Skip to Content
Skip to Table of Contents

← Previous Article Next Article →

ATPM 12.11
November 2006


How To



Download ATPM 12.11

Choose a format:


Dream Machine

I know exactly what you are feeling. I’m sitting at my desk in my home office trying to decide on a iMac 24″ or a Mac Pro to replace my aging 1 GHz G4 tower from 2001. I’m also staring at my G4 TiBook wondering when (or if) to replace it. I’ve been using Macs for 11 years now, and I know I would have not made it that long as a PC user. I’m looking forward to your next article.

—Grover Watson

Thanks, Grover. It sounds as if you are having one of those “fun” dilemmas. As I am partial to the flexibility of the cinema display, my vote would be with the Mac Pro, particularly given its own inherent flexibility. On the laptop front, I was in the middle of an office computer switch and needed to get one right away. Otherwise, I would have waited on the Core 2 Duo. In any case, both have arrived and are awesome! Best wishes.

—Mike Chamberlain

• • •

Very cool article. I’ve been using Apple computers for just about all my life. It started when I was in elementry school at about five years old playing educational games on an Apple IIe. My school got its first Macs when I was in the 5th grade. Those happened to be LC IIs. At first I was afraid of messing something up becuase I had never used a mouse or used a computer with a graphical user interface. I grew to really like the Mac and not be afraid of it. When I graduated high school, they had moved from the LC II to the G3 All-in-One, or the “molar” as people call them now. My first Mac of my own was a 400 MHz Blueberry iMac that my mom had bought for me in my freshman year of college. I still have it to this day. Since then, I’ve had quite a few different Macs being that I am now in the collecting game. The Macs I did use on a regular basis were a beige G3 desktop and tower, till I got my 450 MHz Sawtooth G4. I recently had the same dilemma of what to get for a new Mac. I had thought about the iMac, but I wanted to be able to expand, and I’m not too hip on external drives or cases for peripherals. So I picked the Mac Pro. I have the standard configuration. I had thought about the faster processor, but for what I’m going to be doing with light to medium video work, the extra cost wasn’t worth it.

So that’s my Apple story.

—Chris Ruter

Nvu: Impressive and Powerful

Nvu is a nice program for the person wanting a simple site. Coding is adequate but not great. I used it for a couple of years as the teaching tool for my Web design students. It served that purpose well.

However, you shouldn’t venture to say this program is useful for pros. The lack of templating ability alone rules it out. Its awkward CSS tools are not only limited but not terribly stable. I’ll stop there but could go on for paragraphs.

For the webmaster wanting to maintain a small personal or organization site, it’s my first recommendation. The price is terrific. However, the difference between Nvu and Dreamweaver is as great as the difference between a Wal-Mart 1/4-inch electric drill and a 1/2-inch model for contractor use. Each is appropriate for its intended audience but unsuited for the other.

—Michael McKee

Thanks for the additional perspective, Michael. That’s useful to know.

—Miraz Jordan

• • •

I tried this program but was very disappointed in it after a while. The main problem is that once it hit version 1.0, and I believe that was over a year ago—maybe longer—development completely stopped. I can live with small bugs—and there are more and more of them the further you go—and I can live with interface quirks to a point, but not if there’s no hope of seeing them fixed. I also found that frequently used features or options tended to be several clicks away, while rarely used options were presented front and center; and nVu when used regularly proved to be far buggier than I expected.

When it came right down to it, it was worth paying the larcenous and excessive price of Dreamweaver. I am glad nVu is there, but I sure wish someone would pick up development. The sponsor, Linspire, seems to have just wanted to fill in a check-box on their feature comparison chart.

—David Zatz

That’s disappointing indeed. Out of the various programs I’ve looked at so far, this one certainly seemed to have the most promise.

I used it only for a short time, to make a single page so didn’t notice the quirks you mention.

—Miraz Jordan

Soundsticks II Review

Let me just say that I have never before written a letter to a reporter/reviewer/editor about any article or review. This is the very first review I’ve read that has immediately prompted me to assail the author with praise. Your review was quite simply the best review I’ve ever read for any product (and believe you me…I’ve read quite a few). I truly wish there were more writers like yourself in the world of comparative product reviews. That bit about the Yak Butter had me rolling on the floor. Anyways, thank you for that amazingly hilarious (and informative) article. I hope you write many more.

