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Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 12:01 am UTC
by Qaanol
Source Pro vs. FreeFont vs. DejaVu vs. others

Let’s meet the contenders! (…in SVG form after converting text to outlines.)

Serif:
Image


Sans:
Image


Mono:
Image


Obviously the correct answers are
Serif:
Source Serif Pro > FreeSerif > DejaVu Serif > Junicode

Sans:
Source Sans Pro > Euphemia > DejaVu Sans > FreeSans

Mono:
Inconsolata > Source Code Pro > DejaVu Sans Mono > FreeMono


(And just for the record, I’m talking about the real Inconsolata, not the Google Fonts version that smooshes everything too close together.)

Redundant high-res PNGs in case the SVGs don’t work (and/or in case anyone wants to see how the native font rendering on OS X looks):
Spoiler:
Serif:
Image

Sans:
Image

Mono:
Image

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 2:13 am UTC
by hotaru
Qaanol wrote:(and/or in case anyone wants to see how the native font rendering on OS X looks)

oh, so that's why people who use OS X always prefer such hideous fonts! i always wondered why that was... in your SVGs, DejaVu looks like the clear winner, but Quivira and Everson Mono are better with decent font rendering. also, i'm not sure why anyone would use DejaVu Sans instead of Noto Sans.

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 2:34 am UTC
by Qaanol
hotaru wrote:
Qaanol wrote:(and/or in case anyone wants to see how the native font rendering on OS X looks)

oh, so that's why people who use OS X always prefer such hideous fonts! i always wondered why that was..

Say what? The Mac has been known for its high-quality font rendering since the very beginning. There’s a whole story about how before Steve Jobs dropped out of college, he took a calligraphy course and subsequently applied what he learned to the Mac.

Every time I have to use a Windows machine I am appalled by how terribly every single font is rendered, especially in PDFs. Super pixellated. When I had to use Windows 7 for work, I dug through the Control Panels and played around with the ClearType settings until I finally got most text to at least look bearable.

hotaru wrote:in your SVGs, DejaVu looks like the clear winner, but Quivira and Everson Mono are better with decent font rendering. also, i'm not sure why anyone would use DejaVu Sans instead of Noto Sans.

Screenshot so I can see how my SVGs look to you?

Here’s how they look to me (NB: I have a retina display, so the image is twice as large as it actually appears):
Spoiler:
Image

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 2:45 am UTC
by hotaru
Qaanol wrote:Screenshot so I can see how my SVGs look to you?

Spoiler:
Image

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 2:54 am UTC
by Qaanol
Thanks. It’s tough to compare fine details when JPEG compression is used, but I don’t see any glaring differences. What jumped out at you in the first place?

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 3:49 am UTC
by hotaru
Qaanol wrote:Thanks. It’s tough to compare fine details when JPEG compression is used, but I don’t see any glaring differences. What jumped out at you in the first place?

i've replaced the jpg with a png, but it doesn't look any different. they're all blurry, and junicode and freemono are sort of gray in places, instead of black.

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 4:52 am UTC
by Qaanol
hotaru wrote:
Qaanol wrote:Thanks. It’s tough to compare fine details when JPEG compression is used, but I don’t see any glaring differences. What jumped out at you in the first place?

i've replaced the jpg with a png, but it doesn't look any different. they're all blurry, and junicode and freemono are sort of gray in places, instead of black.

I’m pretty sure that’s called antialiasing (and/or subpixel rendering), and it’s exactly what one would expect to see when displaying a shape that is narrower than a single pixel, and/or passes across only part of a pixel.

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 6:45 am UTC
by WanderingLinguist
Problem is, the SVG doesn't do font hinting (at least not the same way as TrueType), and screenshots are all gonna look strange due to differences in subpixel layout between monitors. Yeah, those are details, but with fonts, details matter. Personally, I quite like Menlo. A bit hard to compare it with the fonts mentioned in this thread, though, due to the aforementioned problems.

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 7:18 pm UTC
by Qaanol
WanderingLinguist wrote:Problem is, the SVG doesn't do font hinting (at least not the same way as TrueType), and screenshots are all gonna look strange due to differences in subpixel layout between monitors. Yeah, those are details, but with fonts, details matter. Personally, I quite like Menlo. A bit hard to compare it with the fonts mentioned in this thread, though, due to the aforementioned problems.

