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The World's Smallest Legible Font 280

hasanabbas1987 writes "From the article: 'Well 'technically' they aren't the smallest fonts in the world as if they were you wouldn't be able to read even a single letter, but, you should be able to read the entire paragraph in the picture given above... we did. A Computer science professor called Ken Perlin designed these tiny fonts and you can fit 500 reasonable words in a resolution of 320 x 240 space. There are at the moment the smallest legible fonts in the world.'"


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The World's Smallest Legible Font

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  • Won't the actual legibility of the font have a lot to do with pixel size and spacing? Sure, you can pack that font into a tiny space, but if it's all broken up in jaggies, can you READ it?

    • by icebike ( 68054 )

      Not to mention screen resolution.

      But yes, pixel spacing is key, and it is not legible on this laptop (1920x1200 native resolution).

      Even with magnifying glass (8x) large parts of it are un-readable.

      • by treeves ( 963993 )

        Hmm. I can read it at the same screen resolution. Are you familiar with the text to begin with? I am. Maybe that helps a lot.

      • by treeves ( 963993 )

        BTW, laptops with 1920x1200 displays are not common. Is yours also a ThinkPad W series?

        • by icebike ( 68054 )

          Dell 9400. (16inch diagonal).

          Its actually easier to read on my desktop which has the same resolution display but the displays are larger. (24inch)

      • My attempts (Score:5, Interesting)

        by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @07:14PM (#34249548)

        Agree, this is not legible, especially when enlarged. And, here's my font [] from a good while ago which is not only slightly smaller (or would be if it was variable pitch) but also a good deal more readable. Can be enlarged without loss, too.

    • It might help if the person who took the screenshot had turned off ClearType.
      • No, it wouldn't.
    • Can't read the original slashdotted article, so I'm confused by what is meant as "smallest". "Small" is really meaningless. Do they mean literally small, in that they have a really high resolution font that's legible even when shrunk very small? Such as letters several inches high up on a billboard, but drivers can still read it easily w/o causing accident. Or do they mean the fewest number of square pixels necessary to convey the information on a "standard" screen (where standard is a completely dubiou
  • There is the odd word here and there that I can't quite make out.

    I would tell you which words those are but...

  • by onefriedrice ( 1171917 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @04:30PM (#34247204)
    Reading the font is also made easier by virtue of it being a text many of us would recognize. Our minds would fill in the gaps, even if it wasn't completely legible. I suspect it would be harder to read a paragraph with font that small if the text was completely unfamiliar.
    • Easy to Test (Score:3, Insightful)

      Just read it backwards, word for word. I have to admit it was a bit harder, but it was still legible for me. Considering that this is maybe three point font, I find it pretty noteworthy.

      • by demonbug ( 309515 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @05:12PM (#34247882) Journal

        Just read it backwards, word for word. I have to admit it was a bit harder, but it was still legible for me. Considering that this is maybe three point font, I find it pretty noteworthy.

        I tried that, but the first word was "exercise" which just turned me off from the whole thing.

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        It may be 3 points (1.06 mm) on your display, but it certainly isn't on mine.
        This is a bitmapped font, and how big it is in points willl vary depending on the physical DPI of the displaying device.

    • For legibility testing, it would have been much better if the words of the text had been printed in reverse order. (This is actually also a good trick for finding typos on a page. You read the text from the end backwards)
    • Low-res game font (Score:2, Insightful)

      by CarpetShark ( 865376 )

      "Reading the font is also made easier by virtue of it being a text many of us would recognize."

      Personally, I recognise it because this looks like any other sans serif ~8 pixel-high font from any low-res game of the early 90s or so. Nothing special AT ALL here.

  • How many words can fit on the 3 by 5 inch flash card? Equations? Diagrams?
  • Comment (Score:5, Funny)

    by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @04:30PM (#34247210) Journal


    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by qmaqdk ( 522323 )

      I'd like to see Microsoft designing a font like this. Of course they wouldn't be able to, since they suck and all.

    • I too could not get through that small old wall of text. They sould have broken it up into millimeter sized paragraphs. Maybe I'll have my browser read it out loud with the volume set really really low.

  • Beyond the first line, the text becomes too dense and I lose track of what line I'm on. I only need that, in order to know what it says, but that doesn't really count.

