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What Is A Web-Safe Font?

2m ago

And what does “Web-Safe” even mean?

And do we still care now that we are in the “Future”?

Now

What Is A Web-Safe Font? Why It Still Matters in Contemporary Web Design

07.14.23

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Yes, Web-Safe fonts, not Web fonts.

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What’s the difference?

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Let’s look at that:

What Is A Web-Safe Font?

Okay, so Web-Safe fonts are those that are pre-installed as the default fonts on the majority of computers and other devices, regardless of the operating system.

These fonts are generally accessible.

… and should display as intended for the majority of users.

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By the way, I just realized, Arial actually looks cool. ☝️

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That’s Arial?

I thought Arial was boring

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Depends on how you use it.

Also, somewhere around 99.29% of all major devices have these fonts.

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What’s the point of the “safe” part though?👀

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The term “safe” in “web-safe fonts” refers to the high likelihood that a given font will display on a user’s device in the way the designer intended. That’s it.

Meaning. Text on a website or design using web-safe (default) fonts will be consistently rendered on all major online browsers and mobile devices.

Web-safe fonts literally only refer to whether or not the font is installed by default on most devices.

Some examples of commonly used web-safe fonts include; Arial, Tahoma, Times New Roman, and Verdana.

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And Web Fonts … ? (Just to Be Clear)

On the other hand, because they are not often pre-installed on most devices, web fonts are not considered to be web-safe fonts.

Services like Google Fonts and Adobe Fonts provide a more excellent selection of font options that may be downloaded and used on websites.

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Google Fonts has one of the best responsive fonts out there.

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I love Google Fonts

One of my favorite ones are Inter and Poppins 😁

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Which brings me to …

What About Custom Fonts?

Custom fonts, On the other hand, go beyond web fonts.🤩

They’re typically created by a designer or a foundry for exclusive use by the owner. (Or bought with a license).

One awesome example of a premium foundry Brand is Pangram Pangram.

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These fonts are not pre-installed on devices by default, and a file needs to be loaded when visiting the page. (Either from the website you’re visiting OR from a CDN).

Like web fonts, custom fonts offer a wide range of choices beyond web-safe fonts and can be used to create unique and visually appealing typography, that typically is not found elsewhere.

They are often used for branding purposes, helping to establish a unique look and feel.

For example on this website, I’m using a custom font, which I created myself!😎 It’s called Superor. And I’m using Arial as a Fallback just in case.

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Fallback Font eh?

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Yes, you can also utilize web-safe fonts as a fallback (backup) in case the user’s device is unable to display the custom fonts. [Rare]

Why Is Using Web Safe Fonts Important?

The importance of using web-safe fonts can’t be overstated, and here’s why:

  • Uniform Display. pre-installed on most devices, irrespective of the operating system
  • Accessibility. easily readable by all users, including those with vision impairments
  • Improved Loading Speed. don’t require additional file downloads, means page loading speed
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Speaking of which

If you want to see all the fonts installed on your Windows computer

You simply go to Settings (Win + I) > Personalization > Fonts. 👇

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What are some nice Web-Safe fonts I can use?

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Here are some of the most versatile and widely used web-safe fonts:

Best Web-Safe Fonts to Use

There are quite a few web-safe fonts to choose from, here are some of them:

Arial

Arial is often considered one of the safest web fonts because it’s available on all major operating systems. It’s a sans-serif font designed by Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders, released by Monotype in 1982.

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It’s a classic neutral sans-serif font that’s suitable for both paragraphs and headlines. And it’s everywhere!

Verdana

Verdana is designed specifically for clarity on computer screens and is widely used on the web.

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Its wide letters and generous spacing make it easy to read in small sizes. It is also available under the SIL Open Font License, which has the same terms as Arial’s license.

Georgia

Georgia is a serif font that’s designed to be readable even at small sizes. It’s often used for body text.

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Georgia is a commercial font that is available for purchase from Monotype. The most common licensing allows you to use the font for commercial use on up to 500,000 pages.

Helvetica (although not web-safe) is arguably the most famous typeface on the planet!

Times New Roman

Times New Roman is a traditional serif font that’s familiar to many readers. It’s often used in academic and formal contexts.

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Funny fact, there is a font developed by MSCHF called Times Newer Roman. (It’s just a broader version of Times New Roman).

Courier New

Courier New is a monospace font that’s often used for displaying code because it aligns well. Designed as a typewriter face for IBM, Courier was re-drawn by Adrian Frutiger for the IBM Selectric series. A typical fixed pitch design, monotone in weight and slab serif in concept.

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It is a freeware font available under the Public Domain Dedication and License, which means that it is completely free to use for any purpose.

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If they’re found on operating systems by default …

Why do I have to care about licensing?

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Those companies behind the operating systems have licenses for these fonts!

Why Does Their Licensing Matter?

Licensing is important because it determines how you can use these fonts on your website.

Not all fonts are free for the taking! Some are open to use, but others need a license.

This information is generally tucked away in the font’s documentation or right on the site where you’re downloading the font.

