Snow Leopard Font Smoothing

Do fonts look like crap on your shiny new copy of snow leopard?

That’s probably because Snow Leopard now relies on your monitor to tell your machine that it’s an LCD. Unfortunately, many LCDs including both of my Dell displays don’t do this. So you get no sub-pixel anti-aliasing. Bad times.

But don’t fret. There is a solution. Open up a terminal window and type:

defaults -currentHost write -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing -int 2

and all will be well again.

16 thoughts on “Snow Leopard Font Smoothing

  1. Eric Meyers

    Wow. I reported this 3 times to Apple in beta testing. They never replied. Thanks for the tip.

  2. Just like when they gave us no way to disable the translucent menubar in classic Leopard, it seems Apple have dropped the ball on another critical prefpane feature. When I installed Snow Leopard all it’s performance improvements seemed less stellar when all the fonts on my Samsung screen looked awful.

    Thanks for this fix, hopefully I won’t have to direct too many people here to get their Snow Leopard installs working properly before Apple fixes this!

  3. Dr. T

    How did Apple drop the ball? There is a standard way for monitors to indicate that they are LCD (rather than CRT or something else). Dell chose the cheap path and built monitors that don’t send the LCD signal. With no signal, the assumption is that the monitor is an old CRT where font smoothing (and certain types of anti-aliasing) won’t work. Therefore, Snow Leopard does not engage font smoothing. Why is it Apple’s fault when Dell screws up?

  4. Eric Meyers

    They dropped it by simply removing the trivia dropdown that was in Leopard. And it’s not just Dell. HP, Sony, etc are also affected.

  5. Jaws

    Thanks for the tip! What is the default setting in 10.6 (0, 1, etc.) in case I want to revert?

  6. Jaws, default if your LCD isn’t reporting itself is 0. 1 is light, 2 is medium, 3 is strong.

    2 is the default if you LCD is reporting itself.

  7. Jaws

    Joe, thanks for the reply. I’m trying to understand a little more about what this does. It seems as if the command adds a global AppleFontSmoothing key (where there wasn’t one by default). Does this then override 10.6’s default font smoothing handling for both monitors reporting themselves (such as a built-in MacBook or Apple display) as well as those that do not? So, if I set font smoothing at 1, it will stay at one for all displays, including those reporting correctly? To remove and completely revert back to 10.6’s default handling, would it be necessary to remove the key (and if so, how)? Thanks!

  8. Jaws,

    As far as I know, the snow leopard default is “automatic”. That means it will choose 0 if it doesn’t detect an LCD and 2 if it does.

    If you select 1, it should stay 1 for all monitors. To remove it, all you have to do is check or uncheck the font smoothing box in the appearance preferences, which will toggle it to automatic or off (0).

  9. john sully

    So Apple actually offers 4 levels of font smoothing (i always used the light one, looks best on my lcd) but chose to only make 2 available with snow leo? Seriously, what a screwup.

  10. Thanks for this! Just picked up a Dell monitor and you hooked me up!

  11. Alex

    Thank you so much. Now my screen is really working nicely. I even color calibrated it and wow. What a magnificent difference. Its night and day. Amazing.

  12. All four levels are available AFAIK, it’s just that off is a default and 2 (med.) is a default. You can engage any level by substituting “1”, “3”, or “0” in place of the “2”. It’s not a total screw up but it’s not that easy either.

  13. Abeer

    hi, I have mac os x 10.6.4 on MacPro5,1 and 6-Core Intel Xeon. attached to Samsung AyncMaster 2443 wide LCD. The font smoothing is checked, and I typed in the command line you give at the start of this thread. I still have crappy fonts. What’s the solution? should I give the monitor back and get a mac one? would this solve the problem you think?

  14. Mac Bear

    Hi, I also still have the same problem as well even tho I typed that recommended command line to terminal….?

  15. Andras

    Abeer, I have the same issue with Mac mini late 2009 miniDVI to VGA cable and LG L1718S monitor.

  16. Sameer Halai

    Wow! Thanks for posting this. I couldn’t understand what was wrong but this totally worked.

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