Font decision: Times New Roman or Garamond

Subject: Font decision: Times New Roman or Garamond
From: Danna Cardwell <DLCardwe -at- SOFTART -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 1 Nov 1996 11:55:55 -0500

Thanks to everyone who responded to my request for advice regarding our font
choice. We decided to go with Times New Roman 11. One of the main reasons was
"comfort level." No, not just that the writers were used to it. Rather, our
writers found that TNR was easier to read and edit on the screen. It also
displays better than Garamond in PDF files.

Attached is a file including most of the e-mails I received both on this list
and on the Acrobat list. I apologize if I left anyone out.

Thanks again!!!

Danna
dlcardwe -at- softart -dot- com

It's difficult to design one document that reads well on screen and on paper. 11-point "Garamond" (there are at least a dozen faces inspired by Claude Garamond's work) can be impeccably readable if the lines are not too long (try 2.5 lowercase alphabets or less as a "ruler" for a good line length, with 13-16 points of leading).

11-point is generally too small for comfortable reading on screen at 100% magnification. If your document has ample margins (a good idea), you can use Acrobat's "Article threads" feature to zoom in on the text column in a controlled, user-friendly way, magnifying the type and improving on-screen readibility. If the user has allocated a lot of screen space to the document, however, this can lead to absurdly big type - legible, but not readable, like a signpainter's view of a billboard.

If you ship both hardcopy and PDFs, the best solution might be to design the PDF version expressly for the screen. Choose a fairly small landscape page format and a sturdy, biggish typeface. This needn't involve an extensive redesign effort if your source document is formatted consistently with style sheets, master pages, etc.

________________________________________ Todd Fahrner
fahrner -at- pobox -dot- com
http://www.verso.com

The printed page transcends space and time. The printed page, the infinitude of books, must be transcended. THE ELECTRO-LIBRARY.

--El Lissitzky, 1923

*********************************************************************
Lucida is the most legible font for screen, fax and print. Folio also works very well. HTH

Bob Moran
-- 
Robert E. Moran
Digital Constructs Inc. Voice: 203-452-1116 Fax: 203-452-0416 e-mail remoran -at- dconstructs -dot- com URL: http://www.dconstructs.com/dc/ "Confusion is a mis-apprehension of a higher order - H. Miller

*********************************************************************
You just opened Pandora's box. There are probably more opinions on this topic than there are writers. What follows is just one person's opinion.

I happen to like Adobe's version of Garamond, it has an elegant design, and I use it for personal letters. However, it may not be the best choice for body text in a technical document or book, especially when converting to PDF files (which are often read on-line), because it is not so readable in small screen fonts as some other choices.

Many people still cling to Times for body text, but I prefer Palatino (some claim that it is overused like Times), Stone Serif, or Goudy Old Style. If you want to use a sans serif/serif combination, the following go well together: Optima with Palatino, Stone Sans with Stone Serif, and Gill Sans with Goudy Old Style.

There are several "rules of thumb" for determining the optimum body text point size, none of which I remember; 11 points sounds a good compromise.

Good Luck
JL
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

John Lord                       Technical Publications jlord -at- livingston -dot- com            Livingston Enterprises, Inc. http://www.livingston.com/      Phone (510) 426-0770

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Hi,

We gave up on "nice" fonts and use Helvetica (10 pt) for just about everything. It's readable for us to write with and for our customers to read online. We expected to be disappointed in the hardcopy, but were pleasantly surprised. It really doesn't look that bad. And I understand that Europeans prefer a sans serif font for body text, so at least part of the world would applaud this decision.

Once you get used to it, it makes a lot of things simpler in your life.

Shirley

(I even use it for letters now, though more typically 11 pt.) 

*********************************************************************
In a message dated 96-10-23 16:28:04 EDT, you write:

<< We ship our doc as hard copy and PDF files, so
resolution online is a consideration.

Suggestions? Altneratives? >>

The Stone families work well together and were designed to be readable under bad conditions. . . FWIW

Best wishes,
Rogers George (reg13 -at- aol -dot- com) 

*********************************************************************
Just an opinion--I don't have any science to back me up, but:

I _love_ Garamond. Specifically, Adobe Garamond. It's a wonderful font.
It's my favorite for readability, in fact.

