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ClearType FAQ

Updated: June 30, 2009

If you have any questions about ClearType, see how to contact us. Where possible, we will post questions and answers here.


How It Works

Q.How do I adjust my ClearType settings?
A.

On Windows 7:

1.

In the Control Panel (Category view), select 'Appearance and Personalization'

2.

Under Fonts, select 'Adjust ClearType text'

3.

Follow the instructions on your screen to adjust your ClearType settings

On Windows Vista:

1.

In the Control panel, under 'Appearance and Personalization', select 'Customize color'

2.

Select 'Effects'

3.

To turn on Cleartype, check the box for 'Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts', then select 'ClearType' in the dropdown list

4.

Close the Effects dialog by clicking 'OK' and click 'Apply' to complete the process

5.

Tune ClearType to your own personal preference using the ClearType Web interface or downloadable PowerToy Tuner. Tuning ClearType makes an adjustment to the 'contrast' or 'gamma' value set for your screen.

On Windows XP:

1.

In the Control panel, select 'Display'

2.

Select the 'Appearance' tab and click on 'Effects…'

3.

To turn on ClearType, check the box for 'Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts', then select 'ClearType' in the dropdown list

4.

Close the Effects dialog by clicking 'OK' and click 'Apply' to complete the process

5.

Tune ClearType to your own personal preference using the ClearType Web interface or downloadable PowerToy Tuner. Tuning ClearType makes an adjustment to the 'contrast' or 'gamma' value set for your screen.

NOTE: Original Equipment Manufacturers that pre-install Windows have the option of setting the ClearType default to on or off. If you install Windows yourself, ClearType will be turned on by default on Windows 7 and Windows Vista and turned off by default on Windows XP.

Q.How does ClearType actually work?
A.

ClearType is a form of sub-pixel font rendering that draws text using a pixel's red-green-blue (RGB) components separately instead of using the entire pixel. When the pixel is used in this way, horizontal resolution theoretically increases 300 percent.

Picture elements on an LCD screen are actually comprised of individual horizontally-oriented red, green and blue sub-pixels. For instance, an LCD screen that has a display resolution of 800x600 pixels actually has 2400x600 individual sub-pixels. The human eye is not capable of differentiating colors on such a small scale, so a combination of these three primary colors can emulate any intermediate color. Sub-pixel font rendering takes advantage of this by antialiasing at the sub-pixel level instead of at the pixel level.

For more information, see our What is ClearType page. For a technical overview of how ClearType works, see this Microsoft research paper written by John Platt.

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Settings

Q.Why should I tune my display?
A.

No two screens are exactly the same and everyone perceives color in a slightly different way.

Q.How can I tell if my laptop or flat panel display is set to its native resolution?
A.

To see if your screen is set to its native resolution, try looking at the following eye test image. The image is made up of many vertical black lines. If you see alternating bands of white running vertically through this image, you are probably running at a non-native resolution.

Eye test image.

This page has more information on how to set your screen resolution on Windows XP and information on setting your screen resolution in Vista can be found here.

Q.Can different users of the same machine have their own ClearType preferences?
A.

Yes. Settings are saved for each user account.

Q.Can I have different ClearType settings on multiple displays connected to my computer?
A.

Windows includes several technologies to render text on the screen. These include Windows GDI, Direct Write and Windows Presentation Foundation. Windows GDI is limited to using one set of ClearType settings per system while the other two support different settings per display.

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LCD vs. CRT Displays

Q. When I turn on ClearType on my display, the text looks blurry. I thought ClearType made the text look sharper?
A.

ClearType works best on color LCD screens, but there are various things to check depending on the type of screen you are using:

1.

If you are using a CRT (Cathode-Ray Tube) monitor

With this type of display ClearType rendered text will not appear as sharp as text displayed on a digital flat panel color LCD display. Many users like the way ClearType renders text on CRTs so feel free to give it a try.

2.

If you are using a laptop display

Make sure your display is running at its native resolution. Check the user manual to find the resolution of the laptop's screen. If, for example, the screen is 1024 x 768 pixels, make sure Windows 'display properties' are set to 1024 x 768. In this example, if Windows display properties are set to 800 x 600 pixels then the laptop may rescale the screen, resulting in blurry text and icons, regardless of ClearType being on or off.

3.

If you are using a separate flat panel display

ClearType works best with flat panel displays that have a digital interface. Check your flat panel display manual to see if you are using a digital input. If your display's video cable plugs into a standard VGA connection in the back of your PC, then it's probably not using a digital interface. Also, make sure your display is running at its native resolution. Check the display's user manual to find the resolution of the screen. If, for example, the screen is 1024 x 768 pixels, make sure Windows 'display properties' are set to 1024 x 768. In this example, if Windows display properties are set to 800 x 600 pixels, then the screen may rescale the screen, resulting in a blurry text and icons, regardless of ClearType being on or off. If blurriness persists, you might want to check with the screen's manufacturer to see if the display conforms to the ClearType hardware guidelines issued in April 1999.

For some flat panel LCD displays, we have also discovered display degradation associated with the use of extra long video connection cables.

Q.Will ClearType improve text display on CRT monitors?
A.

Yes, but less so than with LCD displays. Because a standard cathode-ray tube (CRT) screen uses an electron beam to activate pixels, ClearType does not provide the same benefits that you experience on an LCD screen. However, because ClearType still applies a form of filtering similar to traditional antialiasing, you may see some improvement when enabling ClearType on a CRT screen.

Q.Will ClearType look OK if my screen's color striping is BGR instead of RGB?
A.

It depends. Most LCD screens have a RGB striping order. A very small number have a striping order of BGR. The image below shows side-by-side examples of text rendered with RGB or BGR ordering. If the BGR example looks better on your screen, then your screen may be using a BGR striping order.

Examples of BRG versus RGB ordering

Support for BGR displays was added to Windows XP with Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1).

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Other Topics

Q.I'm a type designer. How can I see how my fonts will render under ClearType without installing Windows?
A.

Type designers can license our Visual TrueType (VTT) font hinting tool. VTT was updated to let designers proof their fonts under ClearType. Information on licensing VTT can be found here.

Q.Does Microsoft hold any ClearType patents?
A.

Yes. In May 2001, Microsoft received its first ClearType patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Other patent applications are pending. Developers looking to license Microsoft ClearType patents should visit our ClearType patent licensing site.

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