Revealed at last!: the problems with monospaced font, and a source of some good ones.

Subject: Revealed at last!: the problems with monospaced font, and a source of some good ones.
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Fri, 03 Mar 2000 05:41:00 -0800

Every now and then, the discussion on this list turns to
monospaced fonts. Inevitably, someone notes that the most easily
available monospaced fonts are ugly.

For anyone interested in some attractive monospaced fonts, I
recommend a visit to:

Either follow the Monospaced Font link in the columns at the
bottom of the page (and not the entry for Monospaced Fonts under
Features in the upper left page), or do a site search for
"Cincinnatus," "Onuava," "Vidilex," "Midilex," or "Regula." These
are all names of Ragnorak Press monospaced fonts (The company
also has a monospaced called Gotegrim, but it's not very useful
unless you're using Merovingian miniscules in you manual). You
can buy any of the individual fonts for under $15US, or the
entire collection for $49.

I think that any tech-writers interested in design will find
these monospaces interesting. Cincinnatus is an especially
interesting monospace, since it hardly even looks like one.

Meanwhile, here is a discussion of monospaced fonts from the

"Ordinarily the only thought behind a monospaced font is
functionality. When a designer goes looking for a monospaced font
he picks it based on legibility, but his overriding concern is
that the characters all be the same size so that it will fit his
spacing requirements. This absolute need for one quality in
monospaced fonts has made designers willing to accept the fact
that the selection of monospaced fonts available to them has been
woefully small. They are used to having only one or two serif
fonts and a couple of sans-serif fonts to pick from and have come
to accept the fact that their choices will do the job but will
never be aesthetically appealing.

"The problem of the lack of any style or character in monospaced
fonts comes from the apparent assumption that if all of the
characters are going to be the same width, for some reason they
must also have uniform weight and absolutely no internal
variations in design beyond those needed to differentiate one
character from another. Traditionally, monospaced fonts have
consisted of absolute straight lines, regular curves and nothing
more. You end up with Courier which looks like a lobotomized
manual typewriter and Monaco which looks like Helvetica with a
thyroid deficiency.

"The reality is that unweighted, spidery fonts are not only not
attractive, they are also not actually easier to read. A font
which has well proportioned characters looks better and the
characters are easier to differentiate, and despite tradition,
these qualities are not impossible in a monospaced font. It may
require more work to give a monospaced font some character, but
it is really only tradition and perhaps lack of motivation which
has kept designers from creating monospaced fonts which are more
than just functionally adequate."

Bruce Byfield, Product Manager, Stormix Technologies
Vancouver, BC, Canada

"Oceania is at war with EastAsia. Oceania has always been at war
with EastAsia."
- George Orwell, "Nineteen Eighty-Four"

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