My company uses the Univers font as its official typeface and I'm looking for a good Web-safe alternative. The options are limited, but typefaces are really my weak point and I can't tell which ones are more like it.


enter image description here

To me Arial looks like my best bet, but there may be subtle differences I'm not seeing. However, using a Web-Font is not an option. I am looking for the most similar base font.

These are the only options:

Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif
"Arial Black", Gadget, sans-serif
"Comic Sans MS", cursive, sans-serif
Impact, Charcoal, sans-serif
"Lucida Sans Unicode", "Lucida Grande", sans-serif
Tahoma, Geneva, sans-serif
"Trebuchet MS", Helvetica, sans-serif
Verdana, Geneva, sans-serif
  • 2
    Try Open Sans.
    – Vincent
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 15:03
  • also relevant What's a replacement for Univers Condensed?
    – Ryan
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 15:05
  • 1
    If that's the case, you're limited to using 'sans-serif' in your font stack. There used to be web-safe fonts like Arial and Tahoma, but lots of mobile OSes don't even pack those anymore. No font is safe anymore.
    – Vincent
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 15:08
  • 1
    @Bakabaka make that an answer with screenshot comparison and links.
    – user9447
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 15:09
  • 3
    Ok now Im confised.. are you asking us to decide between which one of the fonts in the list you should use? What is your goal in the question?? So far you have gone from whats an alternative to now what looks like a list to choose from. Explain to us what your question is, edit your question, and then we can re-open it.
    – user9447
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 15:11

3 Answers 3


Basically what Baka said in comments, and you acknowledged in your edit. If you can't use web-fonts then the default is sans-serif which will probably be Arial or Helvetica for most of your browsers. You could try using Verdana at the top of the stack.

font-family: 'Verdana', sans-serif;

But its pretty negligible at that point. Helvetica is actually closer to Univers so default for a lot of Mac users would be better than Verdana.

  • Helvetica looks closer. My original choice was Verdana, but the bossman pointed out a discrepancy between the way the capital I's were rendered. I can just change the Mac to Verdana, there are only like 50 unique Mac users so it doesn't really matter.
    – mawburn
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 20:18

As mentioned in the comments, "web-safe" isn't quite what it used to be. The best way to be "web-safe" is to use a web font.

If cost is a barrier, there are many quality free choices.

If hosting yourself is a barrier, then you can use Google's services to do it for you for free.

If using an external service is a barrier, then you can download free fonts and host yourself.

Browser compatibility is not a barrier. IE 4+

If I was able to convince you...

Univers is pretty close to Helvetica, and I prefer Roboto as the webfont of choice to replace Helvetica-esque fonts (that's what it was made for! See a comparision):

Roboto screenshot

It was made for the screen and has a robust set of weights.

For further reference:

Helvetica Neue Equivalent on Google Fonts?

Is there a free 'Helvetica Neue' alternative?

  • It's not the cost. It's a technology constraint. 82% of the users are Windows 7 on IE 11, 10, and 9. 3% are IE8 Vista. I am familiar with web fonts, they are not an option.
    – mawburn
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 20:15
  • @mawburn those browsers have no problem handling web fonts. IE has supported font-face since before XP.
    – Brendan
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 20:18
  • yes I know. Trust me, it's not my call.
    – mawburn
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 20:19

If web fonts are not an option, then the answer to your questions is: use whichever you prefer. None of the font stacks you list are like Univers other than they are sans serif.

And that can be OK, but it really is a decision you need to make at this point (though, obviously, I hope, you'll not use Comic-sans).

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