Here we can see, “Tahoma vs Verdana”
You’ll be sorry if you ask your favorite Typophile about the differences between Arial and Helvetica. Unless you have a hidden appreciation for the subtle variances in font faces, the care taken with kerning and hinting, and other details. However, if you ask them the difference between Tahoma and Verdana, you might be astonished by the quiet that ensues. Nonetheless, they are two of the most popular internet fonts, and while sharing corporate roots with Comic Sans and Arial, they have aged exceptionally well. 1 These two fonts are among the most deserving of scrutiny and attention.
Here’s a sample of two lines of text, one in each of the two fonts:There are some remarkable similarities between the two, aside from the awful innuendo in the second line2. While it’s difficult to see any structural differences between the characters, this image does provide the first big clue as to the difference between these two popular fonts: the second example is heavier, almost as if it were a “Tahoma Medium” rather than a separate typeface entirely.
However, the distinctions do not end there. The extra word’s worth of x-spacing taken up by the second line cannot be calculated solely based on the width of the strokes in the Verdana font sample. When we reduce the size of the Verdana sample to 10.5pt from 11pt, we receive characters that are almost the same width as those in the Tahoma sample, indicating that the linewidth differences are due to a separate cause:Let’s take a step back and look at the origins and design intentions of the two typefaces before diving into the differences. Both Verdana and Tahoma were debuted in Windows 95 as part of a series of typefaces commissioned by Microsoft for “the new PC era.” They were developed by the renowned Matthew Carter of Georgia3 fame and then hinted at pixel precision by Monotype’s Tom Rickner.
This project aimed to produce a set of fonts that could be used for a range of applications, but all had one thing in common: they had to be rendered/displayed on a computer screen rather than in print. The Microsoft-commissioned font package was one of the first – if not the first – attempt to create fonts optimized for display rather than print, addressing issues like legibility, kerning, letter spacing, and more as influenced by the nature of the medium displaying them and its salient characteristics, such as low DPI, a different reading distance, zero literal ink bleed, and pixels made up of individual RGB subpixel components. 4
As a result, Matthew’s final bundle featured both a serif font (lovely Georgia) and the two sans serif fonts we’ll be looking at today. What’s interesting is that these are virtually the same font, with the on-screen readability altered slightly (or, perhaps more accurately, to a different extent). Here’s the letter an as it appears in both typefaces, placed on top of one another.
We can quickly tell how identical they are, and it’s not even humorous. The main difference between the two samples is their width; the letter an in Tahoma is 0.072′′ broad at 12pt, while it is 0.077′′ wide at the same point size (or 7 percent wider). In fact, here’s what they look like when the Verdana sample is scaled down to 93.5 percent of its original size in the x-direction.
The only difference between the two fonts in terms of character design is that Tahoma’s characters have somewhat smaller counters than their Verdana counterparts.
Counters refer to the negative space created by linking strokes in character and are one of the design elements of a typeface.
While the Tahoma and Verdana samples in the last experiment begin pixel-for-pixel identical in the top-left corner, the downwards stroke of the letter gains a hair’s width when it reaches fully perpendicular to the x-axis and holds this extra width the rest of the way down.
The same effect can be seen in the bowl of the letter a, where the leftmost stroke in the Tahoma sample inches inwards, slightly reducing the radius of the bowl, then coming back in to connect with the stem just a pixel or two higher than the Verdana sample does (while maintaining the same stroke width) and reducing the size of the counter.
While it neatly sums up the differences in the characters of these two fonts, there’s one more puzzle piece to be solved. We return to the text samples in the first paragraph and the difference in line length between the Tahoma and Verdana samples, which isn’t entirely explained by differences in stroke size or horizontal scale of individual letters: the tracking.
Finally, the most significant difference between these two typefaces may be seen. The only discernible difference between the two fonts now is their letter spacing, which has been reduced down to 93 percent of their original width in the Verdana sample. Characters in Verdana are spaced much further apart than those in Tahoma. While they begin nicely aligned at the s, the situation quickly deteriorates until the l in Verdana’s sample is overlaid on top of thee in the Tahoma text.
We’ve already gone over the numerous elements that contribute to legibility on a computer display, and it’s a very simple exercise to come up with individual features or qualities of a display that would improve legibility by boosting letter tracking5. What’s not apparent is what prompted these typefaces to be chosen for inclusion in Windows 95 and to go on to become part of web and PC history. Why ship with two (very) different letter trackings if these are two fonts, faces structurally and aesthetically similar for all intents and purposes? Why include the other tracking if one has better readability for on-screen displays?
