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Font Survey: 42 of the Best Monospaced Programming Fonts

, 18 Aug 2010 CPOL
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This article presents commonly used programming fonts with examples of each font in ClearType and non-ClearType.

Introduction

Recently I have seen several blogs talking about which fonts are best for use in programming. Some blogs list two or three fonts, some list ten fonts. But I knew there were more fonts than the ones I was reading about, so I decided to look around to see how many I could find.

Here are some of the things I look for in a programming font:

screenshot Easy to read - clear letters, with easily distinguishable punctuation
screenshot Monospaced - this really follows from the point above. Although I know some programmers who insist that Arial or Verdana can be used in an IDE or programming editor, I have only included fixed-width fonts in this survey.
screenshot Adequate whitespace - fonts that are too compressed are more difficult to read, and make it more difficult to catch errors
screenshot Differentiated similar letters (1 and l, zero and O) are easy to tell apart

The Fonts

The following table lists in alphabetical order the most commonly cited programming fonts. While many are free, there are some that are only available via purchase, for $US8 - $US150. For reference, you might want to look at the CodeProject list of best programming fonts.

I look at fonts no differently than I look at other programming tools - they are professional investments. I discourage illegal use or copying of fonts. If you find a font that you cannot live without, then you should buy it if it is sold commercially. The price of fonts amounts to only pennies per hour, when you add up all the time you will spend looking at it.

The point size I used for each font sample is indicated in the table. I tried to use sizes that would make it easy to view the font characteristics - sizes that are not necessarily what would be used in normal editing. All sample images were taken using Visual Studio 2005.

