Safe web fonts

A very nice discussion of the history of typefaces is taken from and archived here.

Another font comparison page is here, archived here. The same site has more excellent information about fonts here, archived here.

Another document cross-linking fonts is here.

The fonts that are most safe to use are:

Other options that usually work cross-platform are:

Fonts that work on Windows and MacOS but not Unix+X are:

Common sans-serif fonts

Helvetica is the granddaddy here, but Arial is more common on modern OS's.


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Helvetica is a sans-serif font. It is a good choice for short text, perhaps a paragraph or two in length. Unix and Macintosh computers have had always had Helvetica, and it is a native font on PostScript printers.


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Arial is near-copy of Helvetica, updated slightly. Windows uses Arial in place of Helvetica.

Common serif fonts

Times is the grand-daddy of serif fonts, but Times New Roman is more common on recent OS's.


ABCDE abcde 012345 &*!,.
Times (also called Times Roman) is the traditional serif font. It is available on Macintosh and Unix computers, and is a core PostScript font. Times was designed for use as newspaper column text. It has a small size, compared to most other fonts.

Times New Roman

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Times New Roman is Microsoft's version of Times. It is available on Windows computers, and most Macintosh computers.

Common monospace fonts

Designed to mimic typewritten output, these fonts are often used when writing code. Courier is the grand-daddy, while most recent OS's have Courier New.


ABCDE abcde 012345 &*!,.
Courier is the traditional monospace font. It is available on Macintosh and Unix computers, and is a core PostScript font.

Courier New

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Courier New is Microsoft's version of Courier. Most Windows and Macintosh computers will have Courier New.

Less-common sans-serif fonts

Verdana is popular, but still new to the scene. Tahoma's style is half-way between Verdana and Arial. Comic Sans MS is often liked for its informal feel. Avante Garde is big and spacious. Impact and Arial Black are both designed for titles and headings. All of the fonts in this section suffer from the problem that most Unix machines don't have the fonts.


ABCDE abcde 012345 &*!,.
From around 2000 until mid-2002, Microsoft distributed a set of Web-optimized fonts, for free use. They have stopped allowing downloads, but still ship the fonts with Windows. Verdana is a sans-serif replacement. Its lowercase letters are very large, compared to the overall size of the font, which makes text easy to read on the web.

Unfortunately, the stretching of Verdana lowercase letters has two drawbacks. One issue is that the stretched letters don't look quite right when printed—compare them to Arial, for example. The other problem is that some people don't have the Verdana font, and these people may have trouble reading a web page that uses Verdana. The problem is that while 9 pt Verdana is readable, 9 pt Arial is not readable, and a person who doesn't have Verdana will probably have their web browser choose Arial as the substitute font.


ABCDE abcde 012345 &*!,.
Tahoma is another of Microsoft's web fonts. It is not as widely available as Verdana or Arial are.

Arial Black

ABCDE abcde 012345 &*!,.
Arial Black is a version of Arial designed for headlines.

Comic Sans MS

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Comic Sans MS is a sans-serif font with a soft, rounded style.


ABCDE abcde 012345 &*!,.
Impact is a Microsoft Web font, designed for headlines.

Avant Garde

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Avant Garde or Century Gothic. HP Printers call this Avant Garde Gothic.

Less-common serif fonts

Georgia is a web-optimized serif font, but is still a newcomer. Palatino is as old and established as Times is, but looks terrible on recent Unix systems. Century Schoolbook, Garamond, and Bookman seem to be available on Unix systems, but I am not sure how widespread they are on Windows/Mac systems.


ABCDE abcde 012345 &*!,.
Georgia is a Microsoft Web font. It has serifs but also has large lowercase letters, similar to Verdana. It is a nicely readable screen font, but has the same problems that Verdana does: it looks bad when printed, and paged designed for Georgia will look bad if rendered in Times, because of the difference in letter size.


ABCDE abcde 012345 &*!,.
Palatino is a less-commonly used serif font. It is available on Macintosh and Unix computers, and is a core PostScript font. It is available on Windows computers under alternate font names.

Palatino was originally designed as a display font—for example, to be used in lettering on signs. Nevertheless, it is commonly used to set body text.


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Bookman, also called Bookman Old Style. Not shipped with WinXP. Shipped with MS Office 2000.


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Garamond. There are a lot of variants of this font. Not shipped with WinXP.

Century Schoolbook

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Century Schoolbook is a core postscript font. You cannot rely on its being present on Windows computers. Not shipped with WinXP.

Less-common monospace fonts

Andale Mono is similar to Verdana and Georgia; it is a new font, not widespread, and not available on Unix or on some Windows computers.

Andale Mono

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Andale Mono is yet another Microsoft's monospace typeface. It has some resemblance to Monaco. Not shipped with WinXP.