Do some fonts render more smoothly than others in MacVim with retina?
January 25, 2013 1:19 PM   Subscribe

Monaco 14pt in MacVim seems to me to look much better on retina than Anonymous Pro 14pt. Why is this? Is it just me?

I've used Anonymous Pro 14pt for terminal and coding for several years. A while ago I switched from Sublime (which looked great on retina) to MacVim, and I noticed it wasn't rendering as nicely. Today a friend suggested I try Monaco 14pt, and it does look better to me on MacVim than Anonymous did. Anonymous looked fine with Sublime though. :set noanti on either Monaco or Anonymous completely mangles the font.

I know nothing about fonts. Do my observations make sense, and is there an explanation for why Monaco might look better than Anonymous Pro? Is there anything I can do to improve the font rendering under MacVim?
posted by doteatop to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
From what I understand, the operating system reports a sort of virtual lower DPI display to some apps, depending upon whether they have a flag set that they are 'retina-friendly' or not. I'd be willing to bet that the fonts you are looking at are actually 28pt, or should be, but since the OS is providing a sort of DPI abstraction, some fonts/apps might not look as nicely as they should (that is, until retina support is more widely-adopted).

I'm just theorizing though - I use a bitmap font with no antialiasing in my text/code editors because I find that easiest to read when staring at the screen for hours.

Also, from Anonymous Pro's info page:

MacOS: Anonymous Pro will display using Quartz antialiasing unless you disable it system-wide in the Appearance panel or in specific apps that allow it (BBEdit, TextMate, Terminal, Coda, etc.). Bitmaps will be used at the following point sizes: 10, 11, 12, and 13. Note that the 13-point bitmaps are not available when using the system-wide antialiasing supression, which only works for 12-point text or smaller.
posted by destructive cactus at 1:31 PM on January 25, 2013

Got it. Good explanation re: DPI. I didn't think of that, that asking for a font at 14pt might render a 28pt font under retina. The final note about where bitmaps are available for Anon Pro drives it home. I guess it's Monaco for me for now. Thanks!
posted by doteatop at 1:39 PM on January 25, 2013

It shouldn't be too hard to take Anonymous Pro into FontForge, remove the bitmap versions, and then re-export TTFs.
posted by zsazsa at 2:24 PM on January 25, 2013

Ok, curiosity got the best of me and I installed Anonymous Pro on my Retina Mac. I think it looks good on my copy of MacVim, which is version Snapshot 64.

Does yours not look the same?
posted by zsazsa at 2:34 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

zsazsa, nope, yours looks better.

Not sure that a screencap of a screencap proves anything but your png looks far better over here than my vim. I'm snapshot 65. I wonder if it's actually a version of the font? I'll check.
posted by doteatop at 3:16 PM on January 25, 2013

Your screenshot is scaled down it looks like? Or something else weird is going on. Zsazsa's screenshot has more pixels in the original file than it does in your screenshot.
posted by aubilenon at 4:11 PM on January 25, 2013

aubilenon— the screenshot is from grab, converted from tiff to png with preview, uploaded to imgur. Didn't intentionally scale or shrink!
posted by doteatop at 4:23 PM on January 25, 2013

You don't need to use FontForge to remove bitmaps - the page has a link to Anonymous Pro Minus (zip file) which does not have embedded bitmaps.

Also, you might like Adobe's Source Code Pro as an alternative.
posted by O9scar at 5:19 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

doteatop: use the built-in screen grabbing in OSX. Hit Shift-Command-4, then space, then click on the window you want a shot of. A PNG will appear on your desktop.
posted by zsazsa at 8:56 PM on January 25, 2013

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