I’m learning the joys of typography. Up until now I haven’t really specified fonts on this web site. I’ve just let the browser and system defaults run the show. For me, using Ubuntu and Firefox, that meant I was seeing my site and many other web pages with DejaVu Serif. That isn’t a bad looking font, but I’ve been experimenting and prefer the look of sans serif. Especially: DejaVu Sans.
So I’m specifying more font families in my style sheets now, hoping to influence how you see this place. If you’re using GNU/Linux or another Unix operating system, you might be seeing the words in the preferred font. Otherwise you’re probably getting Verdana or Helvetica. Since I don’t have Windows readily available for testing, and no Mac access at all, it’s hard to work out the look of things on those systems. Some people say that Verdana and Helvetica differ in width enough that they aren’t the best alternates, but I think they both look all right so I’ll use them for now. Hopefully things look good cross-platform.
I’m just pleased that Ubuntu (and other free operating systems) have nice fonts available. To be sure you have the opportunity to revel in the beauty of it, here’s a screenshot of DejaVu Sans:
Does this look anything like what you’re seeing?
I think it looks fantastic. By changing my browser default, I realize now that a lot of web pages I visit are falling through to the default. Now I’m seeing this font at the StarTribune and New York Times web sites and it gives them such a fresh new look. Want to see how the other DejaVu fonts look?
DejaVu Sans Mono
I think this is a great fixed-width font.
By default in Windows, my <pre> and <code> blocks were showing up with Courier New, which (in my opinion!) is too thin and spindly for web pages. Now I’m specifying this first, Lucida Console for Windows folks, and Monaco for the Mac.
This is a fine serif font, although maybe a little crowded and stuffy looking on a web page. I’m so taken with the sans now that I almost regret using this font as the default for so long. But I’m still using it for the page title and headers, where it looks good at the larger size and makes for a good contrast to the body text. (Header alternatives: Georgia for Windows/Mac and Hoefler Text for the Mac.)
(DejaVu grew out of the Bitstream Vera font family, FYI.)
Let’s look at another family of free fonts we can enjoy on our free operating systems: the Liberation fonts that Red Hat made to be “metric-compatible” with some common fonts used in Microsoft Windows.
Arial compatible. Looks nice although maybe a little bit narrow for content text in web pages. It makes for a good spreadsheet font.
Liberation Sans Mono
Compatible with Courier New, although looks a lot like DejaVu Sans Mono to me.
Times New Roman compatible. I don’t care that much for this one, which is compatible with my lack of love for Times New Roman. Not that either one is bad, but I’m just not excited by them.