I want to REMOVE "Unfitted" Kerning Style

If you go into Preferences / Themes / Text Style you will see that for the three different interface items we have a choice of “Kerning Style”: “Unfitted” and “Fitted”, with the latter being default.

“Unfitted” is not a thing, there aren’t multiple kerning styles, it is typographically bad, and this is a bug and not a feature. It is born from a misunderstanding of the FreeType API. Explaining this is fairly straight-forward, but it might still be hard to remove if some users insist they prefer this option even if broken and incorrect. But supporting it makes our codebase more complex, harms performance, and might keep us from making some nice improvements.

Kerning is just the adjustment of the space between pairs of specific letters, for example to make “AV” closer together. It is done by the typeface designer and is done ONCE. They don’t do this multiple times in multiple “styles” of kerning.

FreeType, the library we use for font drawing, stores all of its values as integers (whole numbers) but as 64ths to allow for higher precision. When we ask for kerning values we also specify what kind of answer we want and that argument is called (unfortunately) “kerning_mode”. FT_KERNING_DEFAULT corresponds to our “Fitted” and returns the values scaled by font size and rounded so is a multiple of 64. FT_KERNING_UNFITTED is the value without rounding.

No matter which of these we ask for we immediately divide the value by 64 and assign it to an integer. The end result is that FT_KERNING_DEFAULT gives a rounded version of the ideal amount while FT_KERNING_UNFITTED gives us a truncated version of the ideal amount. So if the ideal kerning value is 1.7 then the former returns 2 while the latter returns 1.

Users can be forgiven for thinking that “Unfitted” is just tighter and “Fitted” is looser, but it really isn’t like that. Following shows changing between the two:


Note this changes nothing in “User Interface” at all and only the kerning around the “e” in “Text”. This is only ever a pixel change in some pairs regardless of the font size. It really is not a useful and proper setting.

Having to support this adds complication. Instead of caching a single kerning table we have to deal with a list of (two) tables. And we are constantly having to delete and recreate these tables with every size change which requires 16,129 function calls. So if we draw a panel title then a widget label we have to do this in between.

Ideally we would get rid of this idea that there are multiple kerning styles and simplify our code. And then we could choose to store the unscaled kerning values in 64ths (FT_KERNING_UNSCALED) just once and never change them during the life of the face - including through size changes - since we can easily scale the values ourselves. And then, once things are cleaned up, consider implementing FreeType’s own caching system instead of rolling our own.


This got added in this commit with reasoning of “please test if no-one complains we can use this as default” think a 12 year test period will suffice and you can safely remove the legacy option.


Yes, that commit illustrates it all very well.

The original code called with FT_KERNING_UNFITTED values and you can see the division by 64 that truncated the values. Diego Borghetti noticed that “the ‘Default’ style give better result here” but added this as an option instead of a fix. It was later made the default choice. But we ended up with “wrong” and “fixed” user options. It was after this that the kerning caches were added and had to be more complex had this not been added.

That’s a great illustration of the consequences of adding options! They can become a real problem even a decade later.


Thanks for looking into this, +1 to remove this option, keeping the default.


I did a dry run of this yesterday to see what is involved and it is pretty immense. Thinking about how it could be broken up, but not sure yet.

15 files changed, 36 insertions(+), 314 deletions(-)

 source/blender/blenfont/BLF_api.h                  |   2 +-
 source/blender/blenfont/intern/blf.c               |   1 -
 source/blender/blenfont/intern/blf_font.c          | 115 ++++-----------------
 source/blender/blenfont/intern/blf_glyph.c         |  59 ++---------
 source/blender/blenfont/intern/blf_internal.h      |   4 +-
 .../blender/blenfont/intern/blf_internal_types.h   |  20 +---
 .../blender/editors/interface/interface_handlers.c |   9 --
 source/blender/editors/interface/interface_panel.c |   8 --
 .../editors/interface/interface_region_tooltip.c   |   3 -
 source/blender/editors/interface/interface_style.c |  46 +--------
 .../blender/editors/interface/interface_widgets.c  |  53 ----------
 source/blender/editors/space_file/filesel.c        |  14 +--
 source/blender/makesdna/DNA_userdef_types.h        |   3 +-
 source/blender/makesrna/intern/rna_userdef.c       |  12 ---
 source/blender/python/generic/blf_py_api.c         |   1 -
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This is basically all done. It allowed us to remove about 400 lines of code, simplify it, make it more readable, and make it much faster.


Thanks for working on this! It’s not a glamorous job to remove legacy code and simplify options making it easier for the user. Especially in this case where the standard default option really is the only proper solution. I really appreciate that someone is doing that!