  • Original Source (Score:5, Informative)

    by fotbr ( 855184 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @04:32PM (#34247242) Journal

    Skip the blogspam, go to the source: []

  • Like the latin, small print is an obvious bad-faith action and should be disallowed. Schools specify allowable fonts and margins, there is NO reason to let lawyers do less than a law professor.
    • Not only that, but what is the point of having a font so small it can barely be read? I can only think this is applicable to a very small display, where space is a premium and readability is of modest concern.

  • "There are at the moment the smallest legible fonts in the world."

    I will give you all about 10 seconds to spot the glaring error.

  • How many pixels would be required to hold one LoC?
    • by Amouth ( 879122 )

      well just complete assumptions based on 2 min of looking around

      142,544,498 items in LoC

      ~100,000 words per Average book

      14,254,449,800,000 words per LoC

      This font is 500 words per 320x240 = 76,800 pixels

      ((14,254,449,800,000/500)*76,800) = 2.18948349x10^15 pixels per LoC

      a screen with 46,791,917x46,791,916 resolution per LoC

      or 516,387,615 count 30in Dell/Apple Displays per LoC

  • by Brit_in_the_USA ( 936704 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @04:34PM (#34247308)
    If the PNG on the Slashdot article is derived from the linked source article then I am concerned that it may not be representative of the actual research as the source article offers the image as a JPEG - which will almost certainly have degraded the image quality.
  • by No. 24601 ( 657888 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @04:37PM (#34247354)

    That's pretty amazing. Except that the letters a, e, and o are nearly indistinguishable. To prove it is the smallest legible font, one would have to show that a long enough sequence of just the letters a, e and o could be spelled back by a reader. aeoeoaoeoeoaoeoaoeeeoaaaoeoaoa. I doubt it.

    Practically speaking, that would mean a word like onomatopeia would be hard to identify. Of course, the context in which a word shows up probably accounts for more than half of the reason a reader can identify that word so quickly in a sentence.

    • That's what I was thinking. How readable would the font be if the text were not English words, but something more difficult to fill in the gaps with, such as a big string of random characters. I don't think anybody would be able to "read" it with any consistency if they had to discern individual letters.
  • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @04:42PM (#34247426) Journal
    I was able to read it pretty well, but I think that was due in no small part to it being familiar content. If it weren't the Declaration of Independence, I probably would have had to strain a bit, so it probably has as much to do with gestalt theory as anything else.
  • Ummmm... they made a small font! Who cares? How does this crap even make it to tech sites? On another note, I once drew a stick figure with mud when I was a kid!
    • Where's your fuzzy .png conversion of a fuzzy .jpg capture to provie it?

      If you don't have a way of showing us a lossless image that faithfully reproduces all of the degradation of the original .jpg compression, I don't think you can expect us to get too excited about this alleged stick figure in mud.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @04:49PM (#34247518) Homepage

    That looks EXACTLY like the text I was staring at when I was a kid with my CoCo2 running a 72 column display. The fonts were all artifacted and all that. It was tough but it was at least a good thing that I was a kid and capable of dealing with it comfortably. The machine was originally intended to use a 32 column text display, but the 4 color "high res" display was too tempting for some to resist and they decided to write some word processing and desktop software for the thing. It worked...more or less... sorta... intolerable by today's standards but a feat in those days.

  • In JPG format.

    Heres the original source (you skip two useless blogs) []

  • Ken Perlin? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kill-1 ( 36256 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @04:51PM (#34247540)

    Of Perlin noise fame?

  • "When in the poutse of human events it becanes necessarv far pne people to dissoke the pollitical bands which have comectef then widh pnother amd oo assinne annony dne power of the oaritv the soparare anf oquol statipn fo whiich the Lows of Wature anif of Nowre's Gof..."

    If that's what the text is supposed to say, then heck yes it's a resounding succeff.

  • If I wanted a case of eyestrain, I'd have bought a shiny new 3D TV which would at least allow me to oogle larger than life boobies while hurting myself.
    However, this font may produce some "hi-res" ascii movies... someone should run Deep Throat through the ascii encoder with it.

  • by thisisauniqueid ( 825395 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @04:55PM (#34247598)
    Did Ken Perlin not come through the 8-bit era? "Everybody knows" you can fit the entire English alphabet comfortably into a 3 pixel wide by 5 pixel high monospaced grid, it's been done hundreds of times. (Proportional can be even smaller, of course.)
    • by NixieBunny ( 859050 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @07:29PM (#34249710) Homepage
      You can't quite do that, since he's got both upper and lower case. Besides, he's playing with the RGB subpixels, which makes it trickier. Of course, the early computers like Apple ][ pushed the capabilities of NTSC color TV sets to the point that white pixels would pulsate in blue or yellow due to the chroma subcarrier phase shift (look that up), so they were sorta working at the subpixel level.

