Why not Tahoma?

silas's picture

Does anyone use Tahoma, particularly for html text?

I know it's a slender cousin of Verdana. What I don't know is why it does not have italics, or at least obliques. I almost prefer its tighter spacing and a narrower footprint than Verdana, although it may be too tight for on-screen use. Not sure if it translates well in the PC version either -- is it fully hinted?

I was hoping anyone (sii?) could explain why Microsoft and/or Mr. Carter appear to have left it unfinished.

silas's picture

One more thing...

Part of my reason for bringing this up is the popularity of TrebuchetMS, especially with the blogging set. I'm just not a fan of its perkiness and would love an alternative with a similar width. Tahoma seems like the only other web-friendly alternative.

Si_Daniels's picture

Tahoma was created as a user interface font.

It was designed with button text, icon labels and small passages of text in mind (error messages and dialogs) and targeted a small range of type sizes rendered bi-level (not for antialiased rendering or the not-yet invented ClearType). It was hinted to the same level as Verdana. The character set is much larger than Verdana and includes Hebrew, Thai, Arabic, extended Latin and extended Cyrillic

When we first saw it being used for continuous text on web pages we did cringe but it's use is so prevalent now that I guess everyone has got used to it. Also I think the regular renders pretty well under ClearType (not true for the bold) which helps.

Cheers, Si

hrant's picture

Tahoma's interletter spacing is too tight for good readability.


Si_Daniels's picture

True, Verdana is better - hence it being a "Web font" and not a UI font.

silas's picture

Is ClearType active by default on XP?

edeverett's picture

Don't forget you can loosen the spacing with your CSS. This site is good for trying out the different settings.

But yes, I tend to end up using Tahoma for the navigation and Verdana for the text on my websites.


maratz's picture

“Is ClearType active by default on XP?”

Unfortunately not.

hrant's picture

Actually that's good news for pixelfont developers. :-)


Si_Daniels's picture

It is on by default in Windows Vista - which is bad news for pixelfont designers? Which reminds me, how are things working out those that produced fonts for Flