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Type Face (Font) Selection

While it's fun to decorate your layout and be very creative, this will be at the expense of compatibility on various people's computers. Windows is "standard" but this doesn't mean all Windows installations are the same. Hence it's best to choose type faces that anyone with a virgin Windows installation can handle.

Here's a compilation of type faces, by type and name, that are common to all Windows from 2000 onward, 2000, 2003 server, XP, and Vista. Choosing your layout type faces from these pretty much guarantees that your layout will be readable by everybody.

In the descriptions that follow, the file names are in parentheses and all have the extension .ttf. The addition of "b" or "bd" is bold, "z" or "bi" is bold italic, and "i" or "it" is italic. A sample follows each section.

Faces without serifs (sans-serif)

  • Arial (arial, arialbd, arialbi, ariali): Microsoft's Helvetica-on-the-cheap, OK for text, good for display, text you are reading here
  • Arial Black (ariblk): Heavy Arial, too heavy for layouts except for a big title
  • Impact (impact): Much too heavy, very narrow, hard to read at small point sizes
  • MS Sans Serif (micross): Main claim to fame is a large library of glyphs
  • Tahoma (tahoma, tahomabd): Somewhat fatter than Arial, tighter letter spacing than Verdana
  • Trebuchet (trebuc, trebucbd, trebucbi, trebucit): Strangely named "catapult," good web design face, easy to read at small point sizes
  • Verdana (verdana, verdanab, verdanaz, verdanai): Readable at small point sizes, large x-height, wide, loose

Samples of sans-serif faces:


Faces with serifs

  • Georgia (georgia, georgiab, georgiaz, georgiai): Larger than Times New Roman in both x-height and width, uses old-style figures (i.e., 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9 hang down below the line)
  • Palatino (pala, palab, palabi, palai) Large type face, very popular
  • Times New Roman (times, timesbd, timesbi, timesi): Overly popular, ubiquitous, not good against dark background; in 14-pt, official State Department type face

Samples of serif faces:


Monospaced faces

  • Courier New (cour, courbd, courbi, couri): Lighter than Courier, not good against dark background; in 12-pt, official standard State Department type face until 2004

Samples of monospaced:


Cursive face

  • Comic Sans MS (comic, comic bd): Face used on Beanie Babies tags, poor for text, poor at large point sizes

Sample of cursive face:



  • Webdings (webdings): Collection of ornamental characters
  • Wingdings (wingding): Another collection of ornamental characters

Example layout

Here is a well-known layout using just two Windows-compatible type faces (with many thanks to the original author). The original type faces have been changed for this figure. For some layouts, it may be appropriate to scale up a little: increase 12 pt to 16, 10 pt to 12, and 8 pt to 10 for larger type overall.

Edited Metrolink layout:

Layout Labeled.jpg

Source of other type faces (fonts)

Ideally, layout builders will choose fonts that are included in the Windows operating systems, natively, as mentioned previously. However, there are layouts that have already been built and the builder is not likely to change them any time soon.

Microsoft offers a free PowerPoint Viewer that will add a large collection of type faces to your Windows, including the newer Vista faces. It does NOT include Arial Narrow, Wingdings3, or certain other fonts which have been found in layouts.

Installing Microsoft Office will usually provide just about every font anybody has used for any layout, but we realize that not everyone has Microsoft Office. One user suggests doing a quick search on Amazon where he found used copies of Office 97 available for under $10 plus a few dollars for shipping. You don't even have to use Office for anything, just install one application to get the fonts. If you know of other legitimate sources for fonts, please mention them in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

-- Main.GaryHahn - 17 Dec 2008 -- Main.BillTheOther - 19 Dec 2008