I like the fonts available at Google Fonts but I've noted some sans-serif choices render markedly different when comparing Win XP (IE) to browser on a Mac (Saf, Cr, FF).

An example is Open Sans, which is a very nice (Lucida Grande-like) font on the Mac, but renders pretty bad on Win XP (IE).

Does anyone have experience with using these web fonts and any recommendations which look good regardless of platform?


4 Answers 4


Your question implies that one or other platform renders fonts "worse" than the other, but in fact it's mostly just that Windows and Mac render fonts differently. I'm sure there's a perfectly good explanation for this, although I've never come across one, but it's an excellent example of why it is so important to verify page design on both platforms.

It's not a matter of Google fonts. Standard web fonts also render differently on a Mac than on Linux or Windows, which can cause mayhem with things like headings and horizontal nav bars if you don't take care.

I keep a Mac mostly for testing for cross-platform issues, and because I beta test on both platforms. Checking how a web page looks on a Mac (not relying, for example, solely on something Adobe's "Browser Lab") is always part of the design cycle.


We found that under WindowsXP the google font we were using, Open Sans, rendered particularly badly. It was different to Mac on other Windows platforms we tested but on Windows XP the font was difficult to read. The website has now been coded to change fonts to Arial if WindowsXP is detected.

  • Would you mind sharing how you detect Windows XP? I'd like to use the same trick. I'm having a horrible time with Open Sans on XP. (I've also heard its the same for vista.)
    – AndyL
    Jan 29, 2013 at 21:35
  • The font is detected in jquery $(document).ready(function () { if (navigator.userAgent.indexOf("Windows NT 5.1") != -1) { $("body").css("font-family", "Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif"); } });
    – Leah
    Jan 30, 2013 at 1:39

Being completely aware of the font rendering differences between the two platforms, I think @torr is noticing the same problem I've seen in that some just render especially poorly, definitely so by comparison to fonts I've used from typekit. So I think the issue is more related to the font format itself and this article seems to suggest the same point http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/04/24/a-closer-look-at-font-rendering/ For me it's just a matter of trying out each font at the actual size you plan to use it and making sure that it doesn't look too terrible. And then looking at it in Chrome to confirm that it won't look as bad to everyone.


In context to your question mentioned...

any recommendations which look good regardless of platform?

I personally find that my go-to font that I know I can count on across the board in look and feel is Arial.

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