Microsoft Wants a New Font

Posted on April 28, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft 365 with 100 Comments

Microsoft this week announced that it would replace Calibri as the default font for all things Microsoft. And it needs your help to pick a successor.

“Calibri has been the default font for all things Microsoft since 2007, when it stepped in to replace Times New Roman across Microsoft Office,” the Microsoft Design Teams writes. “It has served us all well, but we believe it’s time to evolve. To help us set a new direction, we’ve commissioned five original, custom fonts to eventually replace Calibri as the default.”

Those five fonts are:

Tenorite

“Tenorite has the overall look of a traditional workhorse sans serif (a font without a serif, or a stroke at the ends, like Times New Roman), but with a warmer, more friendly style. Elements such as large dots, accents, and punctuation make Tenorite comfortable to read at small sizes onscreen, and crisp-looking shapes and wide characters create a generally open feeling.”

Bierstadt

“Bierstadt is a precise, contemporary sans serif typeface inspired by mid-20th-century Swiss typography. A versatile typeface that expresses simplicity and rationality in a highly readable form, Bierstadt is also notably clear-cut with stroke endings that emphasize order and restraint.”

Skeena

“Skeena is a ‘humanist’ sans serif based on the shapes of traditional serif text typefaces. Its strokes are modulated, with a noticeable contrast between thick and thin and a distinctive slice applied to the ends of many of the strokes. Skeena is ideal for body text in long documents, as well as in shorter passages often found in presentations, brochures, tables, and reports.”

Seaford

“Seaford is a sans serif typeface that is rooted in the design of old-style serif text typefaces and evokes their comfortable familiarity. Its gently organic and asymmetric forms help reading by emphasizing the differences between letters, thus creating more recognizable word shapes.”

Grandview

“Grandview is a sans serif typeface derived from classic German road and railway signage, which was designed to be legible at a distance and under poor conditions. Grandview is designed for use in body text but retains the same qualities of high legibility, with subtle adjustments made for long-form reading.”

These fonts are all downloadable now from within any Office application, but here’s a quick preview:

The good news? If the font you prefer isn’t chosen as the next default, all of these new fonts will continue to be available in the font menu alongside Calibri and other favorites.

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Comments (104)

104 responses to “Microsoft Wants a New Font”

  1. Avatar

    sherlockholmes

    Bierstadt sounds like something Mary Jo would like :-P

    • Avatar

      anoldamigauser

      In reply to SherlockHolmes:

      Or a painter of landscapes of the American West.

      • Avatar

        locust_infested_orchard_inc.

        Article's quote that's a verbatim quote from Microsoft, "Tenorite has the overall look of a traditional workhorse sans serif (a font without a serif, or a stroke at the ends, like Times New Roman)..." The Microsoft Design Team who wrote this made a gross error - literally the truest form of a typographical error. The Times New Roman is a serif typeface (with strokes at the end), and NOT "sans serif" as incorrectly stated by the original article, and quoted by Paul.
        • Avatar

          darkgrayknight

          I think they meant that Tenorite is a sans serif font which is not like the serif font "Times New Roman". Which is how I understood their statement and it makes sense. Though I can also see how it isn't entirely clear.

        • Avatar

          locust_infested_orchard_inc.

          No offence intended to any Germans, but the "Bastard" typeface looks the best IMHO. Seriously, that's my opinion, with the "Grandview" in a close second. My dislike for the other typefaces stems from the ascender of the lower-case letter 'h' (the part of a lowercase character that extends above the x-height) that is higher than the cap height of the upper-case 'T' (the height of capital letters from the baseline to the top of caps). A big no-no in my book for general text designed to be read as a lengthy piece of prose and UI elements. I view these typefaces as ornamental.
  2. Avatar

    codymesh

    Seaford and Bierstadt look good to me.


  3. Avatar

    hrlngrv

    Given the level of seriousness this sort of thing deserves, Wingdings would be apter.

