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Disable font smoothing for Word V.x speed increase Apps
I (like many others) was very disappointed in the performance of Word v.X on my G3/600 iBook. Looking through the various settings today, I stumbled accross something very interesting. There is an option under the 'General' section of the Preferences entitled "Enable Quartz text smoothing". This option is selected by default, and since I like my fonts nice and antialiased, I didn't think much of it.

I believe now however, that this option enables some sort of MS specific antialiasing, because if you turn it off, the fonts are still antialiased (though they look different ... better, but different), and everthing in the app speeds up about two times! The strange thing is that if I turn off antialised text in the system preferences (using TinkerTool), there is almost no speed improvement.

I'm not sure if this is an oversight on MS's part, or myself not realizing what's really going on, but it's made my Word v.X easily as responsive as 2001 under OS9.

Hope that helps some folks.

[Editor's note: I was amazed at the notable speed difference that resulted when the Quartz smoothing box was disabled. Even on a my G4/733, pages now scroll by at a much faster rate, and the text is still nicely smoothed. This same option exists in Excel (but not PowerPoint), so you may wish to disable it there, too! I don't believe that Quartz Text Smoothing is a MS specific option; I believe it's an OS X system option, but I don't know much more about it than that ... anyone?]
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Re: Disable font smoothing...
Authored by: michno on Aug 02, '02 10:00:41AM

The "Disable Quartz text smoothing" option came with the SR1 update. It exists in all Office apps (in PowerPoint too, under the View tab).

Disabling it has the further positive effect of making text in Postscript type 1 fonts readable again. With the smoothing option enabled Office apps are unable to correctly read the kerning tables in type 1 font files.

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Re: Disable font smoothing...
Authored by: macandrew on Aug 02, '02 12:36:25PM

It's worth mentioning that "Disable Quartz text smoothing" disables an option that only became available on 10.1.5. Previous versions of OS X did not make Quartz antialiasing routines available to Carbon apps (only Cocoa apps). Presumably the speed difference comes from mixing two graphics APIs (Carbonized Quickdraw and Quartz); hopefully this will be addressed in Jaguar; ditto for proper support of PS Type 1 fonts.

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Re: Disable font smoothing...
Authored by: SuzS on Sep 30, '04 03:18:20PM

Can someone explain how to turn off font smoothing in Word 2004? I have tried Tinkertools and after working for awhile, it stopped working. I am using the Student Teacher version and don't see the option mentioned here to turn it off in the Word app itself. I need it off for fonts of 12 point as this is what I edit in and I find it hard to read on my screen. I use an IMAC with a flat screen. Thanks

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Its because of Silk...
Authored by: Basilisk on Aug 02, '02 01:51:44PM

The "Disable Quartz text smoothing" checkbox in Word does completely disable text smoothing. The text still appears antialiased on the Editor's and poster's machines becuase they are running Silk (or so I guess). Without Silk installed (or disabling Word in Silk) turning off text smoothing in Word completely disables smoothing (not different smoothing, completely off).

As for the speed difference between having Silk enable smoothing and Word enable smoothing, I suspect it is a difference in options. If you look at the "General" entry in Silk (the one that applies to all applications listed) you see that it does _not_ enable Quartz text metrics. I suspect that Word's own smoothing option does enable this mode, along with Word internal features to make sure that smoothed fonts still layout correctly o n the page.

So you are sacrificing layout accuracy for speed. Probably an acceptable tradeoff.

As a side note I usually disable Silk for applications I know handle their own text smoothing (IE, Office X, Mozilla, etc.). Call me paranoid but it seems best to make sure Silk doesn't interfere with applications capable of using Quartz smoothing on their own. At minimum it prevents confusion like this article about what the application is actually doing.

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Authored by: DVD Plaza on Aug 02, '02 08:08:25PM

Why are people so surprised to see a speed improvement whenever someone suggests turning off a "graphical" feature?!? OSX calculates and draws all the fancy graphics pixel by pixel ITSELF, so the CPU is the one doing all the work - no joke turning off shading, font smoothing, etc is going to result in a speed increase.

All these concepts will become 100% mute with Jaguar, since Quartz Extreme offloads all the graphics work to the hardware - disabling any fancy graphics will then have NO effect period.

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Authored by: Durandal on Aug 02, '02 08:51:45PM

Quartz Extreme isn't a GUI cure-all. It only accelerates certain effects, like alpha-channel drawing and minimizing. The speed difference between Jaguar and previous versions is nowhere near as dramatic as it should be if its fully-blown hardware accelerated.

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Authored by: maxgraphic on Aug 03, '02 04:44:36PM

There is certainly a lot of confusion about what Quartz Extreme will do. It will have no effect at all on font smoothing, for instance. From Apple's site:

"Here's how it works. Quartz uses the integrated OpenGL technology to convert each window into a texture, then sends it to the graphics card to render on screen."

So Quartz Extreme is all about using a (supported) video card to do the heavy lifting of displaying windows, which can interact with other windows in complex ways because of transparency. But the job of drawing the window in the first place, creating that bitmap, will still be done the way it is today.

I also wanted to point out that checking "Disable Quartz text smoothing" makes Word (and other Office apps) go back to using plain-old QuickDraw to render text, which indeed is antialiased, but not as well as Quartz. This isn't a Silk issue.

One last thing, just to be picky: a point can become "moot," but not "mute," unless you mean it has become silent.

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Authored by: philby on Aug 05, '02 10:52:11AM

QE does not let the hardware do all the computations. Only image compositing is offloaded to the GPU, everything else (notably font rendering and antialiasing) is still done with the CPU. See

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Try TinkerTool...
Authored by: percy on Aug 04, '02 03:32:04PM

Try disabling font smoothing in CoreGraphics through TinkerTool, then re-login. Fast MacOS X!

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Re: Try TinkerTool...
Authored by: percy on Aug 04, '02 03:33:46PM

Well, at least I think there's a noticable speed difference!

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