How to Improve Chrome Font Rendering in Windows with DirectWrite

Google Chrome Windows XP

Update: Google has enabled DirectWrite by default with the release of Chrome 37 in late August 2014. As a result, the flag is now listed as “Disable DirectWrite” and you should enable this flag if you wish to disable DirectWrite support.
Google Chrome for Windows has long been plagued by font rendering problems. From fonts that appear slightly “off” compared to other platforms, to flat out rendering errors, text simply doesn’t look that good in Chrome. Thankfully, a new beta feature of the browser has finally brought support for DirectWrite, Microsoft’s text rendering API for Windows which can improve font rendering significantly. Up until now, Chrome font rendering has relied on Windows Graphics Device Interface (GDI), an older and less capable API.

Chrome Font Rendering

Via gHacks, an example of Chrome font rendering in Windows when DirectWrite is disabled (top) and enabled (bottom).

As noted by gHacks, Chrome version 35, now in beta, includes a setting to enable DirectWrite support. To enable DirectWrite in Chrome, first make sure you’re using the beta version of the browser, and check to ensure you’re updated to at least version 35 (specifically, we tested this feature on Chrome 35.0.1916.27).
Next, launch Chrome and enter chrome://flags into the browser’s address bar. This will enable access to a variety of hidden and experimental features, so be careful as you prod around in this menu.

Chrome Enable DirectWrite

Locate the setting to Enable DirectWrite. It’s currently the fifth entry from the top, but if it moves in future versions you can quickly find it via Chrome’s on-page search feature (Control-F or F3). Choose Enable and quit and relaunch the browser.
Upon relaunch, you’ll notice that Chrome font rendering, especially when it comes to Google Fonts, appears much cleaner. You’ll also no longer encounter occasional Chrome font rendering errors that made fonts unrecognizable in former versions of the browser.
If for some reason you prefer the old GDI rendering method, simply repeat the steps above and choose Disable this time around. As before, you’ll need to completely quit and relaunch Chrome to see the change.
As mentioned, DirectWrite support currently exists only in the beta version of Chrome. It’s unclear when Google will choose to transition it to the stable Windows version of the browser.

6 thoughts on “How to Improve Chrome Font Rendering in Windows with DirectWrite”

Ryan says:
still not rendering fonts correctly with directwrite enabled. Google needs to get their Sh*t together.
Brandi says:
I just had to *enable* the Disable Direct Write flag to get it to work. So, apparently, for me at least, the fonts are smoothed with the flag is disabled. And could it be any more confusing to “enable” the “disable” flag? Uggh.
Martin says:
Thanks man, you rule!
Matthew Vaughan says:
For some font rendering issues with the Univers font, I see no difference between Chrome 37 and earlier versions. (38 Beta is no better either.) It’s markedly worse than IE or Firefox on Windows, or Chrome on Mac. Whatever change was made with Chrome 37 has certainly not addressed all of Chrome’s font-rendering issues.
Kevin says:
The item is listed as “Disable Direct-Write” and if you enable it, you’re turning it off…
TekRevue says:
Kevin, please note the date of this article (April 16, 2014). Google just enabled DirectWrite by default with the launch of Chrome 37 this week. The article has a new note about that at the top.
Alex Ohannes says:
Braulio Cesar Holtz Ribeiro says:
DirectWrite enable = bug in Facebook

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