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Internet Explorer 9 == WPF 3?
2 min read

Internet Explorer 9 == WPF 3?

This is a very old post. Some of the images and links may no longer work. The text is preserved here for posterity.

Microsoft just released IE 9. You can tell when Microsoft are serious about a product release when they do it using yet another focus-group inspired website that will be offline before the end of the year (anyone remember the NetFX3 site?).

Here are some of IE 9's new features:

  • They stole the combined address bar/search box from Chrome
    (But they put it in the wrong place, so you have to choose between having more than 3 tabs open at once and being able to see the address of the web site you're looking at)
  • Font rendering powered by Microsoft's patented Horse Manure Font Rendering Engine.

You might have heard of the Horse Manure Font Renderer before - it was the most hated feature of WPF 3.0 when it shipped.

Here's the engine in action (IE 9 on the left, Chrome on the right):

IE vs Chrome rendering

The font rendering problem in WPF was very tricky - few people preferred it, many really didn't, and most didn't notice. To me, personally, I find the text on the left very hard to read, and it gives me headaches.

It took a long time for Microsoft to acknowledge the problem in WPF, and even longer to fix it. While the problem existed, Microsoft kept insisting "I can't see the problem", it's "for the best", and it's "by design".

Internally, the WPF team took the complaints pretty seriously, and though it took forever, they did eventually fix it. The fix came in WPF 4.

I'm not just Microsoft bashing - everyone complained when Safari did this on Windows in 2007. I understand all of the reasons for it - but, on Windows, it makes text harder to read for me.


As Aaron pointed out below, on some machines the difference will be less apparent. The difference seems to be down to your ClearType settings - below are some examples at different contrast levels:

Different contrast levels

As you can see, adjusting ClearType to a low/medium level means the contrast isn't so bad, but personally, I prefer the high contrast setting for Chrome/Windows. I also notice a big difference on my 24" LCD monitor and my 16" RGB LED laptop screen.

Here's how this is going to play out.

  1. Microsoft will praise the new engine, because it makes super large fonts nicer, and because zooming is better. They'll conveniently forget that on the web, people like to read text. They might even suggest it's our fault for being scared of change*.
  2. MVP's and other shills will get on board, curbing any dissent
  3. IE 10 will be released, and the problem will be fixed, sometime around 2015.
  4. Those same Microsoft employees and MVP shills will blog about how bad the rendering was in IE 9, and how we should all upgrade to IE 10.

(* - the "scared of change" argument makes me smile - Chrome releases a new version every 6 weeks, and I don't complain. Hmmm, perhaps it's because Chrome releases don't suck?)

Paul Stovell's Blog

Hello, I'm Paul Stovell

I'm a Brisbane-based software developer, and founder of Octopus Deploy, a DevOps automation software company. This is my personal blog where I write about my journey with Octopus and software development.

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