I have a number of typefaces for which I'd like to find free or open licence alternatives to. Rather than ask a series of "What is the best open license font to substitute for 'Goudy Catalogue'? 'Univers'? ...?" here or elsewhere on the net it occurs to me that what I'd really like is a typeface/font comparison service similar to http://alternativeto.net/. Does such a beast exist? If not, what is the next best thing?

Background: We have a number of inherited historical projects using fonts we aren't licensed for, and we need to bring ourselves into legal compliance. We don't have the budget to simply purchase all of the fonts used.

  • Are you sure about the royalty free bit? Font licences very rarely include anything along the lines of royalties or per-use costs...suspect you mean zero-cost?
    – e100
    Dec 11, 2012 at 23:03
  • @e100, no not sure about the word 'royalty', a badly chosen word (I'll strike it). Zero-cost is best, but not essential. I was going off phrases like "Most standard end user licenses license a font for use on up to five CPUs and one printer within an organization." {emph added,source}. The 5 cpu's or workstations we could live with, not 1 printer though, we have more printers than workstations. Dec 12, 2012 at 9:01
  • Font licences are notoriously old fashioned and difficult to apply 100% to the real world though - CPU counts are an example of this. Can you give an idea of the kind of scale (number of typefaces, number of workstations) you are talking about?
    – e100
    Dec 12, 2012 at 9:33
  • @e100 4 to 5 workstations, don't have a number of typefaces yet (but getting into that strays from the point of the question anyway). Dec 13, 2012 at 18:04
  • I allways find it hilarious when organisations claim they can not be bothered with licenses, or treat fonts as too expensive. But then they can afford software like photoshop, matlab etc. What is there in fonts that scream not worth the money?
    – joojaa
    Feb 3, 2015 at 14:08

3 Answers 3


As far as I'm aware, no. MyFonts.com has a fairly good font recommendation system but they don't do open source.

Your best bet is to identify categories of fonts that you need (eg, Venetian Oldstyle, 19th Century Grotesque, Scotch Roman, etc) then crawl through sites like Font Squirrel and Google Fonts to find the most complete designs.

The price of open source and freeware is that you have to work a little harder ;)

-- Update in response to your update --

No free alternative to a commercial font exists that matches closely enough to simply swap fonts. At least not the legal ones. You have two options:

  1. Bill for your expenses. If these are client projects, work the expense into your fees either up-front with an explanation or over the course of a few projects.

  2. Redesign. For in-house projects or flexible/cheap clients, I would redefine your font specs based on what's available. Find something close, define styles to roughly match the space requirements, search and replace the fonts, and comb through the docs for any problems that may have arisen.

  • I usually don't know the font category. This is looking at old project X and trying to bring it into legal compliance; I'll update the question. Dec 11, 2012 at 19:27
  • @mattwilkie I've fleshed out my answer with your situation in mind. Dec 11, 2012 at 21:37

Here are my go-to options:

  • whatfontis.com has a "similar free fonts" section at the end of each font page. It's far from failsafe, but it's quick to look at - so I usually check it out first.

  • identifont.com is a bit less user-friendly (you'll have to click on each of the similar fonts in the left-hand sidebar to check whether they're actually free) but the results are usually more varied and higher-quality.


I came across a site awhile ago: Whats the Closest Google Font?

It's one man's opinion and the comparisons are limited. However, for the fonts that he compares, alternatives are given that are all open source.

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