In a few projects lately we’ve been using Tahoma as a font of choice and not really knowing if it’s the best choice or not. I’ve always had this anecdotal idea that Arial had issues with font height, and that Verdana was just spaced much too differently on mac and on windows to be useful and so Tahoma was th next best thing. But I never had the evidence to say either way.

So I set out to try to catalogue the differences and see if there was such a thing as the perfect font for cross platform FileMaker development. First I needed to know which fonts are installed on both Mac OS X and on Windows XP and later.

After a bit of searching, I found the standard font install lists for both Windows XP and Mac OS X. And when you compare across both products there are 11 fonts that appear to be the same on both platforms :

Arial Black
Comic Sans MS
Courier New
Times New Roman
Trebuchet MS

There are different versions of almost all of the 11 fonts installed on Mac and Windows, but only version number differences, so in theory they should display very similarly.

Webdings and Symbol don’t count as useful fonts, as we need to be able to read the text we’re drawing with, so that leaves 9 fonts.

But this is a font we’re going to use to layout fields and data in a FileMaker database we want it to look professional, so I’m going to leave out Comic Sans, Impact and Arial Black. (You could by all means include these in your solutions, and they would work fine, I just chose not to). So we’re down to 6 choices.

I my case I’m looking to display the fonts at 10,11 or 12 point size, so I want to have something that is readable at low font size, and so I’m choosing a sans serif font instead of a serif font. If you’re not sure what the difference is, do a google search for “sans vs serif font” and you’ll find plenty of reading. Most of which will tell you it’s a personal judgement thing, so don’t be too concerned.

So that leaves me with just :

Trebuchet MS

Not a great lot of choice there. So which do you choose… Which font is the most similar and which ones look best?

I will go through some of the options and details in my next post.