Fix Windows Vista’s Fonts!

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I’ve been labeled a nitipicker for seeing skipped details that few others seem to see on the surface of an application’s user interface. Guilty as charged! Download this simple registry patch, but please read this entire post before applying it?

I’m not happy that Microsoft has added yet another shell font to the mix with Windows Vista: Segoe UI. On its own, Segoe UI is an awesome font – but when it’s slapped up against Tahoma, MS Sans Serif, Microsoft Sans Serif, and/or Arial – it’s no longer a clean user experience. In fact, Vista is downright messy when it comes to shell fonts – with some aliased faces reaching back to the days of Windows 3.11!

These blatant font oversights were shoved onto the backburner for the sake of (a) 100% backwards compatibility and (b) time. However, that didn’t stop me from diving into REGEDIT and setting things straight. The good news? I believe I’ve figured out how to make everything inside of Windows Vista stick to Segoe UI. It’s a subtle, yet radical, transformation.

There are benefits and drawbacks that come with my font tweaks. The biggest benefit is that most (if not all) of your application fonts will finally be in the same font family. The drawbacks happen to be a matter of perspective.

Text in size-restricted config dialogs may appear tight or truncated, but you will never see Arial, Times New Roman, Microsoft Sans Serif, MS Serif, MS Sans Serif, or Tahoma font faces ever again. I can’t imagine this being a tremendous problem for most people – myself included.

I’ve killed most of the aliased fonts that will ship in Windows Vista – there’s virtually no other (or easier) way to do it other than through this registry patch. Software installers finally conform to a single Segoe UI typeset, Google Earth finally looks clean, and .NET apps finally don’t look any different than other apps on the system – and Web sites that call on Arial (like Google.com) look amazing after this tweak, too. I posted a few before and after screen shots to Flickr.

If you bother to look at the .REG file I’ve compiled, you’ll see that the tweaks are relatively straighforward. I’m essentially redirecting font rendering from fonts I don’t want (Arial, Tahoma, MS Sans Serif, etc.) to a font that I do want (Segoe UI). The essential key is in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SOFTWARE Microsoft Windows NT CurrentVersion FontSubstitutes.

I’m releasing this tweak in the hope that others will help me refine it. You should set a System Restore point if you’re feeling gunshy. I’ve applied them safely to my own system, and have bug squished and cross-checked compatibility with both Robert McLaws and Brandon LeBlanc. They were both quite helpful and suffered through countless reboots with me. If you find any other tweaks that should be added to the .REG file, let me know and I’ll incorporate them ASAP.

For further optimization, you might also set your icon font to 8pt (it’s 9pt by default). Right-click the desktop, choose Personalize, click the first “Windows Color and Appearance” option, click the “Open classic appearance properties for more color options” link near the bottom, then click the Advanced button on the “Appearance Settings” dialog, select the “Icon” item, then flip the Size field to “8.” Windows Vista: transparently convoluted!

While my font patch is harmless, I’m not responsible for anything that might happen to your system (or life) if you decide to apply it. I’m sure incompatibilities will spring up, but that’s when I’ll really need your troubleshooting assistance.

I’ll certainly be sharing this information with a few key Microsofties, though I do not expect them to officially incorporate my patch into future builds of Windows. If you don’t even care about the fonts on your screen, then why did you bother to read this far – and what have you got to lose by applying my patch? I simply couldn’t recommend running Windows Vista without it.

Moreover, to all the people who slapped me around for complaining about Vista’s font mayhem: at least I did something about it instead of rolling over and pretending we were past the point of no return. Feh. If only I could fix other visual hiccups – like Vista’s Task Manager, which has 16-color icons and doesn’t ToolTip truncated fields. Maybe SpeedUpMyPC will fix it eventually?