Web Browsing with Smooth Text

by James Duncan Davidson

Today, Microsoft released IE 5.2 for Mac OS X. This latest incarnation of the heavyweight browser introduces support for Quartz text smoothing under Mac OS X 10.1.5. Is text smoothing while browsing really a big deal? My answer is an emphatic yes.

OmniWeb was the first Mac OS X web browser to support anti-aliased fonts while web browsing. Simply by being built on the Cocoa frameworks, it has had support for smooth text since before Mac OS X was released last year. It also has support for a whole host of other Cocoa enabled technologies, the most useful of which to me is that spell checking is automatically turned on in text entry fields-a real boon when writing blog entries.

Chimera, ne Mozilla wrapped up in Cocoa widgetry, was the next browser to support smooth text. And it was the first browser to come from the Mozilla project that I actually enjoyed running on my desktop and didn't look out of place with some alien user interface. Even though it's only at release 0.3, it has some some serious promise-especially with the tabbed browsing features.

And now IE has joined the party. To be sure, the quality of the text smoothing isn't the same across all three browsers. OmniWeb's consistently looks much better, while there are a few places where both IE and Chimera's fonts (especially bold ones) aren't quite as pleasing. But it shows that there's still a bit of innovation happening in web browsers-and that innovation is happening on Mac OS X.

Even though the browser wars were done with long ago, could we be seeing a new battle coming on? One where we the users will benefit from the advances made by the vendors? Time will tell. But I for one am glad that there is ongoing development in the browser space and that it's not just a one horse show.


2002-06-18 04:42:25
And Mozilla 1.1 Alpha
Does it too quite well!!
And with tabbed browsing, W3C compliance, HTTP Pipelining and AOL's eminent switch, i think its just a matter of time before Mozilla revives the browser wars.

BTW, why the heck does nobody crow about HTTP 1.1 Pipelining support in Mozilla (see http://www.mozilla.org/projects/netlib/http/pipelining-faq.html and http://www.w3.org/Protocols/HTTP/Performance/Pipeline.html)? It gives a theoretical 10-fold increase in downloading websites like Slashdot which has mod-gzip support.

BTW, I thinks O'Reilly should investigate using mod_gzip since you run on Apache anyway. And a text-heavy site like yours would really benefit from gzip compression.

For example, the current homepage filesize can be reduced from 35k to 9,700 bytes, resulting in a big performance boost and increased capacity on your pipes just by installing gzip.

Try it out yourself. Install Mozilla and try pointing it to Slashdot and you can feel how much snappier it is.

2002-06-18 12:17:23
Mozilla 1.0...
The best option I have found so far is a combination of TinkerTool (Manipulate font smoothing for applicatations using QuickDraw, set to 6 point), Silk (if 1.1 choose all options) and Mozilla 1.0. Looks great and is relatively speedy and compliant.
2002-06-18 17:42:17
Once Chimera matures, it will be the clear choice of browser for OS X. It's Mozilla, not a carbon port but the unix port and it uses the Aqua interface instead of the Mozilla interface. Oh, and it's not a browser created by convicted monopolists :o)