If you want clear, readable text at such a small size, turn off antialiasing. Alternatively, use a pixel font specifically designed for use at small sizes.
Very different results, indeed. I'd be curious to know what typeface and size you're using.
The text rendered by Paint.NET is anti-aliased and perfectly clear and readable at the same size. I shouldn't have to put up with aliasing or use a pixel font just to get decent legibility at 10px.
What's particularly frustrating is that Paint.NET is just using the system's built in type rendering! As I recall, Fireworks previously had a "system" anti-aliasing option, but for whatever reason, it was removed, and now we are stuck with this terrible quality.
It's 10px Arial, hardly an esoteric choice, no?
Yup. 10 px is too small. Turn off antialising.
No it isn't. See previous point about Paint.NET rendering being fine.
This thread has some interesting Custom Anti-Alias settings proposed by another user to mimic Photoshop:
They're a little more elegant than the Fireworks defaults, I think.
The System Anti-Alias option was jettisoned with CS4, coinciding with an update or change to the Adobe Text Engine. Theoretically, the text engine allowed for better compatibility between applications, and yet it's still not an exact match (as the poster of the above thread could attest to).
I don't care what you see in Paint.net. It's Windows only software, so I couldn't see it if I wanted to. Every graphics program has its own rendering engine. You cannot expect them all to work in the same way. If you want readable 10px text in FW, you need to turn antialiasing off. I has aspoken. :-)
You can see what Paint.NET produces, because I included comparison images earlier in this thread. It being Windows only is utterly irrelevant to this discussion.
I am well aware that every graphics program has its own rendering engine. I don't expect them to act the same, but I do expect one contained in a premium product such as Fireworks to produce output of decent quality. There are many, many other software packages, for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux, which can produce good quality, anti-aliased text at 10px. Fireworks failing in this regard is not good enough, nor it is simply a consequence of a 10px size. And just using aliased text is not an answer, it's swapping one type of visual inferiority for another.
You may have "aspoken", but nothing you're saying is contributing anything of value. You're simply arguing for the sake of arguing in the face of indisputable evidence of a real deficiency. I like Fireworks too, but I don't let that blind me to its faults.
What is so damn hard about turning off antialiasing? Sheesh. :-)
Prior to CS4, Fireworks used its original Macromedia text rendering engine. With CS4, it was replaced with the Adobe text rendering engine, due in large part to the fact that text coming from PS or AI looked a LOT different when those files were opened in FW. Apparently, in that regard, things are better, but yes, we lost a couple very nice features that the Adobe Type Manager just isn't capable of recreating - at least not in Fireworks. We also gained a lot of typographic control we never had in earlier versions of FW. So it was a trade-off, perhaps not a balanced one, as your opinion indicates, but a trade-off nonetheless.
If you are regularly using font sizes that are 10 px and smaller in your web page designs, and then rasterizing all that text for display on screen, my suggestion is to use the wishlist form on the Adobe site and report the rendering as a problem. Everything submitted to the wishform is read and logged. This is a user-to-user forum, designed to help users help each other (as has been tried, here). The forum is not regularly monitored by Adobe staff. The submissions from the wishlist are monitored. The more people that report the problem, the more likely the issue will be addressed.
It may be worth adding here that not every typeface will render well at a single, specific small size, like 10px. Particularly at small sizes, different typefaces have different "sweet spots". So a typeface that renders horribly at 10px may actually look quite decent at 9px.
JonR001: If you don't have it already, I highly recommend The Complete Manual of Typography by James Felici (published by Adobe Press!). It's extremely thorough yet readable. I purchased a second-hand 2003 edition at my local bookstore as the more recent updated version seemed to disappoint a lot reviewers.
I suspect that what you're noticing is, in part, an outcome of history. As I understand it, Adobe built its empire on print and making technology that allowed for the production of high-quality print materials. The computer display was just a weigh station in that process, not the final goal. By contrast, Apple and Microsoft have always placed a higher priority on the actual screen output. It seems that Adobe has yet to come up with a way to incorporate both worlds within their software, in terms of typographical output. They're still hanging on to their successful, print-based system.
Let's also keep in mind that, for screen output, it's better to use actual text—rather than an image of text—for at least two reasons, the first being accessibility, the second being type rendering.
I've linked to this article elsewhere, but it's got some great insights into all that goes into rendering type on screen:
Interestingly, while doing some quick studies on this, I noticed that Photoshop's interface uses 10px type, but with subpixel anti-aliasing:
Yet Photoshop itself cannot produce this kind of output. (I suppose this is being generated by the Mac OS?)
I also found that, within Fireworks, the CS5 default Custom Anti-Alias setting—8x Oversampling, 192 Sharpness, 64 Strength—seemed to produce the best results:
Then, of course, there's the aliased type option, but that seems to be a sore subject.
Nothing is "hard" about turning off anti-aliasing. I never said that it was, that is you ignoring my actual argument and putting words in my mouth. What I have said, again and again, is that aliased text also harms legibility, and simply swapping one problem for another is no solution at all, especially when, as demonstrated, it is entirely possible for other text rendering engines to achieve both anti-aliasing and legibility at sizes around 10px. You may be satisified with text that looks like it was generated by Windows 3.1, but I am not.
@Jim_Babbage and @groove25
Thanks for your explanations. I don't use text generated by Fireworks in actual web pages where I can help it, but I am using it in mockups and designs that I need to present to clients. When these are intended to sell them on a particular design, problems with type quality do not exactly help.
I can appreciate that Adobe is historically a print company, but the fact is that Fireworks is explicitly marketed as software for screen design. They undoubtedly have the expertise and the resources to create a decent screen-based text rendering engine, so why haven't they? Also, I find it amazing that Adobe doesn't monitor the Adobe.com forums, but nonetheless I will create a wishlist item.
@JonR001: The tone of this discussion seems a bit strident, but I agree with your overall concern about this issue and I like that you took the time to share a specific example. It's great to question what's going on with this stuff, and it's a good observation on your part. I'd love to see Adobe do more with type rendering for the screen, as would other designers. Personally, I've wished more often for an update to their font menu system—to move beyond a single long, long list and introduce categorization or other options.
Of course, they're never going to trumpet their deficiencies when selling their product... You'll only hear about it when and if it's finally fixed, or a new feature is introduced.
I hope you're not focused on a single font in a single pixel size. At 10px, I think a designer should be flexible about choice of typeface and anti-aliasing. Aliased text is a legitimate option, whether for legibility or aesthetics, though not for all situations. Something I like to remind myself of, from time to time: pixels are a unit of resolution, not size. You're asking for a clean rendering of a complex vector shape, in the tiniest of grids. Some of the success or failure of that is up to the font designer, and some is up to the system or software doing the rendering (and some is up to your choices). And as much as the Paint.NET version in your example succeeds where Fireworks fails—it's a significant difference, no doubt—it still isn't the best typesetting choice imaginable, in either example. You're pushing things to their limit, and seeing where they break.
Just more food for thought.
Adobe has done us a great disservice. I need to produce PDF and printed comps of design work for my big client. I used Fireworks cs3 before upgrading to CS6. Now I have to recreate my work in Photoshop. Days of work. Thanks Adobe You Rock!