New Vista Fonts & The Web 3 February, 2007 — Stuart Brown

Will Cambria, Calibri et al be adopted as web typefaces?

Posted in Web Design, Fonts & Typography
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Once upon a time, back in the early days of the world wide web, when Windows 95 was still revolutionary and Internet Explorer was actually a sensible choice over the competition, Microsoft bestowed a gift unto the web which persists to this day: the Core fonts for the Web project.

Thanks to quick adoption of Internet Explorer, and the dominance of Windows in the home OS market, these standard set of typefaces quickly found their way into the vast overwhelming majority of user's font directories - penetration to the extent that these fonts formed the basis of web design at the time, and still play an important role to this day.

The core fonts consisted of the now-ubiquitous Arial, Courier New, Georgia, Times New Roman, Trebuchet MS, and Verdana, amongst others. This limited selection has formed the backbone of typography on the web - every major news publication likely specifies one of these fonts. Indeed - until today, Modern Life was using Georgia as a primary font.

These fonts have been in place since 1996 - over 10 years of dominance in the (admittedly lacklustre) world of web typography - and now, with the launch of Windows Vista, we finally have some fresh additions to the arsenal of default type.

Whilst these new Vista fonts haven't propagated to all systems yet, rest assured that Microsoft won't discourage their usage in cross-platform documents - Office 2007 specifies these fonts as the new defaults, and the new fonts are used liberally across the UI of Vista.

With Microsoft's slipping dominance in the web world, however, these fonts may not find such an impact on some browsers and platforms - the fonts haven't been openly released yet, so Mac and Linux users may have to make an effort to obtain these fonts (assuming they want them in the first place).

Is there any cause for excitement? Are these fonts a major improvement on traditional web type, or are they even suited for use on the web?

Microsoft have spared no expense in this regard - the fonts are specifically designed for Microsoft's use, and they're designed in particular for on-screen usage. And for some reason, they all start with the letter 'C'...


Can replace: Georgia

Cambria is somewhere between traditional typeface Egyptian and web font Georgia - it's a little squarer than its predecessor, but still elegant and nice for body copy. I've started using it myself, and (as far as a Microsoft default font goes) it's a fine piece of typographical work.


Can replace: Arial

Calibri looks set to become the new Arial, as default font for Office 2007. It's fairly indistinctive when large, with somewhat clumsy round lettering, but comes into its own at smaller sizes, with the hinting carefully attended to. Expect Calibri to be popular as a body copy font, as Arial is today.


Can replace: Verdana, Trebuchet MS

Despite sounding like a fungal infection, Candara is another typeface suited to body copy. It's something like Verdana, but with curvier strokes and a slightly 'bandy' appearance at larger sizes.


Can replace: Lucida Console, Courier New

Already being put to use by early adopters using Visual Studio, Consolas is a fixed-width font reminiscent of Lucida Console, ideal for programming and other applications where a fixed-width font would be used.


Can replace: Palatino

Surprisingly elegant for a system default font, Constantia is most similar to fonts such as Palatino and Garamond, and works well as a font for print.


Can replace: Verdana

Similar to Candara, but with less curvy strokes, Corbel is another designed-for-screen font that resembles the perennially popular Verdana.

So, will the fonts above become the standard for web typography over the next 10 years? Perhaps - but Microsoft aren't in such a good position as they were last time, and 10 years is a long time in web terms. Who knows what typographical means will be available in 2017?

Rest assured, though, that the fonts above will find popular usage. With Vista cramming these new fonts down one's throat at every opportunity, you can expect to see increased adoption in line with uptake of the new OS.

And, of course - there's no harm in specifying these fonts by name in your CSS cascade. I've made the switch to Cambria - it's a good replacement for Georgia, slightly more unique and somewhat fresher upon the eye. For those who haven't got the Vista fonts, however, it's business as usual with the 10-year erstwhile favourite, Georgia.