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MrMaguire

Windows XP Interface Font Looks Different With nVidia Drivers Installe

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I've noticed that there is something about the nVidia display drivers that slightly changes the interface font on Windows XP. It's only really noticeable if you use a theme with a visual style, and it only occurs if you're using an nVidia graphics chipset, Intel and ATI/AMD drivers seem to display Windows fonts exactly the way they are without the drivers installed.

 

image.png

 

Notice the "Start" font is thinner. Top is the default, bottown is with nVidia drivers.

I'd like to know what exactly has been implemented to cause this behavior, and if possible, reverse it. Is it antialiasing? This has bugged me for years. I've looked through the nVidia control panel and haven't found a setting that changes it yet.

 

Here's something that's curious: Using more than one monitor with these drivers disables whatever causes this font thinning.

This is definitely not something that has popped up recently, I've noticed this even on a Compaq EVO D500 computer from 2001, that had a period nVidia GPU in it.

Edited by MrMaguire

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I actually noticed this very same thing years and years ago and with me being a bit OCD on certain things, this really bugged me. nVidia GeForces always did this to me with the drivers installed but if it was just the standard Microsoft driver, it worked just fine. Maybe it's some sort of font smoothing?

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I've noticed this with at least GeForce and Quadro drivers. I'm guessing that it affects all nVidia drivers for XP.

 

It must be some kind of font smoothing or antialiasing or something. I've noticed consistently that it gets disabled with more than one monitor connected. So the question is: What changes or is disabled when more than one monitor is connected?

 

I'm hoping that it's not something that's built-in to the actual drivers, because that would probably be much more difficult to remove/disable.

 

It's a pretty useless feature, if you can even call it that. Given that it only seems to thin some of the on-screen fonts, and only on Windows XP/2003, and only with a visual style similar to Luna. Not to mention that XP and up support real font antialiasing that can be enabled with any graphics drivers.

 

Actually I might add that ClearType rendered fonts on XP with nVidia drivers, look exactly the same as they do with Intel/ATi drivers.

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I'm thinking maybe antialiasing because the default font looks slightly choppy whereas the nVidia font looks nice and smooth, so that's kinda what I'm guessing.

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nVidia drivers have the Control Panel tool that can modify 3D and 2D rendering for smoothness at the cost of speed.  If you want better performance, it sets rendering to a slightly more jagged image.

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Is ClearType ON in the second example where we can't see any taskbar buttons?

Well, the control panel only affects 3D applications/games and video. Drawing type with accelerable, resizable textures is a new school thing and I don't believe is present in XP in any form.

To my eye, it looks like the "choppy" text sample might be overdrawn two or more times for whatever tecnical reason. (One instance of "Standard"-oversampled text drawn directly on top of another copy, which causes an increase in font weight.) And this isn't happening with the other driver. My guessing might not be a technically accurate. That is how it looks.

I sometimes see this happening in software not very compatible with anti-aliased text, when moving windows around or making selections. Previously drawn pixels with partial coverage get left on screen, then new text gets drawn again over them, which causes a build-up of a dark border around text characters, until something is done that causes a complete refresh of the screen. Such as when a window is drawn outside of the screen area or below another window.

For example the 16-bit version of the "Flying Windows" screensaver does this. The version that comes with Win98 forces AA off regardless of the system setting, and gives a clean output (but not as smooth).

The Standard greyscale method of font aliasing might look crude and choppy. I think it has remained unchanged since since Win98 and Pentium II class systems where it ran at an acceptable speed. I don't think NVidia or any other driver can increase the oversampling factor to produce smoother text. If it did, it would apply to all grescale-rendered fonts, not just the Start button.

Overall, I prefer to not use subpixel AA, because it adds color to text that should be black and increses font weight. But that is another topic. The Start button looks quite good in ClearType (this particular combination of white, dark shadow and green doesn't give rise to rainbow colors).

post-118823-0-87567900-1432506027_thumb.

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The thinning of the font is very noticeable on the start button, which is why I chose to make an example of it. But it also affects the font used for the title bar too. Other system fonts seem to be unaffected, as far as I can tell.

 

This is what the XP start button looks like with ClearType enabled.

 

XP_Cleartype.png

 

Quite different.

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I knew cleartype wasn't enabled because I never used it and I recognized this issue right away from the past as well. I dunno if this still occurs with new GeForce cards and drivers or not as I haven't used XP in ages and ages.

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I've noticed it with drivers as new as February 2014 with a GeForce 8400GS.

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