    Being as serious as this subject deserves, are typefaces in which the lower case 'L' has a tail to the right, such as Bierstadt and Grandview, truly sans serif? OTOH, better to be able to distinguish lower case 'L' from upper case 'I". FWIW, Trebuchet MS also has tails on lower case 'L'.

    Perhaps more to the point, I have 181 items in my C:\Windows\Fonts directory of which I only added 2: one for chess pieces and another for APL. The Fonts folder is already arguably a source of bloat which 5 new typefaces will only exacerbate.

    • Avatar

      boots

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      "the lower case 'L' has a tail to the right, such as Bierstadt and Grandview, truly sans serif?"

      You could say the same thing about the "t", it almost always has a tail.

      • Avatar

        hrlngrv

        In reply to Boots:

        How many people older than 7 print, and for those who do, how many write t as a simple cross?

        Or why dot j's? For that matter, g's with closed lower loops and top-right tails? FWLIW, most sans serif fonts put a '1' on a pedestal.

        Pure tangent: my mother's typewriter, vintage late 1940s, lacked a 1 key. It was assumed one would use lower case 'L'. As for exclamation points, apostrophe-backspace-period.

    • Avatar

      locust_infested_orchard_inc.

      You most certainly require a font manager that deals with font overload. I personally use Enfocus Suitcase Fusion.
  4. Avatar

    decommissaris

    Whatever the choice, please, please make the zero character a slashed zero!

  5. Avatar

    payton

    Shouldn't that say "These fonts are all downloadable now from within any Office 365 application" above? Maybe I missed it, but it doesn't look as if they can be downloaded by the local Office apps.

  6. Avatar

    qaelith2112

    I feel surprised at myself. I'm usually pretty terrible about preferring the odd thing out when it comes to design. I like Grandview, personally, and expected to see everybody else liking something else, but now I'm feeling vindicated in noticing that this one is widely liked here.

  7. Avatar

    RobCannon

    Students all over the world want Grandview, because it takes up the most space on the page.

  8. Avatar

    skramer49

    I like Grandview in Word, but can't find it in OneNote.

  9. Avatar

    George Coll

    Does anyone simply get dizzy trying to sort this out? I have to get back to work

  10. Avatar

    rickeveleigh

    Just tried each in an existing Word doc (which is currently in Segoe UI), they feel a bit different to the samples above. I prefer Seaford. Tenorite & Grandview don't look like document fonts, they look like 'special' fonts for posters or presentations. Bierstadt's OK, it's a bit like Univers (HP LaserJet '90s throwback).

  11. Avatar

    Christopher Spera

    They all look exactly the same... Exactly the same. I don't get it; but maybe that's the point. Same-same is same.

  12. Avatar

    MichaelDarby

    Tenorite or Grandview. Skeena is too small, and the others have that weird g.

  13. Avatar

    longhorn

    Making a new proprietary font for MS Office can be a selling point because it locks professionals into MS Office. For example Calibri has had a free version since 2013 (Arial and Times New Roman already had metric-compatible fonts in the Liberation font family):


    "In 2013, Google released a freely-licensed font called Carlito, which is metric-compatible to Calibri, as part of Chrome OS. Carlito's metric-compatibility ensures ChromeOS users can correctly display and print a document designed in Calibri without disrupting its layout."


    Another reason could be ClearType. I think MS dropped ClearType in Windows 8 from the main UI and use greyscale instead of sub-pixel rendering (not sure if MS dropped ClearType from Office).


    "Calibri is part of the ClearType Font Collection, a suite of fonts from various designers released with Windows Vista. All start with the letter C to reflect that they were designed to work well with Microsoft's ClearType text rendering system, a text rendering engine designed to make text clearer to read on liquid-crystal display monitors."


    So there could be both competitive (now Google needs to create 5 new metric-compatible fonts or license them from Microsoft) and technical reasons (ClearType) for this change.


    • Avatar

      ebraiter

      In reply to longhorn:

      Some applications to use a font when another isn't on the system. An example is CorelDraw [ya I know]. If you open a file that uses the "Seafood" font and it's not on the system, it will ask you to choose a font to replace it, temporarily or permanent. I think most or all Office apps do that as well but just choose without asking.

      • Avatar

        longhorn

        In reply to ebraiter:

        Yeah, but you need a metric-compatible font otherwise your formatting will be screwed. You won't find metric-compatible fonts for these new fonts. I assume Google will create one for the font that gets chosen. Or simply license it. If Google is serious about productivity they must do it.


        I liked Calibri by the way.


  14. Avatar

    cwfinn

    Has everyone in Redmond lost their collective minds? Fix Windows 10's &*^% lack of consistency and stick your fonts where...

  15. Avatar

    Tiny

    I don't much care about the font. I just wish they would adjust the darkness of it so I don't have to change the contrast on my monitors. ClearType doesn't make it easier to read for my old eyes.

  16. Avatar

    sandy

    It appears instead of actually creating fonts which work on screen and in print, there are two separate versions (e.g. Bierstadt & Bierstadt Display). This is disappointing, and quite bizarre for Microsoft Office apps which for so many years were about preparing on-screen & then printing. Which variant should we be looking at? My initial impressions aren't great for any of these fonts. Like some others I'd prefer to reduce confusion (1Il, 0O, etc.), but it'll be just bizarre if Microsoft Outlook & Word start defaulting to text like German roadsigns; I can't take that option as a serious contender. Perhaps Seaford? But none of these options seem better than, or even as nice as Segoe UI, nor Calibri. PS: Arial is the worst font in common use. It may have metrics compatible with Helvetica, but where Helvetica is clean & stylish, Arial is a crime against design. I wish that (at least) Arial weren't listed at the top of font menus (it should never have been a default & have been named to start with a letter near the end of the alphabet). If Microsoft wants to do humanity a service, don't bundle Arial any more. Remove it from Office & Windows (maybe leave it as a cloud-download).
  17. Avatar

    hrlngrv

    For the heck of it, most of the proportional sans serif fonts plus some monospaced fonts on my system sorted by length of common text.

    Ticks in the left column indicate some difference between the upper case letter between H and J and the lower case letter between k and m. All the new fonts are wider than Calibri.

    Gotta ask: what's wrong with Tahoma or Trebuchet MS? OK, Tahoma isn't purely sans serif, which is a GOOD thing.

    Tangent: WTF with Kartika? A proportional typeface damned near as wide as monospaced typefaces! Apparently due to double wide space characters.

  18. Avatar

    sabarrett

    Times New Roman. Every time I change the default style back to 12pt Times New Roman.

  19. Avatar

    whistlerpro

    If Xbox’s new font is any indication, Grandview has it in the bag. And I’m a bit biased too because I used to love watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and enjoy the design of German road signs.

  20. Avatar

    mmcpher

    It matters. It's hard to find a sweet spot that screen-displays and prints equally well, particularly if you are subject to character-size and/or page length limitations. Aesthetics, clarity and uniformity.


    • Avatar

      locust_infested_orchard_inc.

      Spot on. It's refreshing to know that you really value the complexity of what a typeface is supposed to encompass, with the elegance and simplicity captured in the visual beauty of the Latin alphabet in both print and on-screen. 👍😊
  21. Avatar

    red.radar

    Tenorite sounds exciting…. But perhaps I am confusing it for Tannerite.

  22. Avatar

    stupdcat

    The problem I have with most Windows fonts is the difference between an uppercase "I" and and a lowercase "l" is almost impossible to distinguish. As you may see here, the heights are slightly different. This is particularly annoying in a password manager where you are trying to view a password so you can type it in elsewhere. Verdana is one font that displays and obvious uppercase "I", but letter spacing is much wider than Segoe UI. With that, I'd vote for Bierstadt or Grandview.

  23. Avatar

    JerryH

    If ever there was a time to crowdsource the names so we would get "Fonty McFont Face" this would be it. It will be interesting to see what happens with this. I remember a few years back our IT folks were told by our central standards people that we had to change the default email font back to the old one after Microsoft changed it to Calibri. Why? Because that older font was "required".

  24. Avatar

    rmac

    It's difficult to assess without seeing all the weights, condensed, italicised and extended families together, but based on the above, Tenorite looks to me to be the most balanced.


    Is it just me or could that abstract tiled picture in the article header effect a nicer style for the start menu flyout in W10?! No borders between the icons, graphics nearly filling the boxes - does this fix another problem?!

  25. Avatar

    clutem1987

    I once had a boss that insisted I use century schoolbook for all my messages to him.

    • Avatar

      locust_infested_orchard_inc.

      I'd like to know what were the repercussions of sending an e-mail not in the preferred 'Century Schoolbook' ? I personally would have deliberately written an e-mail in Linotype's 'New Century Schoolbook', to see whether your boss is as eagle-eyed as he appears to sound. BTW, there are subtle differences between the two typefaces 'Century Schoolbook' and 'New Century Schoolbook'.
    • Avatar

      hrlngrv

      In reply to clutem1987:

      Century Gothic would be worse.

      I had too many children's books which used it or something damn near equivalent. OTOH, exactly how primary schools want 6-year-olds to print letters.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      No need to tell us where you buried the body. But ... he had it coming, obviously.
  26. Avatar

    richfrantz

    To my untrained eye, Grandview reminds me of Segoe so that is the one I would choose if Segoe goes away. Otherwise, I really don't care.

  27. Avatar

    truerock2

    I use Courier New a lot because I do a lot of technical writing and I need a non-proportional font so that letters line-up with each other. Also, Courier New eliminates confusion regarding similar looking characters such as I and l.


    I use Arial Narrow a lot to put as many letters on as short of a line as possible.


    I use Times New Roman a lot because it provides a comfortable reading experience for long documents. Also, it looks more professional.


    In regard to how fonts should be implemented in applications (I know this is obvious) - previously used fonts should be displayed at the top of a font-selection-drop-down-list. Also - obvious - it should be easy to specify the desired default fonts at the top of a font-selection-drop-down-list.


    Additional obvious font design criteria:


    l and I and 1 should look different and be easily distinguishable.


    0 and O and o should look different and be easily distinguishable.


    • Avatar

      bluvg

      In reply to truerock2:

      I wish I and l and o and O and 0 and any other ambiguous characters could just be tossed and redone from scratch. Accuracy is too important.


      In the same way, could we also just toss pronouns in favor of proper nouns? So much ambiguity and imprecision, and sometimes abused deliberately. Wordplay would suffer, though.

    • Avatar

      hrlngrv

      In reply to truerock2:

      Subjectivity plays a role.

      For me, Lucida Console provides greater distinctions between numberal '1' and lower case 'L' than Courier New.

      FWLIW, I use Deja Vu Sans Mono with Linux as my monospaced typeface. I avoid sans serif for technical writing.

  28. Avatar

    beckoningeagle

    I thought serif fonts were supposed to be more readable in paragraphs, yet Arial, Calibri and now any of these are sans-serif.

  29. Avatar

    StagyarZilDoggo

    One thing I like in Bierstadt and Grandview is that the lowercase L is different. Easier to distinguish from the uppercase I.

  30. Avatar

    crunchyfrog

    This is what happens when marketing departments have too many executives, they start obsessing about default fonts. Honestly, all they are is a minutely altered version of the one they are replacing with a new name.

  31. Avatar

    jbinaz

    I have to really work to see the difference. The g's are really different between Tenorite and Grandview compared to the others. The a on Tenorite is really different. The lowercase l's have some differences, too.


    With a gun to my head to pick one of them, I'd go with Tenorite or Bierstadt, but I could deal with any of them.

  32. Avatar

    crunchyfrog

    Umm... how about Arial?

