Nasty Display in Word X

Article contributed by John McGhie


NOTE: This article does not apply to Word 2004. Word 2004 uses the Operating System's text smoothing mechanism, which is on or off for the whole system according to the current setting of System Preferences> Appearance> Font Smoothing Style.


Word X has the ability to utilize Mac OS Xs Quartz Text Smoothing, which arrived in OS 10.1.5.

In OS 10.1.5

Results have been very varied. Quartz Text Smoothing works well with TrueType and OpenType fonts, and it works well with laptop and LCD flat panel displays.

The results are often horrid with Type 1 (PostScript) fonts and with CRT displays.

You may experience gaps between letters, jaggy displays, or lockups and crashing. On some computers you will certainly notice a slow-down; text-smoothing is a processor-intensive activity. On a laptop, make sure you have a spare battery with you!

You may wish to experiment with turning Quartz Text Smoothing off. You can do this in Word from the Word>Preferences>General menu by disabling the Enable Quartz Text Smoothing button.

You can modify Quartz Text Smoothing activities on a system-wide basis with a copy of Marcel Bresinks Tinker Tool (check you get an OS 10.2 version if you are using Jaguar, the previous version is not compatible).

In OS 10.2

Quartz Text Smoothing is reportedly fixed in OS 10.2. It is slightly more efficient, but no less power (or battery) hungry. Current wisdom seems to be to leave it running.

In Jaguar, Apple has finally got around to off-loading the anti-aliasing function to the graphics processor, which makes the outrageous power demands of text smoothing less of a drain on the system CPU. This function is an extension of Quartz Text Smoothing known as Quartz Extreme.

To run Quartz Extreme you need at least 16 MB of video memory and a hot graphics card such as the NVIDIA GeForce2 MX, GeForce3, GeForce4 MX, or GeForce4 Ti or any AGP-based ATI RADEON GPU.

If you have the hardware for it, Quartz Extreme makes for a more responsive (and some suggest, more stable) system. You can tell your boss that you must have it to improve your productivity. Sorry, we havent yet found an excuse that convinces a spouse ....