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Old 06-16-2007, 11:09 AM   #1
iamback
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Default Font named "clean"?

Although that question seems to belong in the Fonts & Typography section (and could indeed be placed there) I decided to put it here since it originates from a site design/styling matter.

SmugMug have recently started to use some of Yahoo!'s User Interface components. The first thing they did to enable that was to include the YUI core stylesheets which consist of a set of four stylesheet files, starting with fonts.css. (Which has some nice principles though I don't particularly like Yahoo!'s implementation, but that is beside the point.)

In the YUI fonts.css file, you find font family declarations like this:
HTML Code:
select, input, textarea {font:99% arial,helvetica,clean,sans-serif;}
Now "arial,helvetica,sans-serif" is a triplet that should be familiar to everyone who's ever created a stylesheet. But what is "clean"?

I tried some Googling but came up only with fonts with "clean" as part of the name. Then I remembered the new Microsoft fonts all have names starting with a 'C' so I looked up the thread here about that (they start with 'Ca' or 'Co', it seems - but I did find again the mention of the compatibility pack that's supposed to include them).

So what is 'clean'? A Linux font, maybe?

The reason I'm asking is I want to override that (and other) font family declaration(s) with my own; but I need to decide whether or not to keep "clean" in there.

   
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Old 06-16-2007, 08:25 PM   #2
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There is a font on Linux systems called Clean. I think it's a bitmapped font or screen font. It's a sans and looks very small. I've never used it for anything, but it does appear in font lists that show every active font on the system regardless of format.
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Old 06-17-2007, 12:19 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by JVegVT View Post
There is a font on Linux systems called Clean. I think it's a bitmapped font or screen font. It's a sans and looks very small. I've never used it for anything, but it does appear in font lists that show every active font on the system regardless of format.
Aha! Thanks for that. But if it's a bitmapped font, and very small (good for user interface dialogs, I guess) then it doesn't really sound like a good alternative to the Arial (Windows) & Helvetica (Mac) duo, does it? Bitmapped fonts don't scale well, for one thing.

Any suggestions? (It should of course be a font that's readily available on Linux systems in case they don't have Arial or Helvetica.)

   
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Old 06-17-2007, 01:02 AM   #4
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Now that I know to look for Linux, I found this rather old article, but it's useful, actually mentions "Clean" and contains a link to a screenshot - yup, Clean clearly is a bitmapped (and monospace) font! And small. Clearly doesn't belong in the same group as Arial and Helvetica... (One negative point for Yahoo!)

Searching further...

   
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Old 06-17-2007, 05:57 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamback View Post
Clearly doesn't belong in the same group as Arial and Helvetica...
Which reminds me — why do people persist in specifying Helvetica in CSS? It is a lousy screen font, it is not — unlike Arial in Windows — universally available on Macs, and it is not even the Mac’s default sans-serif — in OS X, that is Lucida Grande (which is very readable though it lacks italics).

The one screen font that exists on all Macs regardless of vintage is Geneva. Many Mac users still consider it to be the best screen font on the Mac (but it has neither italic nor bold).

But really, you do most viewers (Mac or Windows) a favor by specifying Verdana, sans-serif and letting it go at that. They will get Verdana if they have it or their own default sans-serif, whatever that happens to be.

If you compare the fonts mentioned here, you will see that both Arial and Helvetica are too closely spaced for easy reading on screen. (The samples in the attachment are actually larger than we usually see on-screen.)
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Old 06-17-2007, 10:23 AM   #6
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Default Windows, Mac -and- Linux

Quote:
Originally Posted by ktinkel View Post
Which reminds me — why do people persist in specifying Helvetica in CSS? It is a lousy screen font, it is not — unlike Arial in Windows — universally available on Macs, and it is not even the Mac’s default sans-serif — in OS X, that is Lucida Grande (which is very readable though it lacks italics).
People persist in specifying that because that's the received wisdom (Arial being close to Helvetica - but we've had all those discussions here in the Fonts section already!); it's even built into programs like TopStyle, which is the Top Windows CSS editing program! but don't forget that most stylesheets cover all media, not just screen (even if it's used mostly for screen, very few people specify a print stylesheet). So for media "all" whatever you specify should at least be usable for both screen and print.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ktinkel View Post
The one screen font that exists on all Macs regardless of vintage is Geneva. Many Mac users still consider it to be the best screen font on the Mac (but it has neither italic nor bold).
Sounds like a better companion to Arial then than Helvetica - except what happens when you'd specify that and also use some <i>/<em> or <b>/<strong> tags?? A list of fonts to choose from can't be endlessly long, doesn't support conditionals, and therefore must be a compromise.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ktinkel View Post
But really, you do most viewers (Mac or Windows) a favor by specifying Verdana, sans-serif and letting it go at that. They will get Verdana if they have it or their own default sans-serif, whatever that happens to be.
For body text, yes. But Arial (and Helvetica) is narrower which makes it useful for user interface elements like menus and link lists, and sidebars: in general, things that you need to recognize but not sit down and read at leisure. So I really want to use both a "narrow(ish)" sans-serif for elements like <li>, and form controls like buttons (and possibly the input elements) as well as a "wider" sans-serif for body text.

Besides, having a close alternative for another platform - close in the sense of looks as well as metrics - can be an advantage for complicated layouts: it will break less easily and you have a better chance of getting a font that is legible. Generics are a last resort "all bets are off" alternative with often totally unpredictable and badly legible results. If an alternative is at least widely available, why not specify it?

