Tips & Tweaks: Easy-to-Read Fonts

The other day I was browsing Poynteronline, a terrific spot I visit all the time, when I came across an article about the spiffy interface for Microsoft's new Windows, and how it uses special fonts designed for reading on-screen.

This got me curious about reading text on-screen, so I did a little research and came up with interesting stuff like a technology that improves the look of on-screen fonts and tips for making Internet Explorer display the fonts you want to see.

Vista's Cool, New Fonts

Vista, the upcoming version of Windows, is getting lots of ink. To learn all about the fonts that Microsoft used in Vista's interface, read Anne Van Wagener's "The Next Big Thing in Online Type."

"Windows Vista Looks Slicker, Safer" gives you three pages full of its new features.

As an aside, I find it fascinating that Bill Gates has always been a font fanatic. Steve Gibson talks about it in "Sub-Pixel Font Rendering.

Clear Fonts With ClearType

If you have a LCD monitor, a notebook, or maybe (and there's some argument about this) an older CRT monitor, you can substantially--no, dramatically--improve the look of your on-screen fonts. They'll be sharper and clearer than ever before. All you need to know about is ClearType--a feature built into XP that's turned off by default, oddly enough (thanks, Microsoft).

You can fiddle with XP's settings to get ClearType, but it's way easier to use Microsoft's online wizard to change the setting. Better, use the ClearType Tuner PowerToy. My choice, though, is ClearTweak, a cool, free utility that lets you fine-tune ClearType, or turn it on or off in a jiffy.

Make IE's Fonts Behave

You can make Microsoft's Internet Explorer use the font you want to see on Web pages. Go to the Internet Options menu, click Accessibility, and then check "Ignore font styles specific on Web pages." Just make sure the Fonts field in that dialog box is set to your favorite font, say Arial.

Be aware, though, that changing this setting may also change the fonts in other programs, like Eudora.

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You think that's a doozy of an occupational hazard? Consider the poor schnook of a tugboat captain who decided to take his tugboat under a drawbridge that didn't open.

Write Checks on Your Laser Printer

About eight years ago I started using CheckMagic. It's a program that works with Quicken or QuickBooks to print checks on special safety paper. Get some background from "Pinch Some Pennies While You Print" and "More Money-Saving Printer Tricks."

When I wrote those articles I got lots of flack from banking people. They feared for my safety and the safety of my bank account, and they fretted about my bank's reaction to using an ordinary toner cartridge in my laser printer.

It's been years since I wrote those articles, and so far my bank hasn't blinked an eye (or even complained) and no one's bilked me of any money.

If you're curious, head for the CheckMagic site. You might want to just call CheckMagic at 800/394-9367--it's a small company, and you might get a quicker response by phone.

CheckMagic for Quicken Software costs $20; the version for QuickBooks (CheckMagic Professional, version 5.5) isn't cheap at $70, but worth every penny. The older version of CheckMagic Professional, version 4.1, is only $30. It allegedly runs on just Windows 95, 98, and ME, but it's working just fine on my XP system. Special check paper runs about $16 for 500 sheets with three checks per page--or as much as $25 for 500 sheets of voucher-style paper.

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Steve Bass writes PC World's monthly "Hassle-Free PC" column and is the author of PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer, available from O'Reilly. He also writes PC World's daily Tips & Tweaks blog. Sign up to have Steve's newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.
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