Users Report Fuzzy Fonts In Evernote 3.5

Jan 23, 2010

I have not checked this out personally yet, but I’m going to try. My friend Joe Golton reports that users of Evernote – a million people, I’m told – are rather upset over a change in font rendering that leaves some text looking blurry, fuzzy, washed out – you name it. And it’s quite true. I upgraded from Evernote 3.1 to 3.5 and the text renders terribly.

Joe’s words were strong:

“Evernote just upgraded yesterday to 3.5. There are numerous improvements but many people hate it because of the horrible font rendering… the interface look terrible – the list of notes is very fuzzy to read – it strains my eyes and many others report that, too.
I cannot believe Microsoft did this – supposedly it will improve with .NET 4.0 but they are pushing .NET very hard so it is weird that they would make the principle activity of a computer user – reading text – a terrible experience.”


A post on the Evernote forum explains the issue. (There’s a Windows registry fix for it posted there, too – make sure it includes a way to undo!) It seems the Evernote developers decided to switch from using the standard Windows Graphics Device Interface (GDI) to WPF – Windows Presentation Foundat­ion. WPF is the latest .NET based text rendering platform and it handles fonts differently than GDI.

Here’s a screen shot from that post showing the difference:

Screen shot of Evernote Text rendering before and after version 3.5

One Man’s Anti-Aliasing Is Another Man’s Fuzzy

This isn’t the first and it won’t be the last time Windows users get upset over changes in font rendering. I’m expecting to see a lot of it in the next few years as Microsoft continues to push WPF and moves to its DirectWrite API instead of GDI for ordinary text rendering. These are changes for the better, but it’s likely to be unsettling to many Windows users as the changeover occurs.

Computers give us color graphics and video at no extra cost, but it’s still mostly words, words, and more words. And when it comes to typography – how words look – people are creatures of habit. There was a time when lettering like the following was quite easy on the eyes and gave readers a warm, down-home feeling:

Sample of Blackletter type

If the text suddenly looks different than what people have gotten used to – watch out!

Improvements to Window’s handling of fonts are long overdue. Next to the Mac, fonts rendered at “heading” sizes and larger are so inferior, it’s an embarrassment. And now, with all the major browsers offering @font-face font linking – and with that, bringing a fresh focus on text rendering within browsers running on Windows – people have been shocked at how crappy a lot of fonts look. One of the more talked-about episodes being the popular blog, Boing-Boing’s experiment with “web fonts”.
(With a technically astute analysis from Thomas Phinney here.)

Expect a lot of changes in text rendering in Windows over the next few years. And let’s hope developers and designers make wise use of the new options they’ll have at their disposal.

And Speaking Of Thomas Phinney…

Thomas Phinney is a walking font and font technologies encyclopedia. He was formerly with Adobe’s font team where, among many other things he wrote Adobe’s blog on fonts and rendering issues, Tyblography. He is now with font-utilities provider, Extensis. His new blog makes up with insight what it currently lacks in volume. More, more! As of today, Phinney On Fonts has been added to the blogroll here at Readable Web.

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