Hello DirectWrite. We’ve been waiting.

I was excited to see this post from Sriram about DirectWrite today. I’m also glad to see that he’ll be PM’ing the DirectWrite effort. He’s a former WPF guy, now on the Windows 7 team—a good guy to make sure that DirectWrite (a Windows7 API) gets well represented in WPF and (please!) Silverlight.

At this point, I think I would take better text support over any other feature in Silverlight or WPF. Yup. You guys can have blend modes, effects, 3D, and everything else I have asked for (or even hinted about) if it means I get awesome text.

The problem is that I start my designs in Photoshop and, frankly, Photoshop has a great text engine. By the time I get to production, I’m just about always disappointed. To my eye, WPF text rendering doesn’t even come close and Silverlight is losing its socks. Sorry xaml-based technologies. You know we’re still friends, right? I’m just trying to help you grow.

Comparison of WPF and Photoshop text rendering

By now, I (probably like you) have learned which are the “safe” fonts and the safe sizes in WPF, and I stick with them. By doing that I can get some okay looking text that works with most of my apps (incidentally the Ascender fonts that shipped with the SDK are great!). But, frankly, the importance of text in a UI can probably not be overstated and I’m tired of feeling like I’m settling. In Silverlight, I rarely even use the text engine. In most of the projects I’ve done, I’ve pre-rendered the text into images! That’s a sad state of affairs.

So, here’s my wishlist:

  1. Awesome type that looks great at any size and any weight with any well-constructed font (if the font is bad then we both agree that you can only do what you can do)
  2. More developer control over the qualities of the rendering (let me control just how much sub-pixel rendering and how you do it—let me call the shots about perf and readability)
  3. A WPF story (I think Scott Guthrie said something about this at PDC, right?)
  4. A Silverlight story (ideally we’d get the same engine or at least some of the awesomeness even if we don’t get the tweaks)
  5. A downward compat story (it would be a real bummer if this only showed up in Windows7—it means it’s not something that I can rely on and I end up back with my safe fonts. Or, worse, I end up with a smaller set of safe fonts that work in both rendering environments—in that event, things got worse and not better).

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