Is a font fix for Word 2011 on a Retina display really this easy?

Microsoft Word 2011 on a MacBook Pro with the high-resolution Retina display doesn’t look great. The anti-aliasing technique used on Macs to make fonts appear smoother at smaller sizes is very noticeable. It makes the text appear fuzzy.

Compare this type at 200% in TextEdit:

TextEdit aliasing

to this type at 200% in Microsoft Word 2011:

Word aliasing

To date, Microsoft has made no announcements regarding an update to address this issue. They could possibly wait until Office 15 for Mac but that is not likely to be available for another year.

However, an anonymous poster who goes only by the name naosedna has posted a set of instructions on imgur.com to force Word to take advantage of the Retina display and they appear to work with few adverse side-effects. After I followed the well-documented steps, which took only a couple of minutes to complete, I was able to view my test type in Word without the aliasing.

The fix entails editing a property list file (.plist) within the Microsoft Word.app bundle and adding two lines of instructions. These instructions prevent forcing Word to open in Low Resolution.

Participants on reddit.com have responded that the fix works for them as well. They have also reported, though, that some text and toolbars appear low-res.

Microsoft certainly won’t endorse this fix and I’ll add that editing any of their delivered software could result in potential issues. Follow the instructions closely to duplicate the software and edit the duplicate instead of the original. I’d recommend this tip only to folks who absolutely need clear type in Word, such as those who spend their entire day in the application. For everyone else the font display may appear fuzzy but the application is still more than usable.

Most other third-party application developers such as Adobe and Quark will need to modify their applications to work with Retina displays. This problem is not limited to Microsoft applications.

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3 comments to Is a font fix for Word 2011 on a Retina display really this easy?