Vista fonts

April 6, 2008 at 12:45 pm | Posted in Computers, Design, Software | 1 Comment

One of the redeeming features of Microsoft’s new OS, Vista, is its improved fonts. Easier to read on screen (LCD) and in print. Theres a set of them that come with Vista and/or Office 2007 with “C” names – Calibri, Candara, and Corbel (sans-serif), Cambria and Constantia (serif), and Consolas (monospaced). As some of the tech rags are reporting, they really are quite a bit nicer than the old Arial and Times New Roman renditions. Indeed, I have been using Verdana more of late for its cleaner lines.

If you are like many out there, you may have decided to hold off on a Vista upgrade. Perhaps because what it adds is not worth the cost – even at the newly discounted prices. Even more so if you have to upgrade your computer or replace scanners or printers or other hardware that won’t work with it. Most have concluded that the best choice is to wait for a new computer purchase.

But what if you’d like these fonts, don’t have Vista, and prefer Open Office or a similar office suite? They cost about $300 to buy. But there is another way you can get them legally, for free. MS offers a free Powerpoint viewer. It comes with the fonts so you can see the presentations as they were created. And they stay if you happen to uninstall the viewer again later.

VIsta offers another set of fonts known as Segoe UI (See Go), used in the Vista user interface. Clear, sharp fonts used on menus, icons, title bars, and all kinds of misc. places. In XP, you typically see Tahoma or Trebuchet used. But the older versions don’t have the Cleartype features, don’t have true Italics or Bold, nor the built in size ranges that Segoe does. You can actually see the differences between letters like i l I 1.

Note that there is much less advantage here if you have an old CRT monitor – the advantage here is for LCD flat screens. Once again there is a free way to get this set – with the free Windows Live Mail. Its basically the Vista version of Outlook Express. And it comes with Segoe UI. While personally, I’m not a fan of MS mail clients, Mail is evidently better than the old OE. It also overcomes a fatal flaw of OE – it doesn’t store all your email as one giant file that can get corrupted. If you are using OE, this is a big improvement. Even better that it supports GMail. I’d certainly favour GMail over Hotmail – for a number of reasons. But thats another discussion.

Once Segoe is on board, changing your “look” is easy. Right-click the open desktop and select Properties. Click the Appearance tab. Click Effects and make sure the second checkbox is checked and set to ClearType. Click OK. Then click Advanced below that. Select ‘Active Title bar’ from the Item list, then Segoe UI from the Font list. Do the same for ‘Icon’ and for ‘Menu’. If you happen to have one of those newer high resolutions screens (my new laptop is 1600x) and happen to have aging eyes, you may find upping the font size a step helps. I found the title bar better without Bold too, but thats taste.

Its surprising how many places that change affects what you see. You may wonder what difference a font makes. A lot more than it might seem. Fonts are a whole industry and have been since the early days of printing. A good font makes all the difference between attractive legible work and something you may find subtly somehow annoying. More obvious if its illegible.

Until recently, it was uncommon to use sans-serif, meaning without feet, fonts in text this size. Look at most books you own. You’ll find titles are often sans-serif, but almost all text has little feet. And the range of font variation is very small. Easy and familiar. Thats just one of the more obvious recent changes.

Actually, computers have changed the world of text any number of ways. Typewriters had mono-spaced fonts – each letter, i or W, took the same space. Thanks to people like Steve Jobs of Mac fame, good fonts made their way into computers early on. Individual letters only took the space they needed. As Robin Williams (the author) wrote back in ’95, the PC is not a Typewriter. (Actually she published the Mac is not a Typewriter first)  Thus died indented paragraphs, double space after a period, and a number of other conventions required by equally spaced letters.

Ah, but I digress…   Times are changing and new fonts are catching up with the technology.


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  1. […] is faster. – You may wish to load Vista fonts (Segoe UI) and set them under the Advanced button. – cursors, desktop backgrounds, etc. tweaked as desired – Control Panel, Audio, set system […]


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