And - as I've found in my little research session this afternoon - it makes sense to specify fonts that are widely available on Linux desktops (not 100%, just "widely") that are close to the fonts normally already specified, fo rthat very reason. Put differently, it makes no sense to specify only Windows and Mac fonts while forgetting close alternatives available on most Linux machines. So just "Verdana,sans-serif" isn't very good, really.

Yahoo! got one thing right (IMO): actually specifying a Linux font. Unfortunately they got that horribly wrong by specifying a monospace bitmapped bitmap font as an "equivalent" to Arial and Helvetica...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ktinkel View Post
If you compare the fonts mentioned here, you will see that both Arial and Helvetica are too closely spaced for easy reading on screen. (The samples in the attachment are actually larger than we usually see on-screen.)
For user interface elements, I disagree: the somewhat narrower style is actually an advantage there (saves space) while being legible enough for the few words needed for such an element.

Now that I have been "sensitized" to the font world of Linux, I'm trying to get a new series of "equivalents lists" for Windows, Mac and Linux (and including generic fallbacks of course) for all of these:
  • "narrow" sans-serif (menus and other UI elements, no need for UTF-8 support when the site's UI is in English)
  • normal/wide sans-serif (body text, will need UTF-8 support for embedded other languages)
  • monospace (pre, code, tt) - serif style
  • monospace (pre, code, tt) - sans-serif style
  • serif (headings, but little else)
The "usage notes" in brackets are for on-screen use of course, setting up a companion list for a print stylesheet would come later...

I've found a few good web pages with tips and comparisons, and I'm near to a preliminary set or sets - will post later (with references)...

Oh, BTW, my current list for body font looks like this:
Code:
Verdana,"Bitstream Vera Sans","Lucida Grande",sans-serif
but the lack of italics you just mentioned would be an issue.

More later, gotta run...

   
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Old 06-17-2007, 11:29 AM   #7
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I don’t mind seeing Verdana in print, actually; it is readable, if perhaps a little clunky looking.

Tahoma is a decent narrow font that is derived from (and goes with) Verdana. I sometimes remember to specify that for lists and such, but do not know how prevalent it is. People with HP printers have it, though, and that is not such a tiny universe.

I keep forgetting about Bitstream Vera family; it was my favorite screen font way back when, in pre-Verdana days, when they called it Prima. I like the Mono, too. Unfortunately, I am afraid none of those are common.

Vera Sans and Mono both have italics; oddly, Vera Serif does not.

   
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Old 06-17-2007, 12:30 PM   #8
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Default Why such diversity?

KT,

This is a very interesting thread, but I do have a question. Why is it that there is such diversity in specifying a sans-serif font to work on three operating systems? Are there legal restrictions, or just a narrow approach by the operating system developers?

I would suppose that the same problems exist for a serif font, too. I am guessing that there are two problems, one the technical challenge to create a font that works on three operating systems, and another to get that font or fonts widely distributed for users to actually see it when browsing.
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Old 06-17-2007, 07:21 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamback View Post
Aha! Thanks for that. But if it's a bitmapped font, and very small (good for user interface dialogs, I guess) then it doesn't really sound like a good alternative to the Arial (Windows) & Helvetica (Mac) duo, does it? Bitmapped fonts don't scale well, for one thing.

Any suggestions? (It should of course be a font that's readily available on Linux systems in case they don't have Arial or Helvetica.)
I suspect that more Linux systems have Helvetica than have Clean. I've never used Clean and never took a look at until you mentioned the name. Maybe there are some really old Linux systems that are stuck in bitmapped fonts. Linux has supported Type 1 for years and years and in the past few years TrueType support is just about universal, and in fact, TrueType fonts look better onscreen than Type 1 fonts.

Many Linux systems have Arial because their users have Arial on their Windows system and just copy it over. The TrueType fonts that seem to come with most distros now include DejaVu Sans and Bitstream Vera Sans. Either of those would be a good bet for users who don't have Helvetica or Arial installed. Both are available for Windows, too.
--Judy M.

   
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Old 06-17-2007, 07:53 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by dthomsen8 View Post
Why is it that there is such diversity in specifying a sans-serif font to work on three operating systems? Are there legal restrictions, or just a narrow approach by the operating system developers?
I think it's the difficulty of figuring out what fonts are likely to be present under three operating systems. Are there fonts all Macs have installed? All versions of Windows? All Linux distros whether current or legacy? Even when fonts come with the operating system, there is no assurance that users have them all installed. Many people (like me) remove some default fonts that aren't strictly necessary.

Quote:
I would suppose that the same problems exist for a serif font, too. I am guessing that there are two problems, one the technical challenge to create a font that works on three operating systems, and another to get that font or fonts widely distributed for users to actually see it when browsing.
It is no technical challenge to create a font that works on Linux. Any TrueType font will work. Both Type 1 and the old Type 3 PostScript fonts work. A PostScript font with a PFB file and an AFM file will work. Linux understands and supports Unicode. However, licensing restrictions prevent many of these fonts from being distributed with the Linux distro. So the font won't be installed unless the user installs it.

This makes it difficult to specify a font you can expect will be installed on most Linux systems. Of late, most distros come with the DejaVu family (TrueType, open source, can be freely distributed, works with Windows, too, and I imagine the Mac). The Bitstream Vera family is popular, too. Many Linux users have Gentium. I'd say the DejaVu family is the best bet but there is no Type 1 or TrueType font that *must* be installed on a Linux system, so you can't be 100% sure a user will have any particular font installed.
--Judy M.

   
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