Bored with TNR, Arial, Garamond, and Verdana - Any Ideas?

Subject: Bored with TNR, Arial, Garamond, and Verdana - Any Ideas?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Barbara Vega <BarbaraV -at- libertyims -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2006 09:13:56 -0400

Barbara Vega notes: <<Any suggestions for alternates to Arial and Verdana, and TNR and Garamond for headings? This is for Electronic copy - Online help, not for printed copy.>>

All of these work well, and (except possibly for Garamond) are guaranteed to be on any modern computer. That strongly argues in their favor. At appropriate point sizes, all are quite readable on the screen, and that's also a plus.

<<I am so bored with these (in the subject of this email). I want to do something different but I want to stay reasonably conservative too.>>

<rant>Did I miss something? Has our goal as technical communicators somehow become that of entertaining ourself with typography? As the late-lamented Andrew Plato would have noted, "we're not [or shouldn't be] font fondlers".</rant>

Sarcasm aside, there's an important point to be made here. As communicators, our primary goal must be to communicate, and sticking with familiar fonts makes that easier. When _Discover_ switched from their traditional serif font to a tiny sans serif, I found considerable difficulty getting used to the new font and many more mistakes reading it. I was seriously ticked off at them for a while, though I did eventually accomodate. Purely anecdotal evidence, without any support, but nonetheless a data point for your consideration: I dislike sans serif for body text, though clearly I can cope if forced to do so.

<<Serif or Sans Serif are fine, because whichever I go with for the headings I will make the body copy the other >>

I'm not up on the latest Help technology, but your question leads me to ask a related question: Each of us has our own font preferences, and an ideal online document would allow us to substitute our own preferred fonts and font sizes. I can do this in my Web browser (Safari) if the font names aren't hard-coded beyond "serif", and I can switch to iCab if I want to replace your style sheet with mine to <Fe>override your appalling design sense with my own infinitely superior one</Fe>*.

* Haven't seen the <Fe> tag before? Details: http://www.geoff-
(As is the case with all Web standards, the implementation of this one has deviated from the W3C spec. I use if for facetious humor,for instance. <g>)

Can I enable the same functionality if I create a Help file? If the answer is "yes", then the answer to Barbara's question is simple: Define the heading and body fonts as serif and sans serif (or vice versa), use whatever fonts you like on your own system to display these choices, and make it easy for your audience to choose a different font if your choices offend them.
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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca

(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)

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Bored with TNR, Arial, Garamond, and Verdana - Any Ideas?: From: Barbara Vega

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