Tweak ClearType in Windows 7 for Better Screen Readability

Would you like to make your fonts look nicer in Windows 7?  Windows 7 lets you easily turn ClearType on or off and tweak it to work best for your monitor, so let’s see how to make ClearType render fonts the way you want.

What is ClearType?

ClearType is a font smoothing technology introduced with Windows XP.  It is designed to smooth the fonts on your screen with subpixel rendering to look great on LCD screens.  Fonts can easily look jagged and pixelated on LCD screens since they have fixed pixels; this was not a problem with CRT screens, as do not have fixed pixels.  While ClearType was turned off by default in XP, it is now enabled by default in Windows 7 since the majority of computers purchased within the last 5 years came with LCD monitors.

ClearType uses multiple color shading on text to make it look more readable, whereas traditional text rendering only shows only black pixels which can appear jagged on your screen.  So, at 500% magnification, standard text rendering looks like this:

When you enable ClearType, it will look like this.  Notice the color shading around the characters; this gives the fonts a much smoother look on LCD screens.

As you can see below, the ClearType looks much nicer at normal zoom levels, but you do lose some of the clarity of your text for the nicer rendering.  Again, remember: ClearType is designed for LCD screens, so if you’re still using an older CRT monitor you will likely get best results from turning ClearType off.

Turn ClearType On or Off

The easiest way to tweak ClearType in Windows 7 is to simply enter ClearType in your Start Menu search, and select Adjust ClearType text from the results.

Alternately, right-click on the desktop, select Personalize, and then click Display in the bottom left corner of the dialog.

Now click the Adjust ClearType text link on the top left corner.

This will open a wizard that will let you activate or disactivate ClearType.

ClearType should be turned on by default, but if not, you can check the box to preview what your text will look like with ClearType enabled.

Alternately, you can uncheck the box to see what text will look like on your screen with ClearType turned off.  Typically, text will look much worse on LCD screens with ClearType turned off, but some may perfer how the text looks without ClearType.

Tweak ClearType in Windows 7

The ClearType dialog can also tweak your ClearType settings.  After choosing to enable ClearType, click Next at the bottom of the dialog.  Windows will check to make sure your primary monitor is set to its native resolution; if it isn’t, you’ll need to change this first.

Now you’ll be asked to select the text that looks the nicest to you from the available options.  The highlighted selection is your current font settings, but choose the one that looks best.  You’ll go through 4 sets of options, so just use your best judgment and pick the one that feels right to you.

Once you’re finished, click Apply to save and activate your new font smoothing settings.  If everything looks wrong to you afterwards, just re-run the ClearType Text Tuner as above and select different settings.

Do note that some apps, such as Firefox 4 and Safari for Windows, use their own font smoothing.  If you still think your fonts look odd in some applications, check that program’s individual settings to see if it does its own font smoothing.

If you’re interested, you can also find out more about ClearType and how it works at Wikipedia.  Still using Vista or XP?  Check out our articles on ClearType in these older versions of Windows to tweak them, too:

Tune Your ClearType Font Settings in Windows Vista

Enable ClearType in XP (also useful for XP Mode in Windows 7)

Tweak ClearType in XP with XP PowerToys

You can even Add Font Smoothing to Ubuntu, though of course it’s not ClearType.

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