever folk at MIT. Anti-aliased fonts in Windows were introduced around 1996 (IIRC). Therefore a far more accurate calculation shows that it took X far longer than Windows to introduce this bit of eye candy.

    Even if the above weren't true, your suppososition of it taking "Linux" a mere 4 years would be way off. This year is 2001 (IIRC) and the first version of Linux, 0.01, was released in August of 1991. That would make Linux nearly 10 years old, more than double the four years you claim. Linux history does not begin the instant J. Random User installs Red Hat for the first time on his desktop.
  • If they are software developers then yes, one cannot write code using the GIF standard without paying Unisys royalties; however, if end-users use software that has paid royalties (i.e., PhotoShop or PaintShop Pro) to generate their GIFs then they are covered and don't have to pay any royalties.

    Two issues here. First of all the Unisys policy (as it was announced back in '95 -- I can't seem to find a recent version) applies not just to developers, but also to "online services". Judging from recent Unisys actions, they consider a web site to be an online service.

    Of course, Unisys does make exceptions for "non-commercial" products. But is open-source software "commercial"? What about closed-source freeware, such as the JDK or StarOffice?

    In any case, it's perfectly reasonable for a developer to avoid using patented technology if he can. You don't need to be a "Free Software" zealot to think this way. If you have the choice of two appropriate and useable technologies, and only one has the slightest chance of entangling you in legal hassles, what's the logical thing to do?

    In typical internet fashion, a few vocal geeks incited ...

    Please do me the courtesy of assuming I can think for myself. Dismissing everybody with a certain kind of opinion out of hand is bigoted, illogical, and (worst of all) lazy.


  • by Osty ( 16825 )

    Haven't Windows users had this since IE4 on Win98? Some progress..

    Nope. Windows users have had this since Windows 95, regardless of IE version. You needed to have the Plus! pack installed, but if you didn't feel like spending the ~$30 on that, MS offered a free download to get the AA font capabilities.

    So, yeah, Windows users have had this for a while now.

"If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong." -- Norm Schryer