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Maya 2011 Mac edition font fixes. Make Maya UI legible again.

Maya 2011 was a massive overhaul. Migrating the millions of lines of code to Qt wasn’t easy and the Maya team deserves recognition for a successful migration to a unified platform. Mac users are already seeing the benefits with formerly Windows-only features like V-Ray’s Frame Buffer being ported to Qt and, consequently, all platforms that Maya 2011+ runs on. It’s going to be hard for developers not to make Mac and Linux compatible plug-in if they update it to work with Maya 2011 and above.  

But there were some problems with the migration, most notably with the interface. It’s a little too low contrast in my opinion, so your eyes strain too much in a working day and it’s made worse on the Mac platform, since the font settings are not right. It was nice of the Maya team to use the OS X’s Lucida Grande font but, at the size it’s been used, it’s softened badly by Qt’s anti-aliasing/font hinting. Fortunately, there is a way to tweak this and my hack builds on the post from Michiel Duvekot’s recent wiki page.

So, on to the hack. The settings for Maya’s interface font settings (not the fonts themselves) are stored in a file within Resources folder of the application bundle:

 

Within that file are the settings for the fonts (I’m using BBEdit to edit the file):

The numbers before the font indicate the pixel size, whether the font is bold (1 on/0 off), italic, and the last number indicates whether it’s fixed pitch or not. You really only need to worry about the size, the font name and whether it’s the mac version or not. I’ve tried many variations of built-in and 3rd-party fonts and found a combination that’s sharp, legible and probably on your computer: Verdana 11 for the main font and Monaco 10 for the fixed-width font. You can open the file and edit it yourself or just run this shell script in The Terminal, and it will make a backup file (MayaString_backup) in the same folder, make an edited file on your desktop and then copy the edited file back into the application (you can delete the edited file on your Desktop - it’s just for you to look at in case you’re wanting to peruse it). If you decide you want to go back to the old default, just run this code in the Terminal, which works like an uninstaller:

sudo mv /Applications/Autodesk/maya2011/Maya.app/Contents/Resources/MayaStrings_backup /Applications/Autodesk/maya2011/Maya.app/Contents/Resources/MayaStrings

If you’d rather do the edit yourself, the script is the same as running a find and replace of “Lucida Grande” for “Verdana” and then “12,0,0,0,0,1,Courier” for “11,0,0,0,0,0,Monaco” and “Courier New” for “Monaco”. The visual difference, after using it for a few days, is significant in my opinion. The legibility is much better and, although Verdana’s a tiny bit wider, it’s fine overall and the sharper look is easier on the eyes. Judge for yourself.

The default fonts:

My hacked font set (click for full size)

The Monaco font being used in the Hypershade:

If your fonts don’t look mine, check that your anti-aliasing settings are not set to something that’s making them too bold using TinkerTool.

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