  33. Avatar

    glenn8878

    Why can't I set my own default font? Why can't I configure Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint to my own preferences more easily. It's just hard to do it each time and for each document over and over again.

  34. Avatar

    StevenLayton

    Obviously there is a difference as the line lengths vary, but am I the only one who can't really see the difference?

  35. Avatar

    scovious

    Tenorite is the best. Bierstadt and Grandview are alright. Seaford is the worst.

  36. Avatar

    ianw789

    If I and l can be easily distinguished, it will be a win. (That's a capital "i" and a lower case "L" for those who lack the ESP required to read this font.


    The purpose of fonts is to convey information. Indistinguishable characters within a font is a triumph of style over design.

    • Avatar

      hrlngrv

      In reply to ianw789:

      In all seriousness, who uses sans serif typefaces for anything important?

      With respect to consoles/terminals, don't sensible persons use monospace typefaces?

      Sans serif typefaces are for marketing BS, so information transmission isn't really an objective.

      ADDED: I agree that for monospace typefaces it's essential to be able to distinguish lower case 'L' from both numeral '1' and upper case 'I', something which IMO only Lucida Console gets right due to no bottom serif on lower case 'L' making that much more distinct compared to numeral '1'. Pity Windows doesn't come with any monotype typefaces in which the numeral '1' has no bottom serif and lower case 'L' has no upper serif and only a bottom tail to the right.

  37. Avatar

    behindmyscreen

    Asking the internet? Do you want comic sans as the default? because that's how you get comic sans as the default. /s


    *Yeah...I know it's not in the list but cut me some slack. I needed to make the Archer joke.

  38. Avatar

    eric_rasmussen

    I really like how clear Tenorite is. I've got a few monitors here, ranging from 1080p to 8k and Tenorite is the clearest on screen with virtually no fuzziness. However, the fact that uppercase i and lowercase L are identical is a bit annoying. A lot of fonts have that problem though (maybe even the majority of fonts) so in this context I like Tenorite. Grandview would be my second choice, again for its clarity across screen resolutions.

    • Avatar

      hrlngrv

      In reply to Eric_Rasmussen:

      Lack of distinction between upper case 'I' and lower case 'L' is one of the main reasons sans serif typefaces generally AREN'T used for anything important. Far worse are the @#$%&*! sans serif typefaces in which the numeral '1' also looks the same as 'I' and 'l', most notably Gill Sans MT. OTOH, all the Bahnschrift variations get this right (leave it to Germans to figure out precision).

      The lack of importance makes a design decision like this exquisitely apt for today's MSFT, which cares not one whit about Control Panel and Settings both still existing and likely both to continue existing for the rest of this decade (I really do figure I won't live to see the final disappearance of Control Panel).

  39. Avatar

    skyczy08

    All very similiar but thats the point.


    I Like Skeena size

  40. Avatar

    maktaba

    They should make either Helvetica or Frutiger the default font. The former is professional-looking and the latter is extremely readable, even at small sizes.


    That said, the default Calibri was good but Segoe will always have a special place in my heart as it reminds me of the good old days of Windows Phone.

  41. Avatar

    JustinMSalvato

    They all look like Segoe UI which is my go to font. Windows Phone 7 changed me.

    • Avatar

      hrlngrv

      In reply to JustinMSalvato:

      Picky: the amount of arc in c and the rounded parts of b, d, p and q differ between these. There's also the exact form of a and g, i.e., whether one wants something closer to Century Gothic or Times New Roman. Segoe UI splits that difference with a like Times New Roman and g like Century Gothic. Why?

  42. Avatar

    rm

    I think Grandview is the easiest to read.

  43. Avatar

    Jogy

    I strongly prefer a font in which the capital letter 'i' and the lowercase letter 'l' DO NOT look the same.

    This narrows the list to Bierstadt and Grandview. Of those, I like Grandview better.

  44. Avatar

    timewash902

    And here I thought the font used in Teams was Segoe

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