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Should Fonts be Anti-aliased?

It seems like a pretty straightforward question, but the issue of on-screen anti-aliasing is one that is sure to plague most users of Acrobat Reader. Acrobat Reader installs ATM (Figure 3), which includes the ability to anti-alias fonts. The thing is, this doesn't work just for Acrobat Reader, but also for every application on your computer.

Figure 3  The ATM control panel.

Personally, I like the way fonts look when they're anti-aliased on screen. However, I typically use a great big 20" monitor and zoom my pages in InDesign, PageMaker, and Illustrator to at least 150%. Even standard-size fonts (10 and 12 point) look pretty good when they're 15 and 18 points large in anti-aliased view. But whenever I zoom out, I have trouble reading small anti-aliased type.

Fortunately, ATM allows you to turn off anti-aliasing at smaller sizes such as 12 or 10 points. Most fonts have pre-built screen fonts at 12 points, so at this size or smaller, the fonts will not be anti-aliased.

To turn off anti-aliasing for screen font sizes:

  1. Display the ATM Control Panel. Choose Control Panels from the Apple menu (Macintosh) or Start menu (Windows), and double-click on ATM.

  2. Check the "Disable Smoothing at Screen Font Point Sizes" checkbox.

  3. Close the ATM window.


  • Anti-aliasing is the process used to make on-screen graphics and fonts look smoother. This is accomplished by making pixels along curved and diagonal edges of characters a blend of the character color (usually black) and the background (usually white).

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