With ClearType Without ClearType
AdaptiveCode Regular 11 point
AdaptiveCode Regular AdaptiveCode Regular
[These comments for OTF version.] AdaptiveCode Regular was originally developed in 1999 as an OEM typeface for a software developer. The font's "variable serif" treatment allows characters to adapt to the 560-em square on which the face is built. A subtle humanist touch counterbalances the mech/tech construction, and - combined with careful attention to the hinting - results in excellent readability. The numerals are very nice, and the micro-serif on the exclamation point is unique. This is a high-quality commercial font available from the PSY/OPS Type Foundry for $US20.
Akkurat-Mono 11 point
Akkurat-Mono Akkurat-Mono
Akkurat-Mono is a commercial font designed in 2004 by Laurenz Brunner (whose regular Akkurat font has been used in Al Gore’s book An Inconvenient Truth, Prada’s website, and Nike Basketball) for the Lineto foundry. It has more line spacing than Bitstream Vera Sans Mono. Its double-story g is distinctive, and nicer-looking than the curled-under g in some other sans fonts. I would say that this font has a somewhat European style - look at the little tail on the a, and the uppercase G, which is more closed than Andale Mono or Consolas. The numerals also show the distinctive Helvetica upward curve on the bottom of the 5 and the 9. The 1 (one) is easily distinguishable from the lowercase l, the i is fully serifed, and there is a slashed zero. Akkurat-Mono is possibly the most readable font in this survey. Print Magazine says "Brunner’s masterstroke, the sans-serif Akkurat, is the epitome of a neutral, no-frills - and gorgeous - typeface." This is a high-quality, attractive font that is very clear even at small sizes; it would be comfortable to work with all day long. Its only drawback: a price of over $US150. That is 40% higher than the price of any other font in this survey. Still, it is worth taking a look at this font - the quality arguably makes the cost justifiable as a long-term investment.
Andale Mono 11 point
Andale Mono Andale Mono
Possibly the best monospaced font that Microsoft has shipped, Andale Mono was originally called Monotype.com and was designed by Steven Matteson for the Apple/IBM Taligent project. Very clean, sans-serif, lots of whitespace, with a dotted zero (which may be the only defect this font has - at small point sizes, the dotted zero can be mistaken for an 8). Consistently rated in the top ten in lists of the best programming fonts, including the one here at CodeProject. See here for info about this font. One of Microsoft's Core Fonts for the Web. Download here.
Anonymous 10 point
Anonymous Anonymous
Anonymous is Mark Simonson's serifed TrueType version of Anonymous 9, a freeware Macintosh bitmap font developed in the mid-90s by Susan Lesch and David Lamkins. Very clear, not as compressed as Andale Mono, lots of whitespace, with a somewhat strange slashed zero that is slashed from left to right, instead of right to left. Anonymous is consistently rated in the top ten in lists of the best programming fonts. A free font, download here.
Arial Monospaced 11 point
Arial Monospaced Arial Monospaced
Arial Monospaced has to be one of the most legible fonts I have ever worked with, and is also one of the few I have ever bought. Its only drawback is the lack of a slashed zero (the uppercase O and the zero are very similar), which I quickly fixed with the aid of a font editing program. This is a Monotype font, produced using their ESQ technology, and can be purchased online at many font sites. Typical price: $US20.
Aurulent Sans Mono 11 point
Aurulent Sans Mono Aurulent Sans Mono
Aurulent Sans Mono was designed by Stephen G. Hartke (creator of the Verily Serif Mono font). It is a very clear, readable font, but lacks a slashed zero (the zero is somewhat narrower than the uppercase O). It is public domain. Download here.
Bitstream Vera Sans Mono 11 point
Bitstream Vera Sans Mono Bitstream Vera Sans Mono
I keep coming back to this wonderful readable font. It is certainly a competitor to Arial Monospaced, and has two advantages: it has a dotted zero, and it is free. It has a fully-serifed i and excellent numerals, and a lowercase l that you can easily distinguish from a 1 (one). Tied for No. 5 on the CodeProject list of best programming fonts. According to the font designer, Jim Lyles, "Bitstream Vera is actually a detuned Bitstream Prima. Gnome asked that we modify some of the characters in the monospace, particularly for coding legibility. We added a center dot to the zero and modified the lcase l to distinguish it from the figure one. Although I designed Vera (Prima), it was actually Sue Zafarana who adapted it to a mono version, at times a very challenging task." Bitstream, Inc., has released the Vera fonts for free use and distribution (the fonts cannot be sold by themselves). Read more here. See also DejaVu Sans Mono.
BPMono 11 point
BPMono BPMono
Similar to Bitstream Vera Sans Mono, this clean font is easy to read, with a slashed zero, but not quite as crisp as Vera - compare, for example, the uppercase W and the numerals. The curly braces are exceptionally curved. From the designer's web site: "BPmono and BPmono Bold are manually hinted from 9px to 16px making it appropriate for use in various advanced text and programming editors (eg. Visual Studio)..." Download here or here.
Century Schoolbook Mono BT 11 point
Century Schoolbook Mono BT Century Schoolbook Mono BT
Clean serif font, no slashed zero (the zero is slightly narrower than the uppercase O). The lowercase l is very similar to the 1 (one). It can be purchased online at many font sites. Typical price: $US25.
Consolas 11 point
Consolas Consolas
Consolas is the developer font created for Microsoft by famous designer Luc(as) de Groot and designed specifically for use with ClearType. Many programmers like it, and it is No. 2 on the CodeProject list of best programming fonts. Slightly condensed horizontally, it has a generous amount of vertical whitespace and a slashed zero. The two bars of the = are closer together than other fonts, making it harder to distinguish at smaller sizes. The uppercase I, the 1 (one), and the lowercase l are all identically serifed - compare these to Bitstream Vera or Onuava. The Consolas Font Pack can be downloaded from Microsoft here. Consolas is also included in PowerPoint Viewer 2007.
Courier 12 point
Courier Courier
A standard Windows font, no slashed zero (the zero is squarish compared to the uppercase O). No difference with ClearType. Originally designed in 1956 by Howard Kettler for IBM’s revolutionary new line of electric typewriters.
Courier New 11 point
Courier New Courier New
A standard Windows font, no slashed zero (the zero is somewhat narrower and taller than the uppercase O). Redesigned from the Courier by Adrian Frutiger for Windows 3.1, it is slightly thinner and cleaner than the original. No. 1 on the CodeProject list of best programming fonts.
Crystal 12 point
Crystal Crystal