—James White

Thank you for your kind note—I’m delighted to hear that you found the piece entertaining, and certainly flattered that you would take the time to write given that, based on your remarks, this is not something you would ordinarily do.

I suppose I should write another piece for this coming April, but I’ll have to think of an appropriately ridiculous topic that can measure up. Any suggestions?

Thanks again for reading, and for taking the time to write.

—Evan Trent


Nice to see you’re back on track with your cartoon stories. One day, you must publish a hard copy book. I would love to buy one and put it in the college library. This last one will be printed out and put on our college notice board.

I am a tenured teacher at a state government Institute of Technology in Australia. But…I had worked in industry for about 30 odd years before that. Graphic design is a more cut-throat industry than it was before the days of computer graphics. In the old days, you had to be really skilled and well-trained to get a job as a GD or Commercial Artist, as everything was done by hand or in the darkroom.

There weren’t that many design courses then, either. Now, (as your cartoon shows) everyone and their dog wants to become a designer, and all that is needed is some basic Quark and Adobe skills to call yourself one. That is why some low-quality studios and cheapskate employers make use of this (as you show in your strip).

Good on you for showing things as it is. I had to laugh about the tenured prof, but I am sure he/she worked before getting the job as lecturer. Don’t forget, the Design industry is also very ageist, and my final jobs were to do the typsetting and technical work, as it is OK for an older person to do it. Of course, us oldies can’t do creative work for an employer; we don’t look the part!

On the other hand, we can do other things like publish books.

Best of luck for the future and may you do many more cartoon strips. I especially like the GD send ups, and I have some print outs pinned up in my office.

—Dr. Hilary Rhodes

Coping With Mac OS X’s Font Rendering

No matter what fix I try on OS X, I still end up with bad eyestrain. Because I can’t use OS X without constant blurry vision and headaches, I have been forced to remain with OS 9.2—which of course nobody is designing new software for any more. It is nice and readable, however!

When will Apple address this problem? I have been looking at new IBM-compatible laptops, but they seem to be going down the same path. My HP desktop with Windows XP and a CRT monitor is still okay.

I have been using Macs since 1984, and this whole font unreadability thing has completely taken the shine off the experience. The software that goes with it only compounds the problem.

Interesting world where new technology is worse than the old for some users!

—Clare O’Farrell

• • •

Nice article.

I am a new Mac owner (Mac Pro) after many years with Windows and am gravely disappointed with the way text looks. It looks like my monitor is running out of “ink.”

Why don’t more people (seemingly) care about this?

Why does Microsoft do this so much better than Apple? This may seem beside the point, but it seems a valid question when there are so few things Microsoft does better.

—Mark F.

• • •

I just got a 24″ iMac, but after one week I am back to Windows. The fonts just look so horrible. I admit that they are more print-like, but what’s the point when you can’t read them on-screen?

I have tried playing with the font-smoothing options. I also disabled font-smoothing altogether with Silk and TinkerTool. However, the fonts just don’t render properly. For example, the font-spacing of Tahoma in iTunes is completely off. It works fine in Mail, though. It is funny, that iTunes looks much better in Windows than on Mac OS X.

This is my third attempt with Mac OS X (after I sold a PowerBook G4 and a Mac mini before they went Intel). At least I can use Windows on the iMac (including wireless keyboard and mouse) until Apple improves aliased font-rendering in Mac OS X.

I thought I could live with anti-aliased fonts in Mac OS X, but after a while my eyes tell me that they had enough. Hopefully, Apple will do something about it.

I realize that it is really a matter of personal taste, but Apple should know this. They should give us the option to turn anti-aliasing off and provide us with properly tuned fonts for smaller font sizes.


I’ve been seeing all these comments and just felt like a brief mention from my own perspective. Yes, the fonts are soft, and yes, it’s completely a matter of personal taste. However, I, for one, have no issue with OS X’s font smoothing. I can read it perfectly fine. So clearly it’s different for each person. I simply wanted to say this because it should be noted that the smooth fonts aren’t universally terrible. Only to some.

