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Chrome will get improved text rendering thanks to Microsoft

A Chromium logo with a frosted glass effect

About three years ago, Microsoft announced improvements for text rendering in its browser to make Edge display better fonts with enhanced gamma and contrast. That was made possible by making the browser follow ClearType Text Tuner settings across Windows. Now, Microsoft is helping Google implement a similar system in Chrome.

According to a page on the Chrome Platform Status, the lack of user adjustments for text rendering has been a "long-standing user complaint," with some posts dating back to 2015.

The problem is that Chromium uses Skia text rendering with hard-coded contrast and gamma values for each platform, making adjustments and customizations impossible. As a result, text in Chrome and other Chromium-based browsers look much thinner and lighter, especially on CJK characters (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean languages), which use a lot of anti-aliased pixels in each rendered glyph. You can also see the difference by comparing Chrome with Edge or Firefox.

Here is more technical information from Microsoft:

Like many native Windows applications, Legacy Microsoft Edge utilized the DirectWrite framework to render glyphs to the screen. The benefit of using DirectWrite is that certain system-wide user settings are respected and use the same rendering pipeline across all other native Windows applications.

Chromium, by contrast, only utilizes DirectWrite for part of the text-rendering pipeline: font enumeration, glyph information retrieval, and glyph bitmap generation; it handles its own text shaping, layout, and rendering. This enables code reuse across platforms, but on Windows, the results are typically different than the rest of the system’s text rendering.

The final compositing of glyph bitmaps in Chromium is handled by the Skia graphics library and does not respect the Windows system settings for contrast enhancement and gamma correction of anti-aliased text.

Microsoft wants to help Chrome in this regard by making Skia capable of "picking" and applying ClearType Text Tuner settings. The Chrome Platform Status page says the feature will be available in Chromium version 124.

If you are using Edge and want to try improved text contrast, head to edge://flags and turn on the "Enhance text contrast" flag. You will notice better gamma and contrast right after restarting the browse. For more drastic results, press Win + R and type cttune or search for "Adjust ClearType text."

Microsoft planned to make its text render improvements turned on by default in version 92, but today, in the recently released version 123, the flag still defaults to "Disabled."

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