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Do all monospace sans-serif fonts look the same?


Question

I am trying to find a very good monospace sans serif font to meet the requirements of a client.

However, despite there being a number of them out there, such as Deja Vu, Droid Sans Mono, Cousine, Liberation, and so on... it seems to be they all look basically the same. The differences between them are so subtle that only the most discerning font enthusiast would really note any variation.

I liked OCR-B because at least the lower case "l" had a nice curve at the bottom and not the bog-standard serif-like base on it, but it seems that font might be limited (...and I don't like the upper case Q...).

Are there any sans serif monospace fonts out there that innovate and break the monotony? Something pleasing to they eye that doesn't look like it was written by a typewriter in 1978?

Or am I just dreaming?

2017/04/13
1
6
4/13/2017 12:46:00 PM

Accepted Answer

TL;DR: DejaVu Sans Mono

The fuller story:

Different features are important, depending on your intended use. If you're after something that will just produce columns or line up where you want, pick any font you like the look of.

If, on the other hand, it's important to be able to distinguish individual characters unambiguously, you need to compare certain character glyphs together. For the following sets, I've listed how the fonts that I've got on my system compare in order of good to bad; there are more mono fonts out there, but this will give you an idea.

[I've discounted Courier New and OCR-A because they are basically typewriter fonts.]

0O

(Zero and upper case "O")

  • Consolas and DejaVu Sans Mono have shapes inside the Zero to aid identification
  • Lucida Console and OCR-B make Zero slightly taller
  • Lucida Sans Typewriter has very little difference

1lI

(One, lower case "L" and upper case "I")

  • Lucida Console, Lucida Sans Typewriter, OCR-B and DejaVu Sans Mono have different serifs
  • Consolas only differ in angle for the top serif on the One and lower case "L"

2Z

(Two and upper case "Z")

  • All installed have good differentiation

5S

(Five and upper case "S")

  • All installed have good differentiation

6b

(Six and lower case "B")

  • All installed have good differentiation

8B

(Eight and upper case "B")

  • All installed have good differentiation

`'‘’′

(Backtick, ASCII apostrophe, open quote, close quote and prime)

  • Consolas, Lucida Console, Lucida Sans Typewriter, DejaVu Sans Mono: all different
  • OCR-B: open and close quotes are the same

You can do this sort of analysis on any mono font you find and are considering using, but based on consistency, I'd be looking at DejaVu Sans Mono for public use. Personally, I use Consolas for my coding, but that's only because I haven't got around to installing the DejaVu fonts on all my computers.

2012/01/30
6
1/30/2012 1:11:00 AM

Well, it's certainly not often that you find the words "innovative" and "monospaced" in the same sentence.

The only faces that immediately come to mind if you're trying to get away from the typewriter look are Lucida Sans Typewriter and Lucida Typewriter. They have the advantage of a matching serif and sans, and the usual quartet of weights and slant. Letter Gothic might also be a possibility. All of these are OpenType, which is an essential if you need to venture beyond English.

If none of these fit, try browsing the Veer, Emigre and Linotype sites, At the very least, avoid limiting yourself to freebies.

The limitations imposed by monospacing make it hard for type designers to come up with a genuinely fresh take, I suspect, without a mild anesthetic. It isn't as if there's a big market for that kind of typeface.

2012/01/26