Bring Mac OS X Style Font Rendering to Windows with GDI++

happy guy

Even though I’ve never used Apple’s famed desktop OS, there’s one thing about Mac OS X that has always made love it – the font rendering. A lot of people don’t get what’s with all the fuss about fonts, but for me it’s always been the little things that matter.

Ever since ClearType was introduced a few years into Windows XP, font rendering on Windows has undergone a huge facelift. ClearType is quite cripsy and sharp, but that’s exactly what I don’t like about it. The fonts look like thin swords cutting through a piece of fabric that is your PC screen. Compare that to the font rendering on OS X, which is like this creamy blending thing that creates more impact on your eyes and…..okay I’ve no idea how to describe it, so let me just say it looks tons better! Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two –

windows vs os x font rendering [source: lifehacker; click on image to view in full size]

Notice the difference?

  • Yes? Welcome to the camp! I don’t know which of the two you like, but for me it’s easily OS X.
  • No? It’s probably awesome you can’t make out the difference because then you won’t have to like one or the other!

Anyway, for those of you who do like the OS X rendering but are using Windows instead, there’s an easy way to get the former on your PC!

Enter GDI++. This tiny app, when activated, kills Windows’ ClearType font rendering and uses its own OS X-style rendering, which is based off the original gdi++.dll project.

To get started, download the GDI zip file from the link provided at the end of this post, extract the folder anywhere on your PC, and double-click the gditray.exe file to start the utility.


If the rendering doesn’t change immediately, right click on the gditray icon on your system tray, make sure ‘Enable’ is enabled, and click on ‘Apply Now’. Now, sit back and enjoy the magic!


If you want to make it start automatically with Windows, make a shortcut of the gditray.exe file and put it in the Startup folder.

gditray startup

Should you want your ClearType back, simply exit the gditray.exe file and everything will be back to normal.

Do note that GDI++ doesn’t work everywhere. For example, I can’t get it to work on Google Chrome and uTorrent, two of my favorite apps, for the love of it. The, err, chrome of Chrome gets rendered in gdi++, but not the webpages. Firefox has no problems.

Also, if you don’t run the gditray.exe file as administrator (right click > Run as administrator), it’ll naturally fail to render areas that require administrative privilege.

Overall though, I’m pretty impressed with GDI++. It does what it says, and it does that really well. Previously, the only way for me to enjoy the OS X style rendering was by using Apple’s Safari browser, which is otherwise a very clunky software on Windows. However with GDI++, I can enjoy the rendering system wide without taxing my processor in any manner (the gditray.exe process uses only about 1-3 MB of memory while running and almost zero CPU usage). Really, small things like this go a long way in making me a happier soul!


Download GDI++ – Make Windows fonts look as smooth as Mac OS X fonts (look out for ‘Download GDI++’ in step 1).

download gdi

All credit for me discovering GDI++ goes to the awesome Lifehacker readers, with the app itself being covered at LH way back in March, 2009! Read the entire comment thread on Lifehacker here.