Are the concerns over readability because they don't like Garamond or
because they don't like the way things have been? What are they suggesting as an alternative, a sans serif font, I bet?

Garamond is very readable. I think it's the best readable, combining
utility and style perfectly. Regarding on-screen readability:  11 points is large enough. I wouldn't go any smaller, but 11 is fine.


/`-_     Eric Haddock ------ http://www2.corenet.net/moonlion
{     }/  Technical writer
\    |   Engage Networks, Inc. ----- http://www.engagenet.com
\__*|   located in the Historic Third Ward of Milwaukee, WI

*********************************************************************
Danna -

Can't you use the Garamond 11 for hard copy and establish a different style for online?  I find the serif typeface more difficult to read in online docs. Is there a mandate that they *must* be the same?

My 2c.

Rikki
rikki -dot- nyman -at- alliedsignal -dot- com

*********************************************************************
Hi Danna, 

In general, I'd have to say Garamond 11 pt should be fine for  both hard copy and online body text. Of course, your layout  (number of columns/line width, leading, page size, etc.) do  play a factor in readability. I'm curious as to the reasons  why some of your writers question your choice. 

Some alternatives, off the top of my head include:  o Janson 
o Stone Serif 
o Minion 
o Caslon 
Janson and Caslon are contemporary designs of Garamond, while  Stone Serif and Minion are newer designs with a larger x-height.  Another factor is _which_ Garamond you'll be using. Adobe  Garamond is slightly different than ITC Garamond, for instance. 

Anyway, sorry to ramble a bit, I'm a type fanatic. Hope this  helps, and for more info go to Adobe's comprehensive type site: 

http://www.adobe.com/type/browser/ 

Good luck and let me know how it turns out. 


--Collin 

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><> 
Collin Wong 
Oracle Corporation 
Tools Division Documentation 
415.506.9089 
cbwong -at- us -dot- oracle -dot- com  
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><> 
I ka `olelo ka mana. 
In the word there is power. 
--Hawaiian proverb 
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
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What 'flavor' of Garamond are you using? I've noticed that ITC's Garamond is a much 'friendlier' looking face than Adobe's Garamond. It also seems to have a larger x-height, which would help with your online viewing.

I would play with the leading a little bit. You may want to open it up a little bit for online-- say 14 points or so. Maybe you could print in 10/12 and go online in 12/14 or 15.

It's a gorgeous face, no matter how you look at it, and a classic text face. It should be a good call.

Hope this helps,
Ed. 8)
ed_marsh -at- ibi -dot- com
Just because I work here, it doesn't mean they agree with what I say. And vice versa.
*********************************************************************
One thing to mention right away is that the name "Garamond" is a little misleadin g. 
Unlike most font names, it refers to a variety of fonts, all loosely based on the 
designs of the Renaissance font designer Claude Garamond. Not only is readability 
going to vary tremendously, depending on what type of Garamond you're using, but, 
on some systems, the .PDF files will probably look very different from what your 
company expects.

As for readability, it depends on two things: the x-height (the height of the letter "x" and any other letters without ascenders or descenders), and the set width. On the whole, the greater the x-height and the width, the more readable a  font is.

However, other considerations come into account, too, such as the kerning, or the  distance between letters.

On screen, too, many people feel that a sans serif font is more readable, although  the jury's still out.

As for concrete alternatives, Palatino and Stone Serif are both very readable. Or , 
if you want a renaissance font, try something like Jenson.

Hope these ideas help.

Bruce Byfield (byfield -at- direct -dot- ca)
Burnaby, BC, Canada
(604) 421-7189

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Danna,
As an anecdote (as opposed to a "study"), many of our documents have been done using exactly the font and point size you ask about and we have had no problems or complaints. FWIW.

