I recently noticed that the Menlo font is rendered differently in OS X El Capitan, depending on the application being used. After tinkering a bit with AppleFontSmoothing, I noticed that the crucial difference was by how Terminal rendered white/bright text on black/dark background compared to other applications like Emacs, Xcode and TextEdit. While the other applications render fonts "heavier" in this configuration compared to black text on white background, I couldn't see any difference in Terminal. The effect is - in my opinion - a leaner and more readable text. Please see attached screenshot for comparison.

Example: Terminal on the left, Emacs on the right side Left: Terminal Right: Emacs

Xcode and TextEdit will render the font similarly to Emacs when AppleFontSmoothing is globally set to minimal. What's going on here, is there a way to apply this in other applications as well? I think the way Terminal renders the font is a major improvement, and would like to see this in all applications.

1 Answer 1


In OS X El Capitan 10.11 Terminal was changed to use minimal font smoothing for light-on-dark text, which more closely matches the weight of dark-on-light text with normal smoothing intensity, and makes the text sharper and more readable, opening up counters like the hollow space in the letter “e”.

A natural consequence of this is that light-on-dark text can appear less bright than before. Users can adjust colors in Terminal’s preferences if they wish.

UI controls (NSControl) do the same, but the standard OS X text view (NSTextView) does not, so programs like TextEdit and Xcode still draw light-on-dark text with more intense font smoothing.

“…is there a way to apply this in other applications as well?”

Without some hackery to modify individual applications, they are only affected if they use standard Cocoa controls and text views.

  • Is it set by NSBackgroundstyle in NSCell? Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 18:47

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