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I've been tasked with making a powerpoint theme for the company I work for and one of the requirements is that it uses a font that comes standard with most computers. What are some of the built-in sans serif fonts that graphic designers respect and use more frequently?

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It depends, which operating system? –  JohnB Jan 21 '13 at 18:49
    
ideally compatible with both Mac and Windows –  lk145 Jan 21 '13 at 18:57
    
"... one of the requirements is that it uses a font that comes standard with most computers. What are some of the built-in sans serif fonts that graphic designers respect ..." Fonts that are installed with Office on Mac and PC would surely be OK too. –  e100 Jan 22 '13 at 10:23

4 Answers 4

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Of the original "web-safe" (that is, as close to universal as you'll get on the Web) sans-serifs (Arial, Impact, Tahoma, Trebuchet MS, Verdana), Verdana tends to get the most love. It's well-designed and is designed to be readable on the screen. It was designed by Matthew Carter, a respected typeface designer, and the design itself is pretty original, so it doesn't get panned for its existence and history as much as Arial does. Also, MoMA added it to its design collection, calling it (and the others in the collection) "a milestone in the history of typography". A scientific study (funded by Microsoft, so take with a grain of salt) touted Verdana's readability, particularly at small sizes. It was one of the first fonts that was designed with readability on the screen particularly in mind, so it has a large x-height (good for seeing the lowercase letters) and is well-hinted. These advantages will become less relevant as pixel density increases, but they're good things to look for in a screen font for now.

Arial is almost universally panned by designers (see above link), Impact isn't practical outside of headlines, and even though Tahoma is more or less Verdana's skinny brother, it doesn't tend to draw as much praise. I've personally never minded Trebuchet as a choice, but it doesn't seem to be as common.

If you're using Office 2007 or later, the ClearType collection comes into play. Three sans-serifs are available: Calibri, Candara, and Corbel. Everything I've read about and them adds to my personal opinion - they're good fonts to use. Wikipedia told me that "Calibri won the TDC2 2005 award from the Type Directors Club under the Type System category."

If you have the right version of Publisher (ours was 2003), there are some extra fonts available. I'm not as knowledgeable about this, but I know that Publisher was the reason we ended up with Franklin Gothic on our PCs, and that is an excellent choice of a sans-serif.

I'll add a disclaimer - as John notes, you can embed fonts. If a font is not embedded, you're always at the mercy of someone else's system, and no font has 100% saturation everywhere.

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It's always confused me why Arial gets panned so much while Helvetica gets so much love. To me, Arial seems to fix a lot of the things that I really dislike about Helvetica such as its R, G, and C and is more human. That said, I'm not a fan of Arial's Q. –  thomasrutter Jan 22 '13 at 4:54
    
Also, I'd have to add a "citation needed" to "Verdana tends to get the most love". I'm not sure if I've experienced that. –  thomasrutter Jan 22 '13 at 4:55
    
Arial vs Helvetica rows aren't really about the shapes of the letters. –  e100 Jan 22 '13 at 10:16
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@e100 They're bundled with OSX. –  Brendan Jan 22 '13 at 14:13
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@thomasrutter I think the criticism had more to do with the prevailing opinion that Futura is waaaay better looking, Futura was probably more appropriate for Ikea's brand, and that Verdana is so common that became more "pedestrian" than Ikea should have embraced. But the fact that Ikea picked Verdana and that they picked it because it enabled consistency across platforms should be very telling! –  Brendan Jan 23 '13 at 3:57

I'm not sure how Powerpoint handles fallback for each font, but a quick search for web-safe fonts reveals these Windows/Mac (considered close enough) pairs:

Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif
"Lucida Sans Unicode", "Lucida Grande", sans-serif
Tahoma, Geneva, sans-serif
"Trebuchet MS", Helvetica, sans-serif
Verdana, Geneva, sans-serif

Personally I use "Century Gothic", "Century", sans-serif, although I guess it technically doesn't make the official web-safe list.

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Why is that one of the requirements? If it is so that the presentation will look the same on any computer, then I'd recommend another route: embed the font in the file

Office

Obviously this is something you will want to test on different computers/operating systems to ensure that it saved properly, but the extra styling flexibility will surely be worth the work.

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It's a requirement because we'll be sending powerpoints out to potential investors, and we don't want the formatting to break down if they don't have the correct font installed (I'd be using the custom font we use on our website otherwise). I thought about embedding the font but I read that you can't embed fonts on the most recent version of Powerpoint for Mac (2011). –  lk145 Jan 21 '13 at 19:01
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@lk145, If you embed the font, they don't need to have the correct font installed. –  JohnB Jan 21 '13 at 19:02
    
@lk145, didn't know about that with PPT for Mac, good to know. –  JohnB Jan 21 '13 at 19:18
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Things may have changed, but I never found font embedding in PPT to be reliable enough to use. I don't think it works on any Mac version; and AFAIK on the PC it only works for TrueType and TrueType-flavoured OpenType (TTF). Also the 22 MB Unicode version of Arial always seemed to get embedded for some reason. –  e100 Jan 22 '13 at 10:37
    
This is what I do every time, because I prefer Segoe UI :3 –  Supuhstar Jan 24 '13 at 17:56

Tell them to work smarter and start using Google presentations (via Drive), where you have access to the myriad fonts available on Google fonts. Not only do you get a reliable set of awesome fonts, you get bonus points for collaboration and portability.

But if they insist on working dumber, I'd recommend Microsoft's 'C' fonts. They are all well designed for screen rendering and available wherever those terrible Microsoft Office products are installed.

Calibri

Cambria

Candara

Consolas

Constantia

Corbel

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