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Design Tip:
Finding Safe Fonts

by Tom Dahm,
Chief Operations Officer,
NetMechanic, Inc.

  
March 1999
Vol. 2, No. 3
 • Search Tip
 • CSS Tip
 • Design Tip
  

Setting the font of your page is a great way to customize the look of your Web site. But how can you tell what fonts are available to your visitors?

When building your Web site, you can specify a font by using the FONT tag, as shown below:

<FONT FACE="Arial">Your text goes here</FONT>

Or by using the Cascading Style Sheet FONT-FAMILY property, like this:

<P STYLE="FONT-FAMILY : Arial">
  Your paragraph goes here
</P>

While this is easy to do, there's no guarantee that either tag will work. Some of your site's visitors may see the page in Arial font, others may see it in their browser's default font.

That's because fonts are operating system resources that are installed on each local computer. If the computer doesn't have the named font installed, then it can't display it. Since Arial is a standard Windows font, the examples above will work just fine for anyone viewing your page from a PC running Windows. But anyone viewing your page from a Macintosh will see the page with their browser's default font.

That's the reason why both the FONT tag and the FONT-FAMILY property allow you to define a comma-separated list of fonts, allowing you to specify a series of alternative fonts, as shown below.

<FONT FACE="Arial, Helvetica">
  Your text goes here
</FONT>

But that's little help if you don't know what fonts are available on most computers.

Try these resources to see what fonts are installed on most PC's and Macintoshes:

Most of these resources show both the font name and an image of the font as it appears on both PC and Mac. If you use these fonts and provide a comma-separated list of alternate fonts, you should be able to safely control the fonts used on your page.



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