In many cases, the only people who get involved in a forum like this about any “issue” are only the side who are complaining. Nothing wrong with that, but people who are happy with “the issue” are less inclined to spend time writing a comment. Being upset about “an issue” is what motivates people to leave comments.

Thus, I’m breaking that mold and just saying that I think OS X’s font smoothing looks fine, to my eyes.

—Lee Bennett

• • •

A couple of additional remarks. Sorry to go on about this, but I am complaining because I have been left stranded in a computer desert!

For some people the anti-aliasing is far more than a matter of mere personal taste—it is the difference between a system they can use and one they can’t.

This issue only appears to affect a minority of users such as myself. Most people have no trouble reading the smoothed fonts and like them, which is great for them—but there are a number of people like myself for whom it is a serious problem that renders OS X unusable.

I am happy for everybody who likes the smoothed fonts to keep using and enjoying them. But as Roland says above, why not just provide an option for the rest of us who can’t actually read the smoothed text?

I would be perfectly happy with such an option and would never complain again. None of the fixes outlined in the article work for me and believe me, I have tried them all. The base vector font drawing on which the anti-aliasing is built is too wispy once you remove the anti-aliasing, and you simply can’t remove the smoothing on some software packages.

Perhaps super high resolution screens are the only answer.

—Clare O’Farrell

• • •

I think this is more than just a matter of “preference.” Arial vs. Verdana—that’s personal preference. But is it “personal preference” for me to say that I want black text to be black (rather than having what amounts to white streaks in it)?

Nobody here is saying they “can’t” read the fonts. No more than would we say that anyone “can’t” read the fonts displayed on the first EGA and VGA screens that came out many years ago. But if Apple’s text of today looked like that perfectly legible text they would not exist for long.

Those screens of before rendered both graphics and text in a way that was representative of the limitations of the time. However the text on my Mac looks bad not because of the limitations of the hardware but because of the fact that somewhere along the line Apple apparently broke it. If the latter weren’t true, it would look just as bad in Windows on the same hardware, and it doesn’t.

Apple goes to a lot of trouble to make things look sleek. If there are that many people who really don’t care that the text is ugly, then I guess we’ll wait a while. I suspect people like me are here “complaining” because they have made an investment in what otherwise is a fine system and they want to give it a chance. And if more people would actually say something about what is lacking I think this will get fixed.

—Mark Fraser

• • •

I just want to re-iterate and insist again that for me (and for others) it is not just a case of “preference” or taste, or “ugly” fonts; it is a matter of actually being able to read the text (in any font) and use the computer. I have never had any problems of this kind before with reading computer screens, and still don’t have a problem with OS 9 or with Windows. (I sincerely hope Windows doesn’t go down the same path or I will really have a problem.)

After consultation with an optometrist, this was the explanation offered: if you zoom in on the characters in a smoothed font you will see they are made up of a whole lot of different colored pixels. Without smoothing, the pixels are all the same color. Some people’s brains are able to detect the different colored pixels and aren’t able to process where to focus the vision. Result: headaches and blurry vision.

As I said before, I would like to lobby Apple about this but don’t know how to reach them. There are a whole set of advanced “universal access” options in OS X—I really think this problem needs to be attended to if “universal access” is going to be anything more than fancy “window” dressing.

As I said above, I have been a Mac user since 1984 and love the functionality of OS X—I just want to be able to access it—hence my insistent complaints on this matter!

—Clare O’Farrell

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (1)

Ronald Lamars · November 4, 2006 - 07:17 EST #1
As for the comments on fonts in OS X, I am astonished. I have been a windows user from 1994 till 2002, when I bought my first Mac and after a week decided to disconnect the windows machine. In the Netherlands, where I live, nearly every place you work you will have to comply to using windows. Headaches for me are the result: I simply do not understand how people are able to look all day at font rendering by windows. For me not simply a matter of taste, but of headache or not. I am very greatful for Apple and OS X, really.

Ronald Lamars

Add A Comment

 E-mail me new comments on this article