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Problems with font rendering on Macs

§ Browsers · Typography · Apple

Just recently Jeffrey Zeldman was bemoaning the sub-standard state of text rendering in Firefox on a Mac. And the sad truth is he only skimmed the surface of type rendering problems across browsers. Never mind trying to pick a typeface which most people will have installed; Firefox, Safari, Opera and Camino may render even the same font differently.

This is because there are (at least) five different formats of fonts: TrueType-Mac, TrueType-PC, PostScript-Type 1, OpenType-PostScript and OpenType-TrueType. I’m not au fait with the technical differences between formats, but the differences in rendering between browsers is shocking.

To demonstrate the differences, I created a page with five different fonts, one of each type. The resulting screenshots show that Camino 1.2 (still in beta) and Safari do a fine job of rendering all formats, but Firefox and Opera struggle with all formats except for TrueType Mac. Note that the current release of Camino renders the same as Firefox.

BrowserFont Format
TrueType MacTrueType PCPostScriptOpenType PostScriptOpenType TrueType
Camino 1.2goodgoodgoodgoodgood
Safari 2goodgoodgoodgoodgood
Firefox 2goodcorrect italic & bold fonts displayed; miscalculation of space required for italic, bold & underlined fonts resulting in overlappping textnot rendereditalic & bold fonts synthesised; miscalculation of space required for italic, bold & underlined fonts resulting in overlappping textitalic & bold fonts synthesised; miscalculation of space required for italic, bold & underlined fonts resulting in overlappping text
Opera 9goodgood, but italic font is synthetically obliquednot renderedbold font not rendered; italic synthesisedbold font not rendered; italic synthesised

Hat tip Jon Hicks for details about forthcoming Camino releases.