Crystal was created by Jerry Fitzpatrick and is very readable and clean. It has a slashed zero, and is slightly more condensed than fonts such as Bitstream Vera Sans Mono. It consistently ranks high in lists of programming fonts. Note the easily distinguishable uppercase I, lowercase l, and 1 (one). Instead of a grave accent (`), this font displays a centered dot. Download here.
DejaVu Sans Mono 11 point
DejaVu Sans Mono DejaVu Sans Mono
DejaVu Sans Mono is based on the Bitstream Vera Sans Mono font, and has a wider range of characters than Bitstream Vera. Here is a list of the changes. Download DejaVu Sans Mono here.
Dina 10 point
Dina Dina
According to its designer Jørgen Ibsen, "Dina is a monospace bitmap font, primarily aimed at programmers. It is relatively compact to allow a lot of code on screen, while (hopefully) clear enough to remain readable even at high resolutions. I made this font after having tried all the free programming fonts I could find. Somehow there was some detail in each of them that meant I couldn't work with them in the long run. The closest to perfect I found was the Proggy font, which the author kindly allows you to modify. So I started building this font using Proggy as the base, and with inspiration from Tobi, Fixedsys and some old DOS fonts I used to love." Dina seems to me to be more readable than the Proggy fonts. Like them, it has a slashed zero. The lowercase l and 1 (one) in Dina are more easily distinguished than the same characters in Proggy Clean. Unlike the Proggy fonts, Dina shows no difference with ClearType. Dina is frequently mentioned in lists of favorite programming fonts. Typical comment: "Best programming font I have used." Download here.
DPCustomMono2 10 point
DPCustomMono2 DPCustomMono2
The free DPCustomMono2 font from Distributed Proofreaders is designed with proofreaders in mind, to maximize legibility of text. With this goal, the emphasis is on the distinctness of characters and clarity of punctuation. I don't think I would use it all the time, but it would certainly be helpful when you're tired, and trying to read unfamiliar code. Download here.
Droid Sans Mono 11 point
Droid Sans Mono Droid Sans Mono
My first reaction to the name was that this was a joke, but Droid Sans Mono is actually very readable with nice numerals, and only lacking a slashed zero (the zero is somewhat narrower than the uppercase O). The Droid Typeface Family was designed by Steve Matteson of Ascender Corporation for Google's Open Handest Alliance’s Android platform. How to get it is a challenge, because it's included in the free Android SDK, which is released under the Apache license. Download the Android SDK (92Mb!) here, or just use the download that Damien Guard has provided here.
Envy Code R 11 point
Envy Code R Envy Code R
Envy Code R is a great free font designed by Damien Guard, who recently went to work for Microsoft on the Linq product. Envy Code R is very readable and has a slashed zero, but falls short of Bitstream Vera in clarity (look at the uppercase W, for example). It does include many box-drawing, shading, and symbols for use in command (dosbox) windows. An interesting feature of this font is the "italics as bold" variant, that overcomes Visual Studio's aversion to italics by marking the italic font as bold. Choose 'Envy Code R VS' in the Font and Colors part of Visual Studio's Options and choose bold wherever you want italics. Tied for No. 5 on the CodeProject list of best programming fonts. Download here.
Everson Mono 11 point
Everson Mono Everson Mono
The designer of Everson Mono, Michael Everson, says: "Everson Mono is a simple, elegant, monowidth font. I started designing it in 1994 primarily to make glyphs available to support the non-Han characters in Unicode and ISO/IEC 10646-1, though I hope that users may find it a pleasant alternative to Courier and Monaco for general purposes, e-mail, and so forth. I have found it quite legible at sizes as small as 4 points. It is lighter and a bit looser than Courier." This font has a large line spacing. No slashed zero; the uppercase O is shorter and wider than the zero. Download here. Shareware, $US40.
HelvMono 11 point
HelvMono HelvMono
This Arial-looking font has an uppercase O that is indistinguishable from a zero, and an uppercase I that is indistinguishable from a lowercase l. The 6 and 9 are nearly closed, and will be hard to read at small sizes. Download here.
Inconsolata 12 point
Inconsolata Inconsolata
Inconsolata is a free OpenType font from designer Raph Levien, who was greatly influenced by Luc(as) de Groot's Consolas font. Like Consolas, Inconsolata works better with ClearType - see the lowercase l and m. Very clear, with a slashed zero. It is available here.
Liberation Mono 11 point
Liberation Mono Liberation Mono
From Wikipedia: "The fonts were developed by Steve Matteson (creator of Droid fonts and Andale Mono) of Ascender Corp. as Ascender Sans and Ascender Serif. A 2007 variant of this font family, with the addition of a monospaced font and open-source license, was licensed by Red Hat, Inc. as the Liberation font family." This font (LiberationMono-Regular.ttf) has a dotted zero, although according to Wikipedia there is a later 2008 version with a slashed zero (I could not find it). The lowercase l is easily distinguished from the 1 (one), and the i is fully serifed. This is a very crisp, readable font. Download here or here.
Lucida Console 11 point
Lucida Console Lucida Console
Lucida Console is a variant of Lucida Sans Typewriter with smaller line spacing, and a large x-height, making it readable at all sizes. No slashed zero, but the zero is somewhat narrower and taller than the uppercase O. Lucida Console is No. 3 on the CodeProject list of best programming fonts. Lucida is an extended family of related typefaces designed by Charles Bigelow and Kris Holmes in 1985.
Lucida Sans Typewriter 11 point
Lucida Sans Typewriter Lucida Sans Typewriter
Very similar to Lucida Console, but with larger line spacing. The uppercase O and zero distinction is not as good - they are both the same height, although the zero is still somewhat narrower.
Luxi Mono 11 point
Luxi Mono Luxi Mono
Luxi is a family of typefaces originally designed for the X Window System by Kris Holmes and Charles Bigelow from Bigelow and Holmes Inc. Luxi is similar to Lucida (their previous font design). Luxi fonts are commonly found on free software operating systems, such as Linux. They are the default fonts in Red Hat's Bluecurve theme. Like the Lucida fonts, Luxi Mono does not have a slashed zero; the uppercase O and zero are both the same height, although the zero is somewhat narrower. Unlike Lucida, there is less distinction between the lowercase l and the 1 (one); both are fully serifed. Download here or here.
Monaco 10 point
Monaco Monaco
Monaco, originally a Mac font, shows up frequently in lists of favorite programming fonts. It is very clean, lots of whitespace, a slashed zero, and a micro-serifed i. This is a font you could work with all day long. Download here.
Monospace 821 BT 10 point
Monospace 821 BT Monospace 821 BT
This free sans-serif TrueType font is very clean and easy to read even at 10 points, partly due to its large line spacing. It lacks a slashed zero (the uppercase O and the zero are nearly identical), has a fully-serifed lowercase i, and its lowercase l is easily distinguished from the 1 (one). Download here.