The solution to that query may be found in Daniel Will-Harris’s6 Typophile essay Georgia & Verdana: Typefaces created for the screen (finally), in which he interviewed Simon Earnshaw, a typographer at Microsoft at the time.
That’s all there is to it, direct from the horse’s mouth. The original was Tahoma, while Verdana was made to especially optimize for certain criteria that demanded increased legibility, perhaps even at the expense of aesthetics, as some would argue.
It’s difficult to say what these “extended text” settings might entail based on the limited information Earnshaw has provided; however, based on what we know about how window forms are drawn under Windows, it’s most likely a reference to the distinction between text-heavy (“extended text”) and text-light regions. Unlike, for example, a book, a system UI contains a diverse range of design components and includes text in various contexts. In some areas, the writing resembles a newspaper headline, but it’s more like the body of a chapter book in others.
Today’s world of on-screen text bears little resemblance to the one that existed in 1994. High-resolution screens are ubiquitous, and font hinting has progressed from monochrome hinting to greyscale aliasing and then color aliasing with ClearType under Windows Vista and 7. Now hardware-accelerated text rendering with advanced features like infinitely variable stroke widths with the new OTF variable-sized fonts features when rendered with Direct2D/DirectWrite under Windows 10.8.
So, which of these two typefaces should you choose? Tahoma offers better aesthetics, in this writer’s opinion, and it has been regularly expanded with a richer character set and additional symbols, whereas Verdana has slowed down over time. More crucially, the type hinting for Verdana appears to be lacking, implying that when it came to changing the fonts’ hinting to play nicer with ClearType and DirectWrite/Direct2D, Microsoft’s typography division may have overlooked it or given it only the tiniest of attention. However, some people favor Verdana because of its (severe) inclination toward legibility, and it can be a good choice in the right circumstances. It’s entirely up to you.
So, do you think you’ll be able to tell the difference in this final exam? Can you tell which is which? Verdana’s spacing and horizontal scale have been altered to match Tahoma’s, but can you tell which is which?
- Just to pick a couple of fonts that designers despise.
- Due to the complexities of Direct2D/DirectWrite text rendering, which takes into account the monitor, resolution, DPI, and actual pixel arrangement; some or all of which are likely to differ between the environment where the screenshot was taken and your PC viewing this image right now, there will almost certainly be additional hinting.
- In this writer’s humble view, one of the best-designed, well-hinted, and well-balanced general-purpose fonts available today, after all these years. If you haven’t heard about Georgia Pro yet, you should look into it. It adds all the missing widths and several more symbols to Georgia, making it a superb typeface for text layout.
- Margaret Re, Johanna Drucker, James Mosley, and none other than Matthew Carter wrote Typographically Speaking: The Art of Matthew Carter. Although it is not accessible on Amazon, it is available on Google Books.
- The distance between the actual components of each letter and adjacent components of other letters is referred to as “tracking”. In contrast, the distance between the actual components of each letter and adjacent components of other letters is referred to as “kerning.”
- http://www.will-harris.com/verdana-georgia.htm, uncertain exact year of publication, but likely about 1995. [PDF] [archived] [archived] [archived] [archived]
- A veritable cornucopia of new, ClearType-ready typefaces was released to commemorate the event.
- Microsoft is also producing a font to commemorate the occasion called Bahnschrift. Later on, I’ll go into more detail about that.
I hope you found this information helpful. Please fill out the form below if you have any questions or comments.
1. Is it better to use Tahoma or Verdana?
Tahoma offers better aesthetics, in this writer’s opinion, and it has been regularly expanded with a richer character set and additional symbols, whereas Verdana has slowed down over time.
2. Is Verdana a decent choice for a font?
Verdana. Verdana Because of its readability, sans-serif is another popular online typeface. It, like Georgia, was designed with computer screens in mind. According to experts, it’s a good choice if you have a lot of content because sans-serif fonts are easier to read on the web.
3. Is Tahoma a business font?
Tahoma, a sans-serif typeface, has a more modern appearance than the other fonts on this list. Microsoft utilized it for several years in a range of apps. Tahoma, for example, is a terrific alternative for giving your CV a little extra oomph while maintaining a professional appearance.
4. Arial vs. Helvetica : r/interestingasfuck – Reddit
5. Verdana double-story g? : r/typography – Reddit