The font known as 'MS Sans Serif'

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/01/27 06:01 -05:00, original URI:

Loyal SIAO reader Serge Wautier just posted about MS Sans Serif. In the post he talked about this font a bit, saying:

The problem is that this font supports the Western European code page only.When one adds an Eastern European language such as Polish, appTranslator realizes that the font will not display correctly in Polish hence replaces the default dialog font by Tahoma.Now Tahoma is a _little_ bit wider than MS Sans Serif, resulting in long source text items being cropped, especially if the controls were really just wide enough to display the text.

I figured it might be good to set the record straight. :-)

Now if you look in the fonts folder (click to see it bigger):

You will see mostly TrueType fonts, and then you will see some or most of the following bitmap fonts:

(Your exact list may vary, of course!)

Note the total number of fonts I have there -- 283, including a visible Marlett.

Now, let's go the DOS prompt and look to see what is there:

Hmmm.... looks like there are a few more there than the font folder is admitting to, isn't there? :-)

The fact is that what you as MS Sans Serif is actually one of many different files covering different sizes and code pages. When you change your default system locale, one of the dances that happens is that the fonts registered with Windows will be changed to match your choice and your font size and resolution, so that you will be able to see text in the console (more on dealing with this issue another day!).

So what you see as one entry can actually be one of a dozen or more font files. And it won't always be Western European, though it will work to match your default system locale....

Which does not change the validity of the other things that Serge said, including the fact that Microsoft Sans Serif is a much nicer font! In fact this whol post is using Microsoft Sans Serif, if you have it installed!

(I will talk more about Microsoft Sans Serif another day....)


This post brought to you by "M" (U+ff2d, a.k.a. FULLWIDTH LATIN CAPITAL LETTER M)

# Serge Wautier on 27 Jan 2006 7:21 AM:


Thanks for correcting me. May I suggest you post more about fonts. ;-D

This raises so many questions that I don't know which one to ask first! I guess I'll wait for these upcoming 'another day'...

# Joseph Bruno on 27 Jan 2006 7:43 AM:

Thank you for a beautifully graphical post but I'm not quite sure I understand it. Is the following summary correct?

1. What you get when you use MS Sans Serif is just one 256-character font in one code page and you can't display characters outside that code page.

2. WHICH code page do you get when you use MS Sans Serif?? Always the one for the default system locale. So if your default system locale is Western European then you can't display "łosoś" and if your default system locale is Eastern European then you can't display "maðkur".

# Michael S. Kaplan on 27 Jan 2006 8:24 AM:

Joseph -- looks to me like you understand... the default system locale controls what will happen, controls *which* MS Sans Serif is used....

# Michael S. Kaplan on 27 Jan 2006 8:24 AM:

Hi Serge --

Well, if they are other questions they should probably go in the Suggestion Box. :-)

# The SZ on 30 Jan 2006 5:01 AM:

Why gets "MS Shell Dlg 2" resized if you change your dpi settings, but "MS Shell Dlg" not? What is the supposted correct font name in resources to support
* different dpi settings
* different languages


# Michael S. Kaplan on 30 Jan 2006 10:06 AM:

Hi Steffen,

I'll be talking about DPI, the Shell dlg font names, and font choices for different languages in upcoming posts. Stay tuned!

# ramkiran on 29 Apr 2008 5:55 AM:

thank you

very useful

Domel on 29 Oct 2011 12:41 AM:

Please do not confuse MS Sans Serif with Microsoft Sans Serif, of which the first one is chunky bitmap font and the latter is a truetype one...

Michael S. Kaplan on 29 Oct 2011 12:09 PM:

That's the whole point of this blog!

kinokijuf on 5 Feb 2012 9:11 AM:

It is worth noting that MS Sans Serif was originally intended as a Helvtica ripoff.

Michael S. Kaplan on 5 Feb 2012 12:43 PM:

You're thinking of Arial....

referenced by

2006/06/06 Is this the Über-font post? No, but it is the teaser for it!

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