Hmm, I actually converted the SVG text to outlines (in iDraw) specifically to avoid font-rendering based differences in appearance. But, well, here are the SVGs with the text as text:

Spoiler:
Serif:
Image


Sans:
Image


Mono:
Image


Even on my own machine, I see major changes between these text-based SVGs and the outline-based SVGs above. For instance, in Chrome these text-based SVGs don’t form ligatures, but they do in Safari. Here’s all six SVGs in both browsers, with the text-based versions in the upper row and the outline-based versions (filenames ending in 1) in the lower row of each image. Again, large images due to retina display:

Spoiler:
Chrome:

Image



Safari:

Image

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 11:19 pm UTC
by WanderingLinguist
Qaanol wrote:
WanderingLinguist wrote:Problem is, the SVG doesn't do font hinting (at least not the same way as TrueType), and screenshots are all gonna look strange due to differences in subpixel layout between monitors. Yeah, those are details, but with fonts, details matter. Personally, I quite like Menlo. A bit hard to compare it with the fonts mentioned in this thread, though, due to the aforementioned problems.

Hmm, I actually converted the SVG text to outlines (in iDraw) specifically to avoid font-rendering based differences in appearance.


Right. There's actually no good way I know to compare font quality to this level of detail unless you're viewing the font in the same program on the same OS using the same monitor. Even the same TrueType rasterizer will behave differently depending on the monitor, and if you look at the rasterized output on a different screen, it can look horrible due differences in subpixel ordering that the rasterizer corrects for.

But, well, here are the SVGs with the text as text

That's also not going to work for anyone who doesn't have those fonts installed. SVG can't really embed fonts.

Even on my own machine, I see major changes between these text-based SVGs and the outline-based SVGs above. For instance, in Chrome these text-based SVGs don’t form ligatures, but they do in Safari.


Well, Safari uses the Core Text, and Chrome (as of I forget which version) uses its own typesetting engine for consistency across different platforms.

Anyway, back to the topic...

What are we comparing these on the basis of? The presence of "Source Sans Pro" in there makes me think we're talking about fonts for source code? If that's the case, I'd say FreeSans and DejaVu sans a probably flat out because the lowercase "l" and uppercase "I" are probably ambiguous (I say "probably" because there's no uppercase I in your sample text, so I can't be sure). Source Sans Pro has the curve on the lowercase "l" to eliminate the ambiguity. For a source font (or a system font where filenames might be displayed) I dislike ambiguity between characters.

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Wed Apr 15, 2015 12:20 am UTC
by Qaanol
WanderingLinguist wrote:Right. There's actually no good way I know to compare font quality to this level of detail unless you're viewing the font in the same program on the same OS using the same monitor. Even the same TrueType rasterizer will behave differently depending on the monitor, and if you look at the rasterized output on a different screen, it can look horrible due differences in subpixel ordering that the rasterizer corrects for.

Well deuces!

WanderingLinguist wrote:What are we comparing these on the basis of? The presence of "Source Sans Pro" in there makes me think we're talking about fonts for source code? If that's the case, I'd say FreeSans and DejaVu sans a probably flat out because the lowercase "l" and uppercase "I" are probably ambiguous (I say "probably" because there's no uppercase I in your sample text, so I can't be sure). Source Sans Pro has the curve on the lowercase "l" to eliminate the ambiguity. For a source font (or a system font where filenames might be displayed) I dislike ambiguity between characters.

Why, we’re comparing on the basis of general bestness for the respective domains of Serif, Sans Serif, and Monospaced text of course!

Here are majuscule I, minuscule L, and numeral 1, in that order for each of the fonts:

SVG as outlines:
Spoiler:
Image


PNG:
Spoiler:
Image

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Fri Apr 17, 2015 2:55 pm UTC
by Iranon
Regarding font rendering of different OSes:

OSX attempts to be faithful to the typeface, and leaves colour/boldness and shapes relatively intact. If they don't fit into the pixel grid, things may become blurry and Look Like Arse on low-resolution displays, but you can get a good idea of how it would turn out in print or another higher-resolution medium.
Windows tries hard to avoid blurriness, as a cost text often appears lighter than it ought to, things may be jagged or distorted. IMO, it's too aggressive.
Linux, of course, doesn't have a standard way of doing things. Most distros use somewhere in between (which looks good to me)... and of course you can twerk it endlessly.