      I spent a good bit of time designing 5x7 fonts back then, since I was heavily into display hardware back when it took a board full of TTL to make a 256 x 128 pixel text display.
  • what pixel density?

  • by Dracker ( 1323355 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @04:58PM (#34247654)
    One thing I've noticed while studying Japanese is that I need to use a larger font size when reading Japanese than I do when I'm reading English. The characters are just too complex to differentiate at small font sizes. You can't easily distinguish a character with N horizontal lines without the character being 2N-1 pixels tall (one for each stroke, and another for the gap between strokes). There are common characters with as many as 8 horizontal strokes (The kanji for "kaku" for example, which conveniently means to write). Even today's video games (on nintendo DS, for example) have 11x11 pixel Japanese fonts that can be very difficult to read.

    Any reduction in font sizes for readability must have separate standards for Asian characters, or the more complex ones will just appear as blobs.
    • Older Japanese videogames often did not program in enough text fields to translate Japanese words into English equivalents. Japanese words other than jargon are rarely over 4 characters in length and names are typically 2 characters long, so even when the programmers delegated a generous 5 whole characters for name fields, the English translations ended up having chopped-off names. That's why the hero of Chrono Trigger is named Crono in the game. I didn't realize that till years after I played the game.
  • This is only legible if you have a decent monitor and reasonably good eyeballs. Also helps if your monitors dot pitch is not excessively high and your web browser isn't set to automatically scale images (even minor artifacts are going to render this nigh-unreadable). Even then it's a bit tricky in a lot of places. I certainly wouldn't want to read a lot of text with this font.
  • I remember back in high school, some teachers would allow you to use a 3x5 note card for tests. Anything you could write on the note card, you could use in class. Think how much information you could cram onto it using a font this small.
    • by PRMan ( 959735 )
      I had one class like that. I learned to write really small. 3 lines on the title bar and 2 per ruled line. I fit 3 units' formulas, vocabulary and examples on a single card, front and back. That was about 30 chapters' worth of stuff.
    • Yeah, I remember those classes. I spent so much time trying to write really small that I accidentally learned the material.

  • I consider it a quite large but ilegible font.... or is it just my eyes?

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @05:07PM (#34247802)
    Try again. I bet somebody converted to jpg before converting back to png.
  • Many small devices detect screen pivot these days, but this is a single orientation font.

  • I thought this kind of font fell under the purview of pixel fonts. So it's not really anything new except that this particular font uses shades of grey to indicate certain shapes. I'm hard-pressed to call it truly legible. It's borderline; I have to concentrate a bit to identify certain letters and some of it I'm deciphering mostly because of context.

    I do think this font may have a future as legal info and disclaimer copy.

  • Can't read it. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by antdude ( 79039 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @05:50PM (#34248528) Homepage Journal

    My compound eyes were annoyed trying to read them, and I gave up. :(

  • by jcohen ( 131471 ) * on Tuesday November 16, 2010 @05:57PM (#34248620) Homepage

    I imagine InstallShield will license these at once for click-through software licenses which need fine print -- really fine print.

  • Meh, this one has smaller letters [], and is still marginally readable. Although with the linked text, the words make it easier to work out what it says.

  • Ok, so he did a sub pixel font, which is a win for LCD screens, but that creates one big problem: the most popular small-form-factor devices these days have screens that automatically change their orientation when you rotate them. Suddenly those beautiful sub pixel fonts become a bunch of gibberish.
  • I'm looking at it with bifocals and without, no joy, I would have to use a reading glass to see this.

  • 1280x1024 (native res) on a Dell 1905FP, I'm not more than 3 feet away, and it looks like crap. I can barely make some of the words out. I do wear glasses, but that would mean I *should* help, one would think. Scaling it up merely makes it look even shittier.

  • Nice, the linked article got a hit in Trend Micro.

    Web reputation result: This URL is currently listed as malicious.

    Well, more likely something loaded on that page is.

  • Call me a traditionalist, but a font is not defined to be antialiased. That's a color image, not a demonstration of a font.

  • Link in the article is 404.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.