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I've been Googling articles on the relevance of hinting, but most of the ones I've read are dated back to 2011 at best and the nineties at worst, which could mean they're outdated.

Is hinting still relevant in 2017 and onward? When would be the point where it becomes obsolete?

Now we have very high-resolution displays, and fonts are generally set to a certain couple of fixed point sized anyway, be it for screen display or for print. Hinting seems to target only very small sizes and very low-res displays, which is baffling to me, because I'm struggling to see why one would want to set their font sizes too low for most reading purposes (even for minor text like headers and footers), and I'm also making the assumption that I probably won't have to care about old-timey low-res displays when choosing a font for a "hip" website.

Edit: Is inherit used on this site set to 9 hinted? (all webfonts are supposed to be hinted right?) I'm not sure if it's readable because of hinting or because of my screen. If the former is the reason then maybe I'm just asking a stupid question.

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Yes.

Very much so if you are using Windows, Android, OpenJDK Java development kit, PlayStation 3 & 4, PS Vita, and any other Operating System that uses FreeType that implements the hinting feature.

Also On Windows, projects like gdipp and MacType aim to override the system renderer with FreeType.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FreeType#Platforms https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FreeType#Hinting

It is part of TrueType

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TrueType

TrueType is an outline font standard developed by Apple and Microsoft in the late 1980s as a competitor to Adobe's Type 1 fonts used in PostScript. It has become the most common format for fonts on the classic Mac OS, macOS, and Microsoft Windows operating systems.

Question: So is hinting still relevant in 2017 and onward? When would be the point where it becomes obsolete? (appended edit)

Answer: Not likely considering all the platforms that use it, but it is hard to predict the future

Question: Edit: Is inherit used on this site set to 9 hinted?

Answer: Only if you are not using Mac. Mac ignores hinting.

This link here explains a bit more.

https://www.typotheque.com/articles/hinting It gets into the differences between how Mac and Windows rendering fonts.

Mac OS vs. Windows A lot has been written about how Mac OS renders text compared to Windows. I will not go into details here, but the primary difference is that Microsoft’s rasteriser tries to align characters to whole pixel grid, with the result that ‘Regular’ weights look lighter, ‘Bold’ weights look heavier, and subtle details of design can be lost at small point sizes. Apple’s rasteriser tries to preserve the design of the typeface as much as possible, sometimes at the cost of image clarity. Windows’ rasterising software produces extremely good results with a few built-in TrueType fonts, but sub-optimal results with 99% of other typefaces. The Mac OS Quartz technology ignores font hinting completely and renders all fonts equally well regardless of their font format.

However, that doesn't mean that font hinting is bad. It's just that Apple is rendering their fonts in a different way.

Also take a look at this

http://www.microsoft.com/typography/TrueTypeHintingIntro.mspx

http://www.microsoft.com/typography/TrueTypeHintingHow.mspx

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TrueType#Hinting_language

It does help even on larger resolution displays especially when rendering really small fonts.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Vincent Oct 30 '17 at 14:50
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As @LateralTerminal stated "It does help even on larger resolution displays especially when rendering really small fonts."

I actually think this is the key to understanding the problem hinting solves: aliasing. It has nothing to do with point sizes, ems or even typography.

Higher density displays only make the aliasing errors smaller and harder to see, but they do not go away. So long as there is a variable frequency that is at or near the size of a pixel, you will have it. For type, it looks like choppy text, but this is similar to moire as highlighted in red below.

Hinting was developed because most VPU + CRT combos of the time had very low pixel density, so most of the type information was very close to the point sample frequency. To properly show an accurate detail, you need a sample density at least 1.5x the density of the thing you are trying to capture/reproduce.

The example below, depicts a variable frequency and you can see the moire at the threshold where the aliasing errors overtake the signal. Note that the specific resolution is not actually relevant: it is the interaction between the pixel information and any frequency that nears that limit.

For the special case of type, simply "zooming out" a PDF document can make hinting suddenly relevant again, but in general, higher density means fewer opportunities to need it.

enter image description here

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Hinting is relevant at low resolution. Even with high-resolution displays available, low resolution is still needed sometimes, e.g. you are creating an image (that contains some text) and the file size of that image is limited. You might be able to display the image at any size you like, but if the platform you're on limits the maximum file size of an image, then you can only have so much "native" resolution and hinting becomes relevant again. Another situation is when you are dealing with screen magnifiers that just enlarge the pixels, or old-style 'feature phones' with limited resolution.

You could just use a bitmap font tailored to the pixel size you want, but outline fonts with good hinting are more flexible about size.

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