Most fonts contain within them "hints" laid down by their designer about how they should look on-screen. However, Ubuntu ignores them and uses a system called autohinting, which improvises the hints based on the shape of the letters.4 It works well, and Ubuntu's fonts look far from ugly, but you might also want to try bytecode hinting. This uses the hinting built into the fonts and is said to work particularly well with Microsoft fonts (Tip 170, on page 206 discusses how to install these).
To activate bytecode hinting, open a terminal window and type the following:
$ sudo dpkg-reconfigure fontconfig-config
Using the cursor keys, select Native from the menu and then hit Enter. on the next screen you'll be asked if you want to activate subpixel rendering. This is good for TFT screens, so make the choice (or just select Automatic). Next you'll be asked if you want to activate bitmap fonts, which are non-true type fonts good for use at low point levels. There's no harm in using them, so select yes.
The program will quit when it's finished. once that's happened, type the following to write the changes to the system and update files:
$ sudo dpkg-reconfigure fontconfig $ sudo dpkg-reconfigure defoma
Click System ^ Quit ^ Logout, and then log back in again. The difference should be noticeable immediately. Letters will appear more rounded and the antialiasing will appear better.
Bytecode hinting isn't to everybody's taste. If you don't like it, just repeat the steps and enable autohinting again.
For more font related tips, see Tip 101, on page 155; the afore-mentioned Tip 170, on page 206; Tip 280, on page 323; and Tip 283, on page 329.
4. Autohinting, as described in Tip 21, is used to avoid patenting issues with bytecode hinting technology in some countries. This isn't an issue for you, as an end-user, but it's why organizations like Ubuntu prefer to distribute Ubuntu with autohinting activated.
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