Better Looking IntelliJ IDEA Fonts in Linux Mint

If you’re going to spend a significant amount of time in an IDE it has to look good. The fonts have to be clear, dark and smoothly rendered. That’s not quite the case with IntelliJ IDEA out of the box if you’re a Linux user.  There’s been a lot of discussion and numerous blog posts written on this already, but let me add my quick fix to the mix.

From the discussions I’ve read, the font display issue isn’t unique to IntelliJ IDEs, but with NetBeans and other applications which apparently are built with Spring. And among the suggestions out there, you can get yourself into trouble. I followed one path and found myself without a desktop UI.  Fortunately I’m a Linux user (not a Windows user) so I had a Command Prompt and was able to get myself out of trouble and restore my desktop.  The point is to exercise caution before sudo’ing in some commands to change your system font display, including those in this post!

First let’s look at the improved IntelliJ IDEA font look before and after applying the changes. A Project window, with the before on left, after at right.

Now some code, with the Before at top and After at bottom.

The Commands

This IDEA Issue Tracker for Linux Font Display is one of several resources on this and the primary source for my approach to improving my font display, with this entry in particular. Reading the entry thread should give you a good background on the problem.

Install OpenJDK font fix

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:no1wantdthisname/openjdk-fontfix
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install openjdk-7-jdk

Update idea.sh

Add the following to the beginning of idea.sh

IDEA_JDK=”/usr/lib/jvm/java-1.7.0-openjdk-amd64″

Update Idea64.vmoptions

Append the following to your Idea64.vmoptions (in /[idea]/bin/. I suspect you’d add it to Idea.vmptions if on 32x system.)

-Dswing.aatext=true
-Dawt.useSystemAAFontSettings=lcd
-Dsun.java2d.xrender=true

If after loading IntelliJ and no changes are evident, you may wish to reboot.

This is a simple approach which makes a noticeable improvement (though perhaps still not perfect), and doesn’t destroy your desktop.