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Aaron Light



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Version 2.3.1 - 24 June 2002 - Fee: $10
Now with subpixel smoothing for LCD screens!

Download SmoothType 2.3.1 (108K)

Read the Reviews

Low End Mac, The Mac Observer, About This Particular Macintosh

SmoothType vs. Apple's Font Smoothing

SmoothType brings Mac OS X style font smoothing to machines running System 7 through Mac OS 9.2. SmoothType also works in the Classic environment under Mac OS X, giving Classic applications text that looks just as good as (or even better than) in Carbon and Cocoa applications. Although the Appearance control panel already offers a limited form of font smoothing, SmoothType offers a choice of different algorithms, including subpixel smoothing optimized for LCD (flat panel) screens. Many people think SmoothType gives better results, and since SmoothType is shareware, you can try it out and decide for yourself before paying. For best results, set your monitor resolution as high as it will go, but then increase the font sizes (or magnification) so that text on the screen is the same physical size as before. Here is a quick side-by-side comparison:

What is it?

SmoothType makes your screen look more like the printed page. Using a technique called anti-aliasing, SmoothType blurs the jagged edges of bitmap fonts with shades of gray, effectively doubling the screen resolution. This is why text on a television screen, such as the credits for a TV program, can look so crisp from your couch, even though the resolution is so low. This is also similar to the technique used by some laser printers of varying the size of the dots to improve the printed image quality. With SmoothType, your fonts look on the screen just like they will when you print them, so you no longer need to look at large point sizes to get an idea of what the font really looks like. The effect can be quite striking, particularly when browsing web pages. Starting with version 2.3, SmoothType also offers subpixel smoothing optimized for LCD (flat panel) screens, which separately manipulates the red, green, and blue parts of each pixel, effectively tripling the resolution!

The SmoothType control panel offers three types of text smoothing:
4-bit Smoothing uses 16 shades for high quality text smoothing.
2-bit Smoothing uses 4 shades, but is faster and uses less memory.
Subpixel Smoothing is optimized for LCD (flat panel) screens, separately manipulating the red, green, and blue parts of each pixel, effectively tripling the resolution!

SmoothType also lets you turn smoothing on and off separately for the system font and for other (non-system) fonts. The system font, used in menus, window titles, dialog boxes, etc., refers to the Large System Font set in the Fonts pane of the Appearance control panel. Since the system font is used so extensively, you are more likely to notice a speed hit from smoothing it, particularly in menus. If you want to turn off SmoothType entirely, just uncheck both the Smooth System Font and Smooth Other Fonts boxes.

Finally, the Smooth Text Above popup menu lets you set a size cutoff below which SmoothType will not affect any text. Some people find that SmoothType's blurring makes small text harder to read and would rather use the normal 10 or 12 point bitmaps. Just set the Smooth Text Above popup to the smallest size you want smoothed, or set it to All Sizes if you want all text to be smoothed.

What do I need?

TrueType or PostScript fonts. SmoothType uses these outline fonts to decide which shades of gray to use. If you want SmoothType to anti-alias PostScript Type 1 fonts, you need Adobe Type Manager, and you must force SmoothType to load after ATM by changing its name to "~SmoothType".

A high resolution color monitor. SmoothType needs at least 16 grays or 256 colors, and it works best with thousands or millions of colors. You should also set your monitor resolution to 1024x768 or higher. The greater the resolution, the less your eyes can pick out the individual gray pixels, and the better it looks. In fact, SmoothType works best at resolutions where normal text becomes unreadable. If you are concerned that your text will be too tiny, just use larger font sizes. In applications that let you magnify the contents of their windows, try setting the magnification to 125% or 150%.

A fast Mac or Power Mac. Anti-aliasing is processor intensive, so it requires a powerful machine. Although it will run on any Mac with a 68020 or better, a 68040 processor is recommended. SmoothType is a Fat control panel optimized for use on both 680x0 and PowerPC machines.

SmoothType is compatible with all system versions from System 7 through Mac OS 9.2. It also works in the Classic environment under Mac OS X.


If you use ATM and want SmoothType to anti-alias your PostScript Type 1 fonts, you must force SmoothType to load after ATM by changing its name to "~SmoothType".

Not all applications take advantage of SmoothType. Some applications do their drawing in black and white offscreen bitmaps so that they can draw a whole screenful instantaneously. Unfortunately, if they draw their text in black and white, SmoothType cannot add the intermediate shades of gray.

SmoothType does not anti-alias Geneva, Monaco, or New York. These fonts were designed as bitmap screen fonts, and they do not look good when anti-aliased.

When you switch system font smoothing on or off, the Apple menu may not update immediately. The system caches the contents of the Apple menu, and there is no easy way to force it to redraw.

If you are using Aaron, Aaron Light, or Greg's Buttons to substitute a system font, the Smooth System Font option causes the font to revert back to Chicago. Kaleidoscope does not have this problem.

Smoothed text does not always look right when highlighted, as it can leave a halo around the characters. This is a limitation of the Mac OS highlighting routines (Apple even released a tech note about it), and there is nothing I can do to fix it. However, the problem is minimized if you use a light highlight color, such as Purple.

Version History

SmoothType 2.3.1 (24 June 2002)

Smoothed text now draws correctly after switching between Multiple User Accounts.

SmoothType 2.3 (28 May 2002)

Now offers Subpixel Smoothing optimized for LCD (flat panel) screens, which separately manipulates the red, green, and blue parts of each pixel, effectively tripling the resolution.

Popup menu text now respects the Smooth System Font setting.

SmoothType 2.2.3 (23 April 2001)

Improves kerning (the spacing between characters). For best results, use odd text sizes such as 11 or 13 point and turn off font smoothing in the Appearance control panel.