Nu Sans Mono 10 point
Nu Sans Mono Nu Sans Mono
Nu Sans Mono was designed by Martin Pfeiffer who says it's a "great sans-serif alternative to Courier". I wouldn't disagree with that. It has a slashed zero, very legible numerals, and a lowercase l that is easily distinguishable from 1 (one). Much nicer than Courier or Courier New and very readable even at 10 points. Selling for only $US8 for a set of four fonts. The demo download available on the designer's site "includes the regular (without the international characters or other doodads.)" Definitely worth trying it out if you're a fan of Courier or Lucida.
Onuava 10 point
Onuava Onuava
Onuava was a late addition to my list. This beautiful font is a little more condensed than Monaco, but still very readable, with a slashed zero, fully serifed i, nice numerals, and a lowercase l that is easily distinguished from a 1 (one) (although the 1 (one) in Onuava lacks the serif that Bitstream Vera Sans Mono has). Onuava is a very close runner-up to Bitstream Vera Sans Mono. From the designer's web site : "It is specifically customized for screen display, with strong lines and character forms which are more open and easier to read." Read more here. A demo version of the font is available free, which contains all the standard characters. The complete font (with international characters) sells for about $US18. Download the demo (free for personal use) here.
Osaka Unicode 11 point
Osaka Unicode Osaka Unicode
Osaka Unicode is a derivative of Apple's Osaka font. This is an attractive, very clean font with a slashed zero, and offers distinctive shapes for similar letters: the lowercase l and i share the same half-serif base, while the 1 (one) is fully-serifed. The numerals are very nice - open and easy to read even at small sizes. The slanted curves of the lowercase b, p, and q give this font a somewhat cursive-like quality. Download here or here.
Pragmata 11 point
Pragmata Pragmata
Pragmata is a relatively new monospaced font, designed by Fabrizio Schiavi. It has quickly achieved almost cult status among programmers, and most online lists rank it very high. It is also the second-highest-priced font on my list, at $US113. Hand-hinted for optimum legibility, it is a fairly tall font, and looks best at 11 points and below. It works best with ClearType - see, for example, the 8 in the sample. You can purchase it on the designer's web site.
ProFontWindows 12 point
ProFontWindows ProFontWindows
ProFontWindows is another free font that's best used at lower point sizes. It is fairly clean, with a slashed zero, but both the lowercase l and the 1 (one) are serifed (and hence easily mistaken), and the x-height is smaller than usual. This causes some distorted characters, like the lowercase y and lowercase s. Download here.
Proggy Clean with Slashed Zero 12 point
Proggy Clean Proggy Clean
Proggy Clean shows up on most lists of favorite programming fonts, and is No. 4 on the CodeProject list of best programming fonts. It is designed for use at small point sizes. See the download page for other fonts designed for small sizes. Download here.
QuickType Mono 11 point
QuickType Mono QuickType Mono
QuickType Mono shipped with early versions of TurboTax. It is very similar to Arial Monospaced, which is not surprising since they are both Monotype fonts. The zero is not slashed; the uppercase O is indistinguishable from a zero. The lowercase l is distinct from a 1 (one), but the 1 (one) does not have the slanted top that is typical of many other monospaced fonts. In fact, the 1 (one) looks more like a lowercase l. All the numerals are very clear. Download here.
Raize 10 point
Raize Raize
This squarish sans-serif font from Raize Software has a fully-serifed i and a slashed zero. Large line spacing. It is fairly clean, although the lowercase l and the 1 (one) are similar. The small x-height makes the characters seem squished vertically. Combined with the small inter-character spacing, this font is less legible than others. No difference with ClearType. Download here.
saxMono 11 point
saxMono saxMono
This free sans-serif font has large line spacing but no slashed zero (the uppercase O is squarish compared to the zero). The lowercase i is serifed; the lowercase l is taller but otherwise identical to the 1 (one). Download here.
Selectric 12 point
Selectric Selectric
This nice clean serifed font could be used in place of the Courier fonts. Like them, it does not have a slashed zero (the uppercase O is squarish and somewhat shorter compared to the zero). However, it is unusable at less than 12 points - the tops of uppercase letters are cut off. Download here.
Share-TechMono 11 point
Share-TechMono Share-TechMono
This is a clean, slightly condensed font with slashed zero. If you think that Liberation Mono has too much whitespace, this font would be a good alternative. Overall it is very readable, although the horizontal compression may cause some confusion between the uppercase S and the 5 (five). The lowercase l is easily distinguished from the 1 (one), and the i is semi-serifed. Download here.
Slashed Zero Arial 10 point
Slashed Zero Arial Slashed Zero Arial
Similar to HelvMono with a larger line spacing and a slashed zero. Download here.
Terminal 9 point
Terminal Terminal
From Wikipedia: "Terminal is a family of monospace raster typefaces. It is relatively small compared to Courier. It uses crossed zeros, and is designed to approximate the font normally used in MS-DOS or other text-based consoles such as on Linux. In Microsoft Windows, it is used as the default font in the Command Prompt." No difference with ClearType. No sizes between 9 and 12 points. This seems to me to be too heavy to use for normal editing, but I have seen it recommended.
Terminus 12 point
Terminus Terminus
This free, slightly squarish font has a micro-serifed i and a slashed zero. It is clean and easy to read, although some characters (see uppercase W) could be better. The curly braces are very similar to the parentheses. Nice numerals. The lowercase l and the 1 (one) could be a little better distinguished. It was created by Dimitar Zhekov, and is very good for a bitmap font. No difference with ClearType. Download here or here.
Ti92Pluspc 11 point
Ti92Pluspc Ti92Pluspc
This is a clean, nice-looking font with slashed zero, that is included with TI-Connect and TI-GraphLink software (distributed with TI calculators). It is highly ranked on several lists of favorite programming fonts. Download here.
Verily Serif Mono 11 point
Verily Serif Mono Verily Serif Mono
Verily Serif Mono was designed by Stephen G. Hartke (creator of the Aurulent Sans Mono font). It is a very clean font and has a dotted zero. Excellent readability, and a good choice if you prefer serif fonts. The numerals are all clear, although the 1 (one) is somewhat similar to the lowercase l. Verily Serif Mono is derived from Bitstream Vera Serif with the same proportions as Bitstream Vera Sans Mono. Only the primary ASCII characters have been modified. It is public domain. Download here.

