Pango and font hinting

I started a discussion recently on the Nautilus mailing list that dealt
with the differences between Xft's and Nautilus's rendering of text.
Basically, I commented that Nautilus's rendering seemed smoother, more
readable, and caused less eye strain than Xft's, as seen in this screen
shot: . The conclusion seemed to be
that the difference was in the way that hinting was handled, since both
used freetype and the same typeface. Xft seems to hint the typeface,
while Nautilus (using eel's text routines) does not. You can read the
threads from nautilus-list here:

Darin Adler suggested that I bring this discussion over to the Gtk and
pango side. Since Nautilus' eel-based text rendering code is going to be
scrapped in favor of using GTK2 and Pango's code, Darin's concern is that
people who like Nautilus' font rendering in GNOME 1 will be disappointed
if Pango does it a different way. However, I think the bigger issue here
is eye strain, for all of us who stare at the monitor all day. IMO, the
current Nautilus rendering of text causes less strain on the eyes than
that from Xft. (Note that I am not an expert and this observation is
purely based on personal experience.)

How will the fonts be hinted in Pango? Is this more of an Xft issue than a
Pango one? (I'm more on the user side than the developer side, so I'm
really not sure what's going on in terms of which library does what.) If
it comes down to choosing one way or the other, I would suggest (as David
Moles jokingly suggested on nautilus-list) that it be made a user option,
with the default being no hinting before antialiasing. (Of course hinting
would still have to be used for non-antialiased text.)

I would appreciate any discussion and/or insight into this. Thanks.


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