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Arial vs. Helvetica: The Smackdown

This is a bit of a departure but what is a blog if not a dumping ground for random thoughts?

This isn’t really the point of this post but I’ve never liked Arial. It’s too "squished" for my tastes. I prefer the wider letters of Verdana or Tahoma. But my current favorite font is Century Gothic with it’s big round letters that harken back to when I first learned how to print.

I was reading over Jeff Atwoods latest post which discusses, in part, the Helvetica font. I following the links to its relationship with Arial and finally, How to Spot Arial.

I’ve never considered the difference ‘twixt Helvetica and Arial before so I did a little experiment in Microsoft Word 2003 and Windows XP. The results are in the image below (click for larger version):

image

Here’s your quiz. Comparing with the notes in How to Spot Arial, which block of text above is Arial and which is Helvetica?

And once you answer that question, here’s a follow-up: What gives?

Kyle the Rhetorical

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  • m

    both arial. you can tell by the lower case t.

  • Stan

    KarmasAgent, what is the proper method to replace a NIC in a pSeries 570?

    A knowledgeable computer user would know how. I know, I do.

    The point of that question is to point out that the world of computing knowledge is VAST and varied. It is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to know everything about all of it. Anyone who says they do, is a liar outright.

  • http://randomthoughts.ws/ Random Thoughts

    They look the same to me.

  • K.Todd Baley

    A knowledgeable computer user would know how to post a comment only once.

  • K.Todd Baley

    Wow! I wish I was as smart as KarmasAgent. I used to consider myself a knowledgeable computer user but don’t know half as much as KarmasAgent so I guess I am not knowledgeable. I wish I was KarmasAgent then I would be knowledgeable. But then if I were KarmasAgent then I would be pretty full of myself too and I don’t think that would sit right with me so I retract that and prefer not to wish I was KarmasAgent. Instead I wish I was a Super Nerd just like all of you guys.

  • Chuggle

    I thought Linotype owned the original Helvetica

    Well researched comment KarmasAgent

  • http://codebetter.com/blogs/kyle.baley Kyle Baley

    I recognize that. That’s sarcasm. Oh well, at least you didn’t harp on the fact that I forgot to put an apostrophe in “Atwood’s” in the second paragraph. Abashed am I. I guess I can no longer call myself a knowledgeable computer user…

    But in my defense, I did use the phrases “dumping ground” and “random thoughts” in the first sentence to set the reader’s expectations.

  • http://none KarmasAgent

    A knowledgeable computer user would know that nothing but the high-end Adobe products will give then Helvetica on their Windows XP or Linux machines. Apple and Adobe (the owner of Helvetica) the only major software vendors that still cling for life to the paid font model and keep the price of Helvetica artificially inflated.

    MS developed Arial to bypass those licensing requirements.

    Common knowledge.

    Well researched article… I didn’t waste 5 minutes of my life at all.

  • http://none KarmasAgent

    A knowledgeable computer user would know that nothing but the high-end Adobe products will give then Helvetica on their Windows XP or Linux machines. Apple and Adobe (the owner of Helvetica) the only major software vendors that still cling for life to the paid font model and keep the price of Helvetica artificially inflated.

    MS developed Arial to bypass those licensing requirements.

    Common knowledge.

    Well researched article… I didn’t waste 5 minutes of my life at all.

  • http://codebetter.com/blogs/kyle.baley Kyle Baley

    OK, it appears I cheated inadvertently. It seems I don’t have Helvetica installed locally and after following cboff’s advice, I was able to determine that Helvetica was being defaulted to Arial. So….ummm….trick question I guess. They were both Arial on the screen but the bottom one was Helvetica in the original document. Who knew my computer wouldn’t have Helvetica installed by default?

  • http://adamv.com Adam V

    Neither of the fonts in the PNG are Helvetica; the loop terminals on the a,c,e (for instance) aren’t horizontal.

  • http://weblogs.asp.net jstengel

    Here’s my philosophy…

    I like Arial for tabular data and small fonts. Trebuchet for content and sometimes headers. I also like Century Gothic for headers (never content) depending on the look I’m going for.

    Trebuchet and Century Gothic look nicer with bigger font sizes. Arial just gets more and more boring the bigger it gets and doesn’t really stand out as well as header (like the “Leave a Comment” heading above).

    Tahoma and Verdana seem to waste a lot of space. Times is a good font for quotes and italicized text.

    Always pick a backup font–preferably one that is similar to the primary font.

    If you ever use Comic Sans you should be shot and then killed and then shot again. :-)
    http://bancomicsans.com

  • Matt

    somebody, please, find this man a job!!

  • http://www.ChrisCatto.com Catto

    Hey Now Kyle,
    I just tried the same in Word ’03 (two sentences one Arial & one Helvetica). The above could be different fonts but both very similar. Century Gothic huh? Sure is an interesting choice.
    Nice Post,
    Catto

  • cboff

    Yup, both Arial. Word routinely and automatically substitutes (esp for screen display) fonts.
    Tools/Options/Compatibility. Click the button and check the results.

  • FOR

    I /second Mark’s comment. Did you give us two images of the same font ? Or, alternatively, did you write that paragraph picking a specific font for each letter ?
    /curious

  • Mark Erikson

    I could be wrong, but… aren’t they both Arial? Both lower-case ‘t’s have the slanted top, and both lower-case ‘a’s have the shorter stem.