Making a font fetish a bit more mainstream

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2010/07/12 07:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2010/07/12/10032066.aspx


There are some people who like to point out how so much of Windows uses fonts inconsistently -- some Segoe UI, some Tahoma, some Microsoft Sans Serif.

And of course way back in Font substitution and linking #1 I talk about MS Shell Dlg (which maps to Microsoft Sans Serif) and MS Shell Dlg 2 (which maps to Tahoma).

But to be honest, being able to tell the difference between these fonts is really not the kind of thing that most users can really do without help or careful looking for the differences.

Hint: Microsoft Sans Serif is easy to spot because it has serifsa spur in the uppercase G an thus wins an irony award. You can look up the rest yourself or find the rant about consistent font usage in Windows that was written by someone I won't mention who wasn't me.

Never mind, I'll just call him out by name -- it is my friend Chris Pirillo. The blog entry that really got into it was Fix Windows Vista’s Fonts!.

Really, ignoring this fetish Chris has, the differences are pretty small. The average person will misidentify the fonts as often as they pick correctly in a way that suggests the same answers as random chance would give.

Sorry, Chris! :-)

BUT when one is dealing with East Asian text, the story is different.

Tahoma and Microsoft Sans Serif each map as follows for CJK text:

While Segoe UI maps first to the ClearType CJK fonts:

Now you do not have to be an expert to spot the difference here. Especially at smaller point sizes and bold text and italic text and Latin script text and lots of other cases.

So really, the "practically a fetish" complaint about Windows mixing Tahoma and Segoe UI becomes a pretty mainstream complaint when you see what gets mixed in the UI for East Asian text.

This can get downright ugly, to any user.

In fact it has sometimes.

Of course this is a constant battle (no one wants to re-test the UI to look for truncation/clipping, so they push back on making the change that one can barely notice -- without realizing that some other users can really see the difference here).

The mappings themselves can't change because that can break user applications. And all that change would do is force the font change on everyone and make them do the work anyway. Not a great way to make friends....

So how to break the logjam, exactly?

Not sure, but I do know this fetish needs to be made a bit more mainstream.

People need to recognize the problem before there is any hope of solving it....


Miguel Sousa on 12 Jul 2010 11:55 AM:

Kaplan: "Microsoft Sans Serif [...] has serifs in the uppercase G"

Serifs? Where? What the uppercase G has is a spur, which it's not that different from the lower-left part of the lowercase b. You don't call that a serif, do you?

wbk on 12 Jul 2010 2:12 PM:

By the way, Malgun Gothic is as known as 맑은고딕. I thought it would be a good idea to point out because Gulim and Malgun Gothic letters look pretty darn different and it is a turn off.

Michael S. Kaplan on 12 Jul 2010 5:42 PM:

Not being a typography expert, I am colorblind in the range of "serifs" versus "spurs". :-)

But the Malgun Gothic issue was definitely an oversight. Thanks!


referenced by

2011/07/04 It could be worse. We could be telling Japanese users 'Go stick your head in a pig'!

2011/04/20 What's best for Hong Kong, anyway?

2011/01/13 Doing it for appearances, Hong Kong style!

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