Hello Jules !
I would have loved not to put fire on oil, but I think I have to give my opinion on this topic as well ;)
My main issue before with Font rendering was the differences you get between the display of the same code in Windows and Mac OS X. I have solved this issue a while ago by not caring too much anymore, or by using the setRenderingEngine function on Mac OS X, to remove the "blurry" signature of CoreGraphics Font rendering. Sometimes I still have issues between Windows and Mac OS X with the actual size of the Font being different, but it's a problem with some Fonts and not others, so I try not to use any Font displaying this issue.
However, at various times, I would have liked to be able to disable the anti-aliasing of the Font rendering, to display accurately small characters. I totally agree with Jules when he said that they shouldn't be used at all if possible in the plug-ins GUI, since most of the time it is needed to make labels for hundreds-of-knobs-on-one-big-messy page type of GUI, and that's a really wrong practice. But in my case, it is more something I do for "design purposes", not for displaying useful information, or things affecting the global layout, usability etc.
I have a typical example for that : the vu-meters. Even if you put a large one in your UI, you can't display the metering in dB all over the vu-meter with large font sizes, because that's not relevant to use a big part of your UI to do that. That's what is done in most of the DAWs and a few plug-ins I have in mind. To do that, I had to do some extra graphics work on Photoshop for clients, even if I would have liked to do it directly with JUCE. One time I even wrote a function which draws small number characters pixel by pixel...
Moreover, the ability to choose the way a font is displayed on screen is a very interesting design tool. That's why you can choose between 5 differents options on Photoshop for that (aliased, crisped, sharp, strong, smooth). It's a function I use all the time when I do something with Photoshop. Typography design isn't just a matter of putting some characters on a screen, and changing their style. I guess a lot of designers would be angry if Adobe removes all these options but one, with the argument they should use only this one, the others being bad design choices. What if I want to design deliberately an UI with a retro look, and have fun with all the retro codes, while keeping the usability under control ? Why should the content of a library impose me some design choices, just because some people might do wrong things with others ?
So Jules, I think at one time you will have to give up, and develop something allowing people to disable anti-aliasing, and the easiest way to do that on your side would be the best one ;) Either some extra code in JUCE just for the anti aliasing part (I couldn't care less about the hinting stuff personnally) or a wrapper for FreeType would be fine. This way you will also stop the 5 years flow of messages on this topic, which isn't totally there because of wrong ideas as you may think ;) You should also consider that maybe some very good designers doing a very good UI work would love to use this functionality, not just beginners or "unimaginative" people !
Anyway, if you don't want to, I will continue to use workarounds, and I don't think that's the most useful thing you can develop on JUCE right now, but I don't think you will ever stop the flow of messages about font rendering :)