Mike

Mike Ingram, Senior Writer/Editor
SCIENTECH, Inc.
1585 N. Skyline Drive
Idaho Falls, ID  83402

mingram -at- if -dot- scientech -dot- com
(208) 528-3739 (phone)
(208) 523-9380 (fax)

*********************************************************************
Well, 11-point Garamond is awfully small when printed in Word on an Apple laser printer. IMO, it's too small and a bit too frilly for easy reading. It might look okay if printed in columns no wider than 3 inches, but I wouldn't print it in a 6.5-inch-wide (full page) format. It's waaaaay too small for that. 

Good ol' Times New Roman is readable both on screen and on paper and kerns the tightest of any serif font on the market today (according to my expert source who is a publisher). Century Schoolbook is very readable too, but doesn't kern tightly at all.

Diane Williams
Technical Editor/Writer
OSD, DOT&E
DWilliams -at- dote -dot- osd -dot- mil

*********************************************************************
Danna, 

It depends on what type of manual you are producing and who your audience is and also what looks good in print AND in .pdf format. And don't forget, could also depend on what fonts you have available. 

We do technical manuals--the recommended fonts for technical manuals (hard copy) are Times Roman (also any of the variables such as Times New Roman) and also Century Schoolbook (or New Century Schoolbook). But as to how do they look on the .pdf format? They are readable but I'm not sure as to the comparison of other fonts, etc. The old rule used to be that for hard copy, use serif fonts and for online use sans serif fonts. I don't know if this still holds true, especially when "anybody" is producing documents, not just graphic designers anymore. San serifs work best online because they don't get real thin in places which tends to disappear online. There are certain fonts that are made for both online and hardcopy--I think Lucida is one of them. I don't happen to like Lucida myself but... 

Anyway, to get into a typographer discussion--each font was created for a specific purpose--I don't remember all of them although I have a book that lists some of them. I do remember (for some odd reason) that for political announcements, (or anything political) the best font is Caslon. 

Are your end-users going to be actually reading these .pdf files online or will they print them and then read them? That could be a determining factor. I'm sure someone else will have good references for you to look these up. My books are sort of old but if you are interested I can look up any info if it's helpful.  

Susie Robson 
Manager, Usability Expertise Center 
Aspen Technology, Inc. 
Ten Canal Park 
Cambridge, MA 02141 
617/577-0310 x229 
FAX: 617/577-0303  
Email: <susie -dot- robson -at- aspentech -dot- com> 

"If you always do what you always did, 
you always get what you always got."

*********************************************************************
Serif fonts are very bad for screen fonts. You should keep the Garamond in your print, but do a global change from Garamond to a san serif font before creating your PDF file(s).

-David Castro
techwrtr -at- crl -dot- com
http://www.crl.com/~techwrtr/

*********************************************************************
Danna,
I think it's a good-looking font, but not as readable as Bookman, which has "fat" letters. We've won lots of awards for our manuals that use Bookman in body text. I think Palatino is a very good body text font too. 
By the way, what does your company produce? Its name is so similar to ours!
Beth
bkane -at- artisoft -dot- com

*********************************************************************
My department is in the same situation. We have discussed on-line and hardcopy di stribution from the same file source. Our conclusion is that you cannot have it b oth ways.

We also use Garamond (but 10 point) and it works well for printed copy, but it su cks on-screen. In general, serif fonts work well for printed stuff (Garamond, Tim es, Palitino, etc.); sans serif fonts work better for on-screen (Helvetica, Arial , etc.). You also have the consideration of page size vs. screen size. Our initia l efforts for on-screen documentation were from FrameMaker at a page size of 7.5 in. by 9 in. into.pdf. The font was Garamond 10 point and you could not read it a t actual size. When you increased magnification to read it, you could not see the
whole page without scrolling left and right/up and down. We cannot afford to cre
ate and maintain two separate files of the same information in completely differe nt formats, and are pressing Product Managers to make up their mind.

I manage of my Technical Communications department and am pushing to put all refe rence information on-screen without regard for how it looks if you print it out. I also intend to push for tutorials, installation, and user1s information in a pr inted format with hypertext links and cross-reference links for 3acceptable?ý on- screen viewing (with the minor inconvenience of scrolling).

