Please help me GLOBALLY DISABLE font smoothing (anti-aliasing) in Tiger
October 4, 2006 2:13 PM   Subscribe

Please help me GLOBALLY DISABLE font smoothing (anti-aliasing) in Tiger. I did it almost-completely in Panther, but the Panther solution needs another step in Tiger.

Yes, I'm positive I don't want font smoothing. :)

So here are the two commands I found to use in Panther. Both need to be done as root.
defaults write -g AppleAntiAliasingThreshold 128
defaults write CoreGraphics CGFontDisableAntialiasing YES

(I assume 128 could be any number and it's just "something bigger than the biggest font size you expect to ever use.")

In Tiger (on Intel), using these doesn't work to disable anti-aliasing in the menu text across the top of the screen.

My Panther machine (which I still have, if you want me to report anything about it) is definitely using non-anti-aliased Lucida Grande on all the top menus -- whether in Finder or in any app. HOWEVER, I never got the other kinds of system text (dialog boxes, Preference panels, etc.) to stop using anti-aliasing. So the font rendering in the menus is somehow different from the rendering in other kinds of "system" text.

Unfortunately I didn't keep a record of everything I did in Panther, and it's been a few years now -- I only remember it as a long, roundabout process of googling & trying different solutions. So it's likely that something else I did in addition to these two commands made the top menus stop using anti-aliasing. So what could that extra something have been??

(TinkerTool and its siblings aren't the answer, since their option for disabling font smoothing seems to be just a graphical frontend for the AppleAntialiasingThreshold command above. But of course I'd hugely appreciate any tip about a tweaking app I missed that goes further -- that got rid of anti-aliasing in your top menus, not just inside your apps, in Tiger.)
posted by allterrainbrain to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
Have you tried, or a mac forum?
posted by mphuie at 3:08 PM on October 4, 2006

According to Tinkertool's FAQ:

Why can't I disable font smoothing for the standard font of the Mac OS X user interface?

Depending on operating system version, Mac OS X may or may not be capable of changing font smoothing settings for the font "Lucida Grande", the default font used in most Mac OS X dialog windows. This problem is not restricted to TinkerTool: Apple's original System Preferences application shows the same problem if you are changing the font smoothing limit in the Appearance preference pane. We have made Apple aware of this issue. It is unknown if they will fix it in future versions of Mac OS X.

Does switching to a non-Lucida font do the trick? I know it's a cheesy hack, but that sounds like the only thing that'll do it
posted by O9scar at 3:25 PM on October 4, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, I did try several mac forums when I was doing this with Panther, and I've searched in all the ones I know this time around.

I'm hoping for a more neutral population here at mefi. On Mac forums I got argument ("no, you want font smoothing!") and insistence that it's not possible to disable font smoothing in menus because Apple says it's not. :)
posted by allterrainbrain at 3:43 PM on October 4, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks o9scar -- because I got non-anti-aliased Lucida Grande on Panther, I was assuming this was not a font-specific problem, but this is definitely worth a try.

So what is a good way to change the default system font without otherwise skinning/changing anything?
posted by allterrainbrain at 3:47 PM on October 4, 2006

Response by poster: Okay, Silk claims to easily change default system font.

A Versiontracker user reports that Silk takes a lot of finessing to prevent it from interfering with some apps, but it works.

So I'll try it tonight and report...
posted by allterrainbrain at 4:15 PM on October 4, 2006

Tinkertool also allows you to change system fonts.
posted by O9scar at 4:39 PM on October 4, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the tip -- I tried it out and TinkerTool can change 9 different kinds of system fonts, but it can't touch the top-menu-bar font. And even when changed into fonts other than Lucida Grande, the other kinds of text (titles of app windows, dialog boxes, etc.) are all still anti-aliased.

TT's FAQ says the menu bar is untouchable because it uses Carbon rendering, which doesn't allow users to change default fonts.

I would go ahead & give this up if I hadn't already successfully changed the menu bar in Panther!

Okay: SOMEWHERE on my Panther machine lives something that is successfully making the menu bar non-anti-aliased Lucida Grande. After I make a full backup of my Tiger drive, would it be at all useful to start just moving things over (hidden files, preference files?) and experimenting?
posted by allterrainbrain at 7:16 PM on October 4, 2006

Im just throwing out an idea, but is there a flag set somewhere in a font that will tell the OS *not* to antialias it?

I know in windows some pixel fonts are designed for a certain size, maybe you could edit lucida so that it looks pixel-y on the standard OS font size?
posted by mphuie at 8:35 PM on October 4, 2006

Response by poster: Good thought, but this doesn't seem to be an issue with the font itself. On both my Panther & Tiger machines, after running the two commands above, Lucida Grande is just as happy being non-anti-aliased as any other font is. (When I use Lucida Grande in an app window -- view a web page or text doc in it, etc. -- it's non-anti-aliased.)
posted by allterrainbrain at 9:23 PM on October 4, 2006

Trying to move stuff over from the Panther box is a bad idea. Pather -> Tiger was a major upgrade, so its almost certain that there were big changes to all sorts of components, as well as to the format of preference files. All it would take is replacing the wrong file with something incompatible to make your Tiger install instable or corrupt.
posted by rsanheim at 6:20 AM on October 5, 2006

Response by poster: Like I said, I wouldn't do such things without complete backups. But I agree -- I see more under-the-hood differences in Panther-vs-Tiger the more I investigate.

When I have time, I will make another appointment with the Apple Store. I'll report back re. what happens. Last time (three years ago), this got me absolutely nowhere. The techs may be required to stick with Apple party lines. But I'll cross my fingers for somebody more adventurous this time!
posted by allterrainbrain at 3:06 PM on October 5, 2006

Response by poster: I said I'd report back here, but the two Genius Bar people I talked to (FYI, these folks are usually 100% impressive and know way more than I do) first told me it was impossible to do what I did in Panther, then when they saw it in front of them, told me they had no answers or ideas for replicating it in Tiger.
posted by allterrainbrain at 3:28 AM on December 27, 2006

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