Fixes text drawing glitches when scrolling in DreamWeaver, Internet Explorer, and some other applications.

Fixes a crash in BBEdit 6.1 when drawing long lines of text with soft wrapping turned off.

SmoothType no longer mistakenly displays its shareware reminder before the two week trial period has expired.

SmoothType 2.2.2 (18 November 2000)

Improves the appearance of bold text in fonts without a bold variant.

Fixes a problem with invisible text in Adobe PageMaker.

Fixes text drawing problems in Equation Editor and MathType.

SmoothType 2.2.1 (16 October 2000)

Fixes a crash at startup on Power Macs running Mac OS 8.x.

SmoothType now draws inverted text using the correct colors.

The underscore character (_) draws correctly in Courier 12.

SmoothType 2.2 (14 October 2000)

Smoothed text is less "fuzzy" and looks much better on LCD screens.

Optimized SmoothType for G3 and G4 machines.

Adds support for Multiple Users under Mac OS 9.

SmoothType 2.1.1 (25 September 1999)

Fixes a problem with blank windows in FWB Hard Disk Toolkit.

Fixes a glitch smoothing the system font when using Kaleidoscope.

Updates my e-mail address. I can now be reached at <>.

SmoothType 2.1 (13 January 1999)

SmoothType is now significantly faster than before.

Fixes a problem in Microsoft Word 98 where the red or green wavy underline (indicating a spelling or grammar error) would disappear or cause the text to become distorted.

Fixes a problem with disappearing text in PageSpinner and other applications using the WASTE text engine.

Other minor fixes.

SmoothType 2.0.2 (30 September 1998)

SmoothType is now fully compatible with Mac OS 8.5, fixing a problem drawing disabled text in menus and elsewhere.

SmoothType works better with Kaleidoscope, fixing an occasional glitch drawing the top item in menus and push button or popup menu titles.

SmoothType 2.0.1 (4 July 1998)

Fixes problems drawing text on patterned backgrounds, particularly in Finder windows with Kaleidoscope 2.0 and certain web pages.

SmoothType 2.0 (1 June 1998)

SmoothType is now a control panel letting you choose between high quality 4-bit and faster 2-bit smoothing, and you can switch smoothing on and off on-the-fly, with separate settings for the system font and other fonts. You can also set a size cutoff so SmoothType will not smooth smaller fonts.

Fixes a problem where SmoothType would stop smoothing in some apps.

SmoothType draws underlined text better.

SmoothType draws text faster, particularly on patterned backgrounds.

Raised the shareware fee to $10. Registered users of SmoothType 1.x can upgrade for $5. If you really do not want to pay the upgrade fee, e-mail me and I will give you the registration key.

SmoothType 1.3.2 (10 October 1997)

SmoothType no longer mistakenly anti-aliases fonts when printing or faxing.

Fixed a problem drawing very tall fonts, such as Mathematica's Math2 fonts.

Fixed a problem drawing inverted text in some cases, such as in Font Gander.

SmoothType 1.3.1 (5 September 1997)

Changed the file name to "~SmoothType" to force it to load after the Twin Turbo extensions. This fixes text drawing problems with Twin Turbo video cards.

Fixed problems with BBEdit and the Apple System Profiler.

SmoothType 1.3 (7 August 1997)

Under Mac OS 8, it no longer erases white rectangles behind text.

Improved text on patterned backgrounds, such as on web pages.

Merged the 680x0 and PowerPC variants into a single Fat extension.

Added a snazzy new icon.

SmoothType 1.2 (4 May 1997)

SmoothType is now significantly faster and takes up much less RAM.

SmoothType 1.1 (9 September 1996)

SmoothType now anti-aliases any font at sizes where no bitmap is available. In particular, if ATM is running, SmoothType anti-aliases PostScript fonts at all sizes except where there are bitmaps.

ClarisWorks text no longer becomes unreadable. It does occasionally switch to black and white, but at least the text is not garbled like it used to be.

Eudora Pro and Cyberdog text is now always anti-aliased.

Code Warrior text no longer turns into black rectangles in thousands or millions of colors.

Fixed a conflict with the PaperPort Extension that prevented SmoothType from drawing anti-aliased text.

SmoothType no longer attempts to anti-alias non-Roman text.

SmoothType 1.0.1 (15 July 1996)

SmoothType no longer attempts to anti-alias the New York font. This font was designed to be a bitmap font, and it does not anti-alias very well. It also caused some problems with America Online.

SmoothType 1.0 (19 June 1996)

First shareware release. Improved the appearance of color text and removed the restrictions for 256 color monitors. Text is anti-aliased in more applications, and the problem with the HP DeskWriter (and possibly other QuickDraw based) printers should be fixed.

Greg's Hack 1.0 (3 September 1995)

On a 256 color screen, colored or inverted text is no longer anti-aliased. There are not enough shades in the 256 color palette to anti-alias colored text, and the inverse routines do not work well with the color table. For best results, use at least thousands of colors or 256 grays.

Anti-aliased font spacing now matches normal font spacing. This slows things down a little, but it fixes the confusion over the cursor location when editing text.

Greg's Hack no longer chops off the top few pixels of tall fonts.

MacHack '95 (24 June 1995)

Greg's Hack originated as an entry in the MacHack '95 hack contest. As its name implies, it was a quick hack developed in a few days, not a finished product.

d e v e l o p

The anti-aliasing code is based on articles in Develop 7 and Develop 10. The first article explained how to draw the font four times the regular size in an offscreen bitmap and then ditherCopy it down to size. The second article optimized the ditherCopy part.

Copyright © 2002 Gregory D. Landweber, All Rights Reserverd