Another factor in this whole mess, is the porting of our FrameMaker source files to.pdf or HTML for on-screen display. With browser technology seeming to be the w ay of the future, this decision depends on the support of the major browsers (Net scape/Internet Explorer) for their support to import.pdf. Netscape is doing this with release 3.0 and (because Netscape has the industry lead, Internet Explorer w ill probably have to follow).

With technology changing so fast and all of this so new to most of us, we are pre tty much on our own. If this response helps, great. If not, delete it and you are
out a couple minutes. However, because we are in the same situation, if you rece
ive responses that would help us in our future decisions, I would appreciate a fo rward of that information.

Best of luck
dick pacholke
<rpachol9 -at- skypoint -dot- com>

Dick Pacholke

*********************************************************************
Hi, there:

I have just finished struggling with a client of mine over the look of a finished paper manual.

He required an A4 page. That is a lot of paper to cover. I suggested a blank column on the left to place subtitles, boxes and other attention-attracting icons.
He said no.

I then tried to break subjects vertically. He said maybe.

Finally, we went for a very long line length, occupying the whole page minus the sides. Some 18 cm. of lines.

The text was extremely technical. The reader would probably be irritated by so much material in lines so long. What to do?

The font used was good old Times. Font size: 12. Interline spacing: a hefty 17 pt (so the reader can end one line and manage to find the following one without getting lost in the process).

This was the solution for drastic requirements. In your case, you should consider font size and interline spacing together, for one can make up for the shortcomings of the other.

There is a myth that for online use fonts must be 12 point. This is not so. We all realize that 12 point fonts read reasonably well on the screen and that making them smaller might make reading more difficult. For some fonts, 11 pt is an acceptable alternative, however. But, in this case, give a little more air between the lines. The reader will thank you.

On the other hand, readers of type on screen can always increase the size of the message by reading the material at 120, 150, 200 or even 400 magnitude. They may mumble as they do it, but they do have that possibility.

So, if cost is one of your restraints (and is there any place where it isn't?), by all means go with font 11. Your paper costs will come down (probably your bigger chunk of expense) and the screen will be readable.

Newton D. Vasconcellos
mendv -at- ax -dot- apc -dot- org
Rio de Janeiro

*********************************************************************
Danna,
Speaking from the viewpoint of the Royal National Institute for the Blind we advocate the following for print :
- Minimum print size should be 12 point.
- Do not set blocks of text in capital letters.
- Make sure contrast is always good (for hard copy), and don't use glossy papers.

Concerning the font, I have never heard of Garamond but
there is, as always, debates as to the relative readability of serif or sans serif fonts. We do have our own serif font which we use (RNBaskerville), but some research points to a
greater preference and legibility of sans serif. It would seem however that, for the visually impaired, font type is of relatively  minor importance compared to the font size and weight.

Concerning PDF files, we've always had concerns about
the accessibility of Acrobat, but I believe they are rectifying this.

Hope this helps,

Chris Reeves
Evaluation Officer
Royal National Institute for the Blind (http://www.rnib.org.uk)

*********************************************************************
Hi, 

In my opinion:

Garamond, Palatino and Minion all make for easy on-screen and hard copy reading, especially when coupled with Frutiger, FuturaT, Myriad or Gill Sans SansSerif fonts. Arial is also suitable. All are great for PDF files, web sites and CMYK publishing.

If you wish, I can send you two PDF files of mine (totaling 4.7MB), so you can form your own opinion.

Hope this helps,

Jeremy Lerman

jeremy -at- inspec -dot- com

*********************************************************************
In my experience, the Garamond fonts are readable and far more attractive than, say, Times.  I've used Garamond Narrow, 11 points, in a manual and, whatever aspects of the book were criticized, readability was not one of them.

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Hi Danna!

Of all the fonts and point sizes that I have tried, I honestly feel that Times New Roman at 11.5 points is the best for readability purposes.  We currently deliver all of our doc in hard copy (paper) and customers are very happy with the result.  I've also seen the result online, and resolution is excellent.