Types of font licenses:

  • Personal use. This type of license allows you to use the font for personal projects, such as creating flyers or posters.
  • Commercial use. This type of license allows you to use the font for commercial projects, such as creating websites or marketing materials.
  • Web use. This type of license allows you to use the font on websites.
  • OEM. This type of license allows you to include the font with the software that you sell.

Font Rendering

Font rendering, in essence, is the transformation of a font from a form vector representation, into a pixel-based image, referred to as a raster.

This changeover involves a trio of essential elements:

Shaping, Rasterizing, and Hinting

and …

The way fonts get rendered can differ based on the operating system/browser.

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What do you mean?

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Windows, for instance, employs a technique known as ClearType. This method fine-tunes the color of individual pixels to enhance the readability of text on LCD screens.

Conversely, macOS leans more towards preserving the original design aesthetics of the typeface, even if it results in slightly blurrier text. 🤔

The three types of font rendering are typically performed by a font engine.

Let’s take a look:

Shaping

Converting the text into a sequence of glyphs.

The shaping process takes into account the font’s OpenType features, which can be used to control the appearance of the text.

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Rasterizing

A process of converting the glyphs into a raster representation

(grid of pixels that represents the appearance of the text on a screen)

It simply uses the font’s metrics, which define the size and shape of the glyphs.

Like this 👇

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Hinting

Adjusts the rasterization of the glyphs to improve their appearance.

Hinting instructions are embedded in the font file and they tell the rasterizer how to adjust the glyphs to make them look better at different sizes and resolutions.

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The quality of font rendering can be affected by a number of factors, including the font engine, the font file, the screen resolution, and the computer’s hardware.

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Taking a deeper dive …

The ‘text-rendering’ CSS Property

The ‘text-rendering’ property in CSS allows you to control how text is rendered. It has four possible values:

  • auto’Makes trade-offs between speed, legibility, and geometric precision.
  • optimizeSpeed – Prioritizes rendering speed over legibility and geometric precision.
  • optimizeLegibility– Legibility over speed. This can involve complex text layout and glyph substitution.
  • geometricPrecision – Geometric precision over speed. This does not involve glyph substitution.

p {
text-rendering: optimizeLegibility;
}

Anti-Aliasing

Anti-aliasing is a technique used to smooth out the jagged edges of pixels in digital images, including text. It’s especially important for text rendering because it makes the text easier to read.

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However, the specific implementation of anti-aliasing can vary between different operating systems and browsers.

body {
-webkit-font-smoothing: antialiased;
-moz-osx-font-smoothing: grayscale;
}

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If these fonts are found in operating systems …

How can I use them in my website?

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I don’t know if you should use them as your main fonts but as backup fonts. 👍

Either way …

Where to Download Web-Safe and Web Fonts (Official)

Google Fonts and Adobe Fonts are two of the most popular font libraries used by designers and developers.

  • Google Fonts. A free, open-source platform that offers a vast collection of fonts. It’s widely used due to its ease of use and integration with web projects.
  • Adobe Fonts. Formerly known as Typekit, is a service that provides access to a vast library of high-quality fonts. While it’s a paid service included with Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions, it offers some free fonts as well.

More Font Sources:

  • Font Squirrel. Free, hand-picked, high-quality fonts that are licensed for commercial work. They also offer a handy web font generator tool that lets you convert fonts for web use.
  • DaFont. This website is neatly categorized, which makes finding the perfect font for your project easier. Not all fonts on DaFont are available for commercial use, so check the licensing for each font.
  • Fonts.com. Offers more than 150,000 desktop and web font products for you to preview, purchase and download. They also offer some free fonts. It’s managed by Monotype, one of the largest type companies in the world.
  • MyFonts. Professional fonts for purchase and download. It’s known for its “WhatTheFont” feature that allows you to upload images of text and identify the font used.

FAQs

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What Are Web-Safe Fonts?

Web-safe fonts are typefaces that come pre-installed as default fonts on the majority of computers and devices, regardless of the operating system. This ensures that the text on a website appears as intended, regardless of the device or browser used to view it.

What are some examples of web-safe fonts?

Some popular web-safe fonts include Arial, Verdana, Helvetica, Georgia, Tahoma, Lucida, Trebuchet, and Times New Roman. These fonts are included with most operating systems, ensuring high availability and consistency across different platforms.

Are web-safe fonts still relevant?

Yes, web-safe fonts are still relevant. Despite the advent of web fonts, which offer more variety and customization, web-safe fonts continue to play a crucial role in ensuring compatibility and consistency across different devices and browsers.

What makes a font web safe?

A font is considered web-safe if it is installed by default on virtually every computer or mobile device. This high level of availability makes the font “safe” to use in web design, as it ensures that the text will appear as intended on any device or browser.

How do web-safe fonts impact web design?

Web-safe fonts play a crucial role in web design by ensuring that text is rendered consistently across different devices and browsers. This helps to maintain the visual integrity of a website and provides a consistent user experience.

Summary✨

So there you go,👍 web-safe fonts have definitely proven their mettle over time. But, even if tech keeps racing ahead at lightning speed, looks like web-safe fonts are here to stay.

If you want to learn more about fonts:

FreeCodeCamp – CSS Font Family and Web Safe Fonts Explained

Hubspot – The Ultimate List of Web-Safe HTML and CSS Fonts

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