Chrome Brings Text into Focus After Lagging Other Browsers

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 21, 2014

If you're a regular user of the Google Chrome browser, you probably know that the nightly builds and beta channel versions often incorporate cutting-edge features that you can't get in the stable release. These features also often foreshadow what will soon arrive in the stable release.

The latest Chrome Beta channel release includes a slew of new developer features aimed at facilitating richer web content and apps, but, notably, Chrome 37 also adds support for DirectWrite, an API on Windows for clear, high-quality text rendering, including rendering on high DPI displays. It's an advancement beyond a decades-old Windows text scheme that Chrome has been using.

As noted on The Chromium Blog:

"Before DirectWrite, Chrome used the Graphics Device Interface (GDI) to render text. GDI dates back to the mid-80's and reflects the engineering tradeoffs of that time, particularly for slower, lower-resolution machines. The switch to DirectWrite has been a top user request for years, and required extensive re-architecting and streamlining of Chrome's font rendering engine."

"Some users should begin seeing better-looking fonts and increased rendering performance as we roll out DirectWrite, with no changes required by web developers. Assuming everything goes smoothly, all users will experience the improvements by the Chrome 37 stable release."

You can visit for an overview of the other new features in the beta.

For now, Chrome 36, the current stable build version of Chrome, continues to use GDI to render text on Windows. Chrome is actually behind other browsers in switching to DirectWrite. Firefox has used DirectWrite for several years.

Google appears to be more and more focused on Chrome. The browser has moved past Firefox to take second place in desktop browser market share, according to web traffic stats from Net Applications. In March, Chrome grabbed 17.5 percent of desktop brower traffic, while Firefox sat in third place with 17.2 percent.