UPDATE: As of Chrome version 37, this is now a standard feature.
Web developers across the globe have long lamented the appearance of many fonts in Google Chrome on Windows. Jagged, fuzzy, and often just plain weird looking, the Windows version of Chrome has always had some trouble making text look good.
This is due to a holdover from the Webkit days, which makes the browser use the Windows GDI (graphics device interface) to render fonts. It doesn’t seem to do a very good job, though. Microsoft has since introduced DirectWrite, a replacement for GDI’s font rendering, with Windows 7. However, Chrome still has yet to implement it, despite some of its competitors having already jumped on the bandwagon a while ago (mainly IE and Firefox).
But fear not, as there is still hope. Chrome’s recently released version 35 has introduced an experimental flag to enable the use of DirectWrite. It’s not a standard feature yet, but the fact that a working implementation exists is exciting. Hopefully it will be enabled for everyone in the near future.
Oh, you want to know how to enable it? Well since you asked so nicely…
Open Chrome and paste this URL into your address bar: chrome://flags/#enable-direct-write
The DirectWrite flag should be the first one visible at the top of the window. Click “Enable”.
Chrome will prompt you to relaunch the browser with a button at the bottom left. Do so.
Enjoy fonts smoother than Steely Dan!
For those of you who don’t wish to mess with experimental features, here’s a comparison that shows the differences using Google’s own Fonts directory logo. It’s not a comprehensive analysis by any means, but it gives you an idea. This comparison was done on a PC running Windows 7.
Focus on the word “Fonts”. The letters are softer and not as jagged. The differences may be small, but slight improvements can add up quickly.
This probably doesn’t mean much for the average user, but hopefully developers and designers can stop losing sleep at night over the horrors of poor font rendering on what is arguably the most popular browser on the most popular operating system.