Re: Fonts for online documentation

Subject: Re: Fonts for online documentation
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 21 Feb 1997 15:16:14 -0800

At 01:29 PM 2/21/97 -0500, Susan Brown wrote:
>Hi, Hi!!
> Have there been any studies done about the preferred font(s) for
>online documentation? (i.e. proportional, serifed, etc.) Do you have any
>strong feelings/preferences??????

You didn't mention the platform or delivery mechanism, so I'll be general.

Convention is sans serif proportional.

Microsoft says that MS Sans displays best because it was specifically
designed for online use. I notice very little difference, tho, between
MS Sans and Ariel. MS Sans is the norm for Windows. Apple uses a more
thik-thin sans -- Geneva or New York??? -- sorry, I forget which. UNIX
GUIs generally use a serif font, I suppose because UNIX people believe
their high resolution monitors can handle it. I've never been particularly

In general, sans serif is considered best because serifs can get lost
or become fuzzy at low resolution. Typical screen resolution, remember,
is somewhere between 72 and 130 pixels per inch. If you're at low rez --
72 ppi -- and using a 10 point font (1 point = 1/72 inch) then you've
given up 1 or 2 pixels to serifs. Most fonts would look way out of
proportion this way, so the system dithers -- i.e., makes things fuzzy
to fool the eye.

Fooled tho it may be, the eye tires easily looking at fuzzy fonts --
particularly when it's also looking directly at the light source
(light emitted from the monitor). Contrast this with print to paper--
light is reflected from the printed page, which we typically print
at 300, 600, or as much as 1200 dots per inch. Much higher resolution.
If our printed books came out looking like our online stuff really
does, we'd pitch a tizzy-fit!


Susan W. Gallagher Manager, Technical Publications
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com Expersoft Corporation, San Diego CA

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