Reference

For anyone wanting to know more about fonts, I recommend Fonts and Encodings.

For more information on ClearType, see here. Microsoft has created a ClearType Tuner, which lets you optimize ClearType for the monitor you are using.

Revision History

Version 1.5.1 - 2010 August 5

  • Added AdaptiveCode Regular

Version 1.5 - 2009 September 23

  • Added Share TechMono font
  • Updated Liberation Mono samples

Version 1.4 - 2008 October 28

  • Updated sample text to include complete numerals
  • Added fonts: Akkurat, Everson, HelvMono, Liberation, Luxi, Osaka, QuickType, and Slashed Zero Arial.

Version 1.3 - 2008 October 11

  • Updated sample text to include easily confused characters
  • When the font has no slashed zero, the description compares the uppercase O and zero

Version 1.2 - 2008 October 10

    Added DejaVu Sans Mono
  • Reset ClearType and took new screenshots

Version 1.1 - 2008 October 10

  • Corrected some typos
  • Edited comments for Inconsolata

Version 1.0 - 2008 October 9

  • Initial public release

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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About the Author

Hans Dietrich
Software Developer (Senior) Hans Dietrich Software
United States United States
I attended St. Michael's College of the University of Toronto, with the intention of becoming a priest. A friend in the University's Computer Science Department got me interested in programming, and I have been hooked ever since.
 
Recently, I have moved to Los Angeles where I am doing consulting and development work.
 
For consulting and custom software development, please see www.hdsoft.org.






Comments and Discussions

 
QuestionProgramming fonts PinmemberUnk-nown9-Mar-12 20:12 
SuggestionRe: Programming fonts Pinmembertae1239-Jul-13 6:31 

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