*

Of these fonts, I prefer Adobe's Source family (which is named that way on account of being Open-Source fonts, rather than being useful for displaying code... although the Mono should be able to do that just fine).

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Mon Apr 20, 2015 8:33 am UTC
by Copper Bezel
Not a free font, but I recently kinda fell in love with the Univers sans family, which is kinda a more geometric Helvetica. It just looks silky-smooth in print. I also really like URW Gothic, which I guess is originally from something related to Ghostscript? Really strikingly geometric, too, but I don't think to a degree that impairs reading.

Of course, I actually really like the Ubuntu font, for that matter. = / Just ... clean, you know? Tidy.

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Thu Jul 16, 2015 11:22 am UTC
by Giant Speck
A few free alternatives to those provided:

Sans Serif: Open Sans, Raleway, Roboto, Lato

Serif: PT Serif, Crimson Text, Bitter, Droid Sans

Mono: I don't have any free ones to offer because Pragmata Pro apparently isn't free anymore.

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Mon Sep 14, 2015 8:15 am UTC
by Wildcard
I feel like I should have an opinion about this, given that I worked as a designer for a few years and can recognize at a glance a lot of the fancier fonts used in promotional material. But, I don't have huge opinions about fonts for usual text.

Well...actually, I guess I have a couple, but they are definitely personal preference with no delusion of objective superiority. I like Calibri for text documents that are going to be printed (letters, resumes, whatever). And for monospace, I like the default console font in CentOS 6.7...not sure what it is; my Linux machine is off right now. It might be Inconsolata, though; that rings a bell.

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Sat Sep 19, 2015 8:22 am UTC
by Iranon
Text fonts aren't as immediately recognisable, but my strongest attitudes towards typography are misgivings about about misused fonts for text. Some examples:

Apple likes to use Helvetica as a workhorse. Its straight parts end at right angles, curves are samey when there would normally be variations between letters. This makes it look fantastic in display applications even though it resembles a workhorse text face... but unsuitable for actual text, it lacks important visual cues to distinguish letters. I find it very hard to read comfortably for long.

I generally like Baskerville, but can be terrible depending on language and use.
Large, attention-grabbing capital letters are nice when capitalisation means something - makes it easy to find names and beginnings of new sentences.
With short sentences or in a language like German (all nouns capitalised) they become shouty and unpleasant and break the rhythm.

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Sun Oct 04, 2015 4:19 pm UTC
by Copper Bezel
Iranon wrote:Apple likes to use Helvetica as a workhorse. Its straight parts end at right angles, curves are samey when there would normally be variations between letters. This makes it look fantastic in display applications even though it resembles a workhorse text face... but unsuitable for actual text, it lacks important visual cues to distinguish letters. I find it very hard to read comfortably for long.

That's Helvetica in a nutshell, but it's not at all unique to Apple - Helvetica is straight up the most common font out there in design applications, ubiquitous in signage and logos and usually not in typesetting for long texts. Microsoft's Arial is also a close clone. Helvetica itself is treated as emblematic of the whole school of design it's associated with.

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Sun Oct 04, 2015 8:37 pm UTC
by Giant Speck
Iranon wrote:Apple likes to use Helvetica as a workhorse.

Apple liked to use Helvetica as a workhorse. They use Myriad Pro for their marketing materials and San Francisco for its devices now.

Re: Free-for-all free font brawl [now with pictures!]

Posted: Sun Nov 15, 2015 1:44 am UTC
by Iranon
I find Linux Libertine and Biolinum a useful pair.
Libertine is an understated transitional typeface, with a matching display variant (lighter and higher contrast between thick and thin strokes, meant to look more refined at large sizes; it'd be busy and anaemic in body text).
Biolinum is the interesting one of the pair, a flared sans serif, somewhat similar to Optima but more text-friendly. It has the same metrics as Libertine, so they work very well together: Biolinum can be used for emphasis or where serifs would get in the way (tiny text as in captions and footnotes, bold text at modest sizes).

For something a little more bookish, I'm very fond of Alegreya... distinctive, with a good rhythm and some very nice details. Like many pretty book faces, it can look a bit fussy in everyday use though.