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Vista – Character Characteristics May 3, 2007

Posted by Tim in Reviews, Science/Tech.
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Warning: techie/artsy territory ahead.

I said in my previous post that despite all its shortcomings, Vista does look good (at least compared to XP) and not just because of pretty glass. Microsoft Typography has been busy, and they’ve come up with ten new fonts for Office 2007 and Vista. You can get a look at all of them here, and more importantly you can download them here.

It’s actually been ages since Windows had decent new fonts – the only one I can remember was the introduction of Tahoma in WinXP.

The Sans Serifs

You’ll probably remember Arial – the default Windows san-serif font in older versions (all article examples taken from Wikipedia):

Easy to read, very no-nonsense, but boring to look at after more than a decade.

Tahoma was the default font for Windows XP, specially designed for computer screens. It’s a cousin to Verdana, also specially designed for screens and meant to be legible even at small sizes (I’m showing Verdana at a smaller size).

Tahoma

Verdana

Now enter the new Office default font, Calibri. Calibri has a slightly rounded, modern feel. Compare its lowercase a with the other fonts’ for example, Calibri’s is more “laid-back”. Its lowercase g is also unique for a font that’s officially san-serif; it uses the “double-storey” version. Like Verdana, it was designed for the screen in mind, being highly readable at small sizes, but it also looks good in print. I printed a 50-page report with Calibri as the body font and can already smell an uppercase A :). [Update: Yep, top marks!]

Calibri

There’s also Segoe UI, the new UI (user interface) font, which means you’ll be seeing it in every MS product. It’s rounded, tall, and widely spaced. Decent enough at small sizes but shines in captions, titles, and the like. I’m not a big fan of the stylized tails though (see the lowercase g, y, j, etc).

Corbel doesn’t look good in large sizes, but IMO it is indisputably one of the best fonts in small sizes (the picture below is in font size 9), retaining legibility and looks cool as well. I like how Corbel plays with the baseline of numbers to make them more prominent. The only quibble is that because of this, the (lowercase) letter o is indistinguishable from the number 0.

corbel.png
Corbel numbers

The Serifs

Times New Roman (and its variants) is the first font that comes to mind when it comes to the serif class – not only in Windows, but in most print media. For good reasons, actually: it’s the epitome of readability, and has a decent style. There’s such a thing as overexposure though…

Times New Roman

There are also old stalwarts like Garamond, which doesn’t look good on screens but lends an elegant, medieval feel to print media (it’s used in hardcover editions of Harry Potter). I’ve also always been a fan of its italic variant.

Garamond

Georgia, like Verdana, is a font designed specifically for screens, emphasizing contrast. The drawback is that it doesn’t look as good in print as its other serif brethren.

Georgia

The newcomer to the serif stable is Cambria. It looks like a cross between Times and Georgia: renders well on screens with decent contrast, but not too wide; elegant enough for print.

Cambria

The Monospacies

The letters in fixed width or monospaced fonts all have the same width, which is important in plaintext emails and coding so that the text can be laid out in tabular form. Courier New has been the de facto standard for ages, with a retro, typewriter feel.

Courier New

Microsoft’s new alternative, Consolas, is well designed. It’s compact without sacrificing readability at small sizes. Zeroes are prominent; common programming symbols like the semicolon, dollar sign, question mark, etc are easy to pick out.

Consolas

That’s it

Whew, that took a while. If you missed the link above, you can download most of the new Vista fonts here.

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Comments»

1. sandra - May 4, 2007

You can’t even use Vista…


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