Blurry Text on External Monitor with Snow Leopard

One of the problems I have off and on with my MacBook Pro is that every once and a while when I have it plugged in to my Dell 2408WFP monitor the text in Terminal and Coda seem to have blurry text.  Its like the font smoothing that Mac has built in has been turned of just for those applications.  When I installed Snow Leopard this problem was on all the time, nothing I tried seemed to get rid of it.

Looks like I wasn’t the only one with this problem because the great guys over at Mac OS X Hints just posted a hint that will fix this problem.  Sounds like there is a bug in Snow Leopard that turns off the font smoothing for some external monitors.  Of course none of the Apple monitors have this problem but if you didn’t shell out the extra cash for one of their beautiful monitors you might have this problem.  The fix is very simple,  just open up Terminal and then paste in:

defaults -currentHost write -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing -int 2

You can try out using 1 or 3 as the value you are setting to have less or more font smoothing. You will need to restart the app you are having problems with and may even need to unplug and replug in your monitor.

if you decide you just want to get rid of the change just open up terminal and paste in:

defaults -currentHost delete -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing

This will remove the key/value pair that you added and you will be back to the default Snow Leopard way of font smoothing.

MacOSXHints – Re-enable LCD font smoothing for some monitors

EDIT (9/11/2009)
Looks like you can also set the value back to the default value by going in to System Preferences and selecting the “Automatic Font Smoothing” checkbox, this is found at the bottom of the “Appearance” section.



  • Nick

    This change seems to reset when you reboot, any way to make it stick?

  • http://www.petersendidit.com petersendidit

    Interesting I haven’t had any problems with it not “sticking” on my MacBook Pro. If you type in

    defaults -currentHost read -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing

    After rebooting what does it say? If its still set it should return the value that you set it to with the first command. The other thing that can set it back to the “automatic” setting is going in to System Preferences and selecting “Automatic Font Smoothing” checkbox.

  • robert

    I receive an error when using “defaults -currentHost read -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing”

    > The domain/default pair of (kCFPreferencesAnyApplication, AppleFontSmoothing) does not exist

    Very strange.
    Thanks for tip write up anyway.

  • Ivan Wong

    Excuse me, is it input in “Terminal” –> “New COmmand” –> paste the command –> “RUN” ??
    after restart the mac, I can’t see the effect, how can I solve it.

    my LCD monitor is LG W2261VP

  • John S

    I have a Samsung 205BW and I pasted the code into a terminal window.
    I see in preferences their seems to be a change. But no physical change in the monitor. Its just as blurry. I think their must be more that Apple did to the font smoothing then just this. In monitors It correctly identifies my Monitor? Again maybe its a subtle attempt at Apple to get you to buy their monitor?

  • user

    Just a followup, yes there was more then just the preference change. Apple completely changed the font smoothing in Snow Leopard and there is no 1:1 version of Snow Leopard to Leopard Font Smoothing. Everything in Snow Leopard is darker and bolder even when you get it somewhat close to how you had it in Leopard.

    The good news is most people don’t even notice such things and just continue on without noticing the change. The bad is if your like me you can really see the difference and it will drive you insane. In the end I gave up and reinstalled Leopard because I just couldn’t live with the bolder blurry fonts no matter how much it was tweaked.

    For future readers who have external LCDs or have keen eyes if you are interested in Snow Leopard install it via External Drive first and run it that way for a week to see if you can live with it.

  • http://www.dobox.com/ Bruce

    Interesting I haven’t had any problems with it not “sticking” on my MacBook Pro. If you type in

    defaults -currentHost read -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing

    After rebooting what does it say? If its still set it should return the value that you set it to with the first command. The other thing that can set it back to the “automatic” setting is going in to System Preferences and selecting “Automatic Font Smoothing” checkbox.

  • Marco

    thank god i found this!
    thanks so much!

  • Peter Evans

    Not working for me. I have one of the new MacBook Air machines with a HP LP2475w external monitor (plugged into the DiplayPort input of the monitor). Text looks terrible and I’ve tried the above “defaults” command as well as a few other things.

  • Blurry

    Not working for me either. (Command line or System Preferences) I’m using brand new Mac Pro Quad with 10.6.4 & BenQ G2420HD monitor via DVI. Well text is not terrible but bothers me a lot comparing to PC&Windows XP.

    • BlurryFix

      I got around the problem by using DVI and setting the external monitor’s resolution to the documented max resolution of that monitor. For e.g. I am using a Dell ST2010f external monitor and I set it’s resolution to the documented max of 1600 * 900 eventhough the resolution settings allow me to go up to 1920 * 1080. I HAVE to use the 1600 * 900 resolution, any higher or lower and I encounter the blurry text.

      • Flyin2orion

         Well I have mine set the same way on an Acer monitor and I’ve tried everything and still the blurry text. I agree with another post that Apple probably wants to force people into their own monitors. Freaking Apple, this sucks.

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  • Mono

    Thank you so much! My eyes were hurting after 1-2 hours working with the  text editor and pdf viewer. The text looks so much better now.
    (MacBook late 2007, Snow Leopard, DELL U2412M)