Font Rendering Is Amazing - Can it work on other flavors?


I have used Ubuntu MATE since 17.10, now on 18.04. I have also used Kubuntu 17.04, KDE Neon, Bodhi Linux based off of Ubuntu 18.04, and Bunsen Labs.

When I first installed Ubuntu MATE it felt more polished than any of the other distros I have tried before or since. At first I just thought it was because I enjoyed the workflows offered by the different panel layouts or because I had been a Gnome 2 user years ago. But after a fresh install of Ubuntu 18.04 on a laptop on which I had run Win10, I realized that Ubuntu MATE had the best font rendering I had ever seen. I read a lot on the computer screen, and I noticed that on the same hardware Ubuntu MATE fonts were easier to read than Win10. In fact, on that same laptop the fonts in a Win10 VM look better than when Win10 was installed on the bare metal. I have enjoyed the distros above for a variety of reasons, mostly because they run a little lighter on some of my older hardware, but I’m wondering if the magic used by Ubuntu MATE to render fonts can be used on other distros to the same effect?

So are the developers willing to share the tricks they use to have the best rendered fonts in the Linux world? Will these tricks only work on MATE or will they work with other distros or at least with those built on a Ubuntu 18.04 base?


AFAIK, it’s all upstream FreeType now, unlike in the past with custom Ubuntu patches. The defaults settings are slight hinting, subpixel antialiasing and the LCD filter. If you want to know more about options, check out the Arch wiki. FreeType should be the same in all Ubuntu flavours, but I guess one could change the default settings.

Some distros don’t include these settings due to patent concerns. For example, Fedora doesn’t include subpixel rendering (the last time I heard/checked).