Fine-tuning font antialiasing on Yosemite

2 March 2015, 06:28

I decided today to have a play with font antialiasing on Yosemite. To tweak this you’ll need to open a Terminal window (it’s in the Utilities folder of Applications) and type the following:

defaults write NSGlobalDomain AppleFontSmoothing -int

… and follow it with a number, from 0 to 3, with 0 being least severe and 3 being strongest. (a value of 4 or 5 appears to be equivalent to 0, although I suspect a value of 4 affects sub-pixel rendering. However, more testing is needed.)

I tested each value on my non-Retina MacBook Pro and it was quite interesting, especially bearing in mind the change of system font that was introduced with Yosemite. The results are here in screenshot form (when viewing this don’t forget to set zoom to 1:1, or 100%; note that I also tested values of 4 and 5, as shown, but these appear to be identical to a value of 0). The red number at the top left of the Finder window is the number set for that particular screenshot.

For example, to set an antialiasing value of 1, you’d type:

defaults write NSGlobalDomain AppleFontSmoothing -int 1

To restore to default value (which is 3), you’d type the following

defaults delete NSGlobalDomain AppleFontSmoothing

You’ll need to reboot after each change of setting to see the results system-wide.

See what you think works best. I think 1 looks great. Characters are clearer and less blurry. If anybody has a Retina display, can you send me screenshots of each integer in use so I can add it here? Thanks!

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