Fonts are a key tool in Windows. Get the best out of them with our guide
Look at the text on a computer’s screen – whether it’s on a Windows menu or a Word document – and you are looking at a font. Fonts work for users and program makers alike and, chosen with care, the right one can make text more readable, designs more persuasive and programs easier to navigate.
In this Back to Basics guide we will explain how to find and use the fonts stored on your PC, how to get new ones and then get rid of the ones you no longer want.
What are fonts?
The words ‘font’ and ‘typeface’ are often used interchangeably but, really, they mean different things.
A typeface is made up of a family of fonts, so Times New Roman, for example, is a typeface made up of individual fonts such as Times New Roman Regular, Times New Roman Bold, Times New Roman Italic and so on.
Outside of the popular bold and italic types of font you will also come across variations used to describe font weight – these usually start at Thin or Ultra-light and go right the way up to Heavy, Black and Ultra Black.
To see the typefaces and fonts installed on your PC, try this. In Windows 7, click the Start button and choose Control Panel, then select Appearance and Personalization, find the Fonts heading and click ‘Preview, delete, or show and hide fonts’.
For Vista, follow the same steps to find the Fonts heading and then click ‘Install or remove a font’; in XP, click Start, Control Panel and then double-click the Fonts folder to open it. To see what a font looks like, double-click it and all versions of Windows will open a preview window displaying it at various sizes.
What kind of fonts are there?
Windows has a selection of fonts and most programs you install will have added a few of their own. If you are keen to know which ones came with Windows (or came with a particular program) a visit to Microsoft’s typography website will reveal all.
You will notice that there are different kinds – broadly ones that have curly bits (serifs) and ones that don’t (sans serif). Times New Roman is an example of a serif font, while Arial is a popular sans serif variety.
Most people believe that serif fonts are easier to read than sans serif fonts and that the best way to design a document is to use a sans serif font for the headings, and captions, and then serif for the main text.
There used to be several different font formats to choose from but now the choice for PC users comes down to Truetype fonts, which work with all programs and all Windows printers, and others called Opentype fonts, which are similar but have a wider range of variations and often include characters such as small capitals or old-fashioned numerals.
To experiment with different fonts, click Start and then, in Windows 7 and Vista, type WordPad into the search box and then press Enter. In XP, click Start, then All Programs, Accessories and pick Wordpad from the menu.
With Wordpad loaded, type in a sentence, then highlight it and try a few of the different fonts available from the dropdown menu in the button bar at the top.
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