<><><><><><><><><><><>
Isabella Adornato
Technical Writer
ATS Aerospace
(514)441-2507 x380
isabella -at- ats -dot- qc -dot- ca
<><><><><><><><><><><>
*********************************************************************
Danna,

Don't forget that the readability will also depend on other factors such as the leading that you use, the extent, margins, etc., plus typefaces such as Garamand have fine detail that will be lost when displayed/printed at low resolution, that is anything less than 600 dpi, but then again I have a fine eye for detail :-)

Alternatives: you might want to take a look at the Amasis family from Monotype (if you drop me your fax number I'll send over some page proofs for a book that I once set in it).

Greetings (from cold and overcast france)

David Somers
(Usual disclaimer - speaking for myself and not ST)

*********************************************************************
Our new design uses Garamond 10.5 pt, and IMO it looks sensational. However there were several changes both in the layout and the production process, so it's impossible to isolate exactly what made the difference.

The old manuals were laser printed on A5 paper ( = 21 x 14.85cm or 8.3 x 5.8" ) using 9.5 pt Gatineau (a Garamond clone).

The new manuals are printed from PostScript by Docutech on 9 x 7.5" paper, usign ITC Garamond 1. The extra room, larger point size, and better quality font make a huge difference.

So, I'd have no hesitation recommending Garamond for good quality printed documents. Whether 11 point is the right size depends on your page size and layout. I can't comment on its suitability for online manuals.

Regards
---
Stuart "at-35-sprightly-by-techwhirl-standards" Burnfield (slb -at- fs -dot- com -dot- au) Functional Software Pty Ltd

*********************************************************************
Hi, there:

I have just finished struggling with a client of mine over the look of a finished paper manual.

He required an A4 page. That is a lot of paper to cover. I suggested a blank column on the left to place subtitles, boxes and other attention-attracting icons.
He said no.

I then tried to break subjects vertically. He said maybe.

Finally, we went for a very long line length, occupying the whole page minus the sides. Some 18 cm. of lines.

The text was extremely technical. The reader would probably be irritated by so much material in lines so long. What to do?

The font used was good old Times. Font size: 12. Interline spacing: a hefty 17 pt (so the reader can end one line and manage to find the following one without getting lost in the process).

This was the solution for drastic requirements. In your case, you should consider font size and interline spacing together, for one can make up for the shortcomings of the other.

There is a myth that for online use fonts must be 12 point. This is not so. We all realize that 12 point fonts read reasonably well on the screen and that making them smaller might make reading more difficult. For some fonts, 11 pt is an acceptable alternative, however. But, in this case, give a little more air between the lines. The reader will thank you.

On the other hand, readers of type on screen can always increase the size of the message by reading the material at 120, 150, 200 or even 400 magnitude. They may mumble as they do it, but they do have that possibility.

So, if cost is one of your restraints (and is there any place where it isn't?), by all means go with font 11. Your paper costs will come down (probably your bigger chunk of expense) and the screen will be readable.

Newton D. Vasconcellos
mendv -at- ax -dot- apc -dot- org
Rio de Janeiro

*********************************************************************
You'll probably find that Garamond 11 is too fine for onscreen use, with its small size and delicate body. Especially with Acro3 - when, if - which antialiases text. Garamond will just grey out to nothing. Minion survives onscreen, and I'll bet that Stone and Lucida prosper. Anyway I would use PDF as a *distribution* method, in this case, and not a real browsing experience. Unless, of course, you wanted to redesign it for the screen (horizontal orientation, roughly 4:3, with an effective 14-16 point type size) - but that would get tiresome quick, and would double your page length.

I would hesitate to use larger than 11 point type in printed material for adults. Line length and leading are more important contributors to readability. Garamond, in both its genuine and Jannon (i.e. Monotype Garamond 156) versions, is immensely readable - with the exception of ITC Garamond, which I think is evil.

I'm unsure about Adobe Garamond for a technical document. Global Village's documentation is set in AGaramond, and it looks subtly wrong.... Maybe something more "rational", like Adobe's Utopia family. I dunno.

Regards,

Dan

Daniel Hale
dhale -at- pobox -dot- com

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