Typefaces on the Web
A font's face refers to the shape of its characters. Font faces are designed by highly specialized artists, and they come in thousands of varieties, each with its own unique name and range of sizes.

Most Windows-based computers have several dozen fonts installed, almost always including Arial and Times New Roman (you can see these and other fonts below). Fonts can come on CDs or floppies, or they can be downloaded from the Internet. Many software programs install their own fonts automatically. They can also be installed by using the Windows control panel.

If a computer has a font installed, it can display characters in that font's distinctive face. If a computer is asked to display characters from a font that is not installed, it selects a similar-looking font that is installed, and displays the characters in that font's face instead. This situation often confuses amateur web designers—they wonder why the font they put in their site doesn't display correctly on somebody's browser. The answer is that the "somebody's" computer doesn't have that font installed. You avoid the problem when you design your web page using only fonts that "everybody" has installed on their computer.

Microsoft has developed a group of fonts that are specially optimized for screen display on the Internet. Most computers using Windows 95 or higher will have all or most of them already installed. Many web designers use these fonts exclusively, because they know that their viewers will probably be able to display them.

The two tables below show these screen-optimized fonts as actually look, and as they look on your computer right now. If the lower "abc" is shaped significantly differently from the upper one, the font in question is probably not installed on your computer (slight differences in size are OK—the top-line examples are graphical approximations). If you are missing a font, you can download it by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.

This font:
Arial
Times New Roman
Andale Mono
Arial
Black
Comic
Sans MS
Actually looks like this:
Arial
Times New Roman
Andale Mono
Arial Black
Comic Sans MS
And looks like this on your computer:
abc
abc
abc
abc
abc

This font:
Courier New
Georgia
Impact
Trebuchet MS
Verdana
Actually looks like this:
Courier New
Georgia
Trebuchet MS
Verdana
And looks like this on your computer:
abc
abc
abc
abc
abc

Five of the screen-optimized fonts are best used for the normal display of text, and two are best used for headlines. Two others have fixed-width letters, and two are used for special purposes.

The sans serif text fonts are Arial, Trebuchet MS, and Verdana. The main strokes of their letters do not have the small decorative lines called serifs.

The serif text fonts are Times New Roman and Georgia. Georgia's characters are larger and have a more contemporary look.

The display fonts, best used for headlines, are Arial Black and Impact. Impact's narrower letters let you put more characters on each line.

The monospaced fonts are sans serif Andale Mono and serif Courier New. Every character is of the same width, making it easy to align things in tables.

The special fonts are Comic Sans MS, used for a light-hearted effect, and Webdings, used for rendering simple graphics.

Here are further examples of the fonts, grouped by the above classifications. Remember—a font will display correctly only if it is installed on your computer:

Font Name
Sample in 12 Point Regular
Arial
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz ABCDEFG
Trebuchet MS
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz ABCDEFG
Verdana
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz ABCDEFG
Times New Roman
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz ABCDEFG
Georgia
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz ABCDEFG
Arial Black
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz ABCDEFG
Impact
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz ABCDEFG
Andale Mono
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz ABCDEFG
Courier New
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz ABCDEFG
Comic Sans MS
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz ABCDEFG
Webdings
abcdefghijklmnopqrstu

To see each of these fonts in its full range of styles and sizes, click Home in the colored border to the left.

Click here to access a web site with cool information on the history and classification of typefaces.