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?

  • It depends, which operating system? – JohnB Jan 21 '13 at 18:49
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    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
  • @lk145, What do you mean by "designers"? Do you mean graphic (stylish) designers or font-readability designers? – Pacerier Apr 18 '16 at 21:41

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
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    Out of interest, how do Arial, Impact, Tahoma, Trebuchet MS, Verdana get on Macs - are they installed with the OS? – e100 Jan 22 '13 at 10:26
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    @e100 They're bundled with OSX. – Brendan Jan 22 '13 at 14:13
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    @thomasrutter I'll get some citations for Verdana in a bit. I think that Arial's R and G are very ugly :) e100 is correct, the feud has more to with the history of Arial, but I think a lot of decisions they made to differentiate from Helvetica made it a less appealing typeface. – 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

Steer clear of the original "safe" fonts: Verdana, Arial, Times, Tahoma, whatever. There are more flexible fonts available now, designed for today's quality display panels.

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.

If that's not an option, 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.







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    Downvoted you for unnecessarily calling out Microsoft and not sticking to the point. – Mohit Oct 29 '14 at 6:09
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    Huh? The point was to find a good set of fonts available on most computers. I hit to the two most widely available and offered a bonus workflow tip. I should get extra credit! – plainclothes Dec 8 '14 at 6:17
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    I understand your point and take my downvote back. I kind of read it differently earlier. Edit: I can't. I am sorry. Vote is locked. I can vote again if you edit this answer again. – Mohit Dec 30 '14 at 6:24
  • Answer edited and improved (I think). – plainclothes Dec 30 '14 at 6:39
  • As per the question'er, fonts that are available on most computers, I would be careful with using fonts that are not installed on other machines. I have seen numerous times, excellent presentations gets totally ruined, just because the supervisor/manager's/meeting room computer did not have fonts that you used. Also Google presentations are not allowed at many companies. – Gifcrazy Dec 5 '18 at 19:51

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


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
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    @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
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    Just to confirm: you cannot embed fonts using any current or previous version of PowerPoint for Mac, nor can PPT/Mac use font that you've embedded using a Windows version of PPT. – Steve Rindsberg Jun 22 '16 at 14:30

Segoe UI (as @Supuhstar already suggested) - An overall great sans but the best italic variant of any sans, commercial or system included, hands down. Bold works comfortably in display sizes since Segoe UI Black is not system.

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    does it come installed in OSX? I thought it was a Windows system font – Luciano Jun 22 '16 at 11:40
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  • Good point Luciano, it's not an OSX system font but it does install with Office on the mac which would make it suitable for a PowerPoint theme. Suppose you don't have office installed over the entire user base but you do have company-wide admin rights, Open Sans is better overall so long as you don't use the regular weight at display sizes. (Has an open license and is downloadable at fonts.google.com.) – Richard Klassen Jun 23 '16 at 14:35

Other articles will point out that Segoe UI Black is not installed on Macs, even with Microsoft Office 2016. There are a number of reasons for that, but my web searches have shown that Segoe UI was originally intended to be a screen display, or User Interface font on Windows (that's what UI stands for). Some argue that it is for computer developers ONLY, and illegal to use Segoe in publications or designs. But once Microsoft installed the font on computers owned by the general public with Windows or Office, the horse got out of the barn.

I first noticed Segoe UI on Windows 7 computers in Microsoft Office 2013. When my employer issued me a Windows 10 computer, I found Segoe UI Black, an excellent title font, which draws more attention than Segoe UI Bold or Semibold. Segoe UI Black is not available on the Windows 7 machines where I work.

For Mac users, Myriad Pro Black is a reasonable substitute -- which must be purchased. I own a Mac at home, and I use Myriad Pro Black on my own projects. My license covers up to five computers.

I design publications which are either printed or placed as PDFs on my employer's website. To keep end users — viewing the PDFs on Macs or other computers without Segoe UI black — from seeing strange generic fonts, I convert the text in the PDFs to shapes before submitting them for web publication. This also avoids legal entanglements over embedded fonts.

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