How to Improve Chrome Font Rendering in Windows with DirectWrite
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.
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.
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.