I recently encountered a news clipping about the use of fonts and on screen display. As a designer for various digital mediums, I have encountered numerous problems with the legibility and readability of fonts when viewed through digital output devices such as the common computer screen or a projector. The 72 dpi resolution of a screen is simply terrible, leaving the majority of fonts to display something far from their creator’s original design. If the future is all going to be on-line, wouldn’t it be nice if it was readable?
The problem of readability has not gone by the wayside. Type foundries such as Adobe have come up with a variety of ways to smooth and sharpen type on screen without increasing its size.
Clear Vs. Cool
The two most promising technologies are ClearType by Microsoft and CoolType by Adobe. ClearType has been designed for use with Microsoft Reader as well as the PocketPC Hardware. CoolType on the other hand will be compatible with PDF Merchant and the eBook, the popular format for the recent Stephen King eBook.
So what’s the Catch?
Well you know that fancy new 21 inch monitor you just bought? clearType and CoolType won’t work on it. The technology is designed for LCD displays like in the iBook, the Apple Cinema Display or in mobile devices such as the color palm.
Each of the technologies act in almost the same way, the basic principle is breaking up the RGB pixels that make up a typical pixel. This allows the resolution to ‘technically’ increase giving you a nicer character.
The technique is also called "color anti-aliasing" however instead of using whole pixels to smooth the edges of bitmapped type, the new process uses each of the RGB pixels to effectively increase the resolution by 300 percent. While the exact method and technologies use to create the effect are complicated, the effects of smoother and sharper type will make any cellophane or PDA user jump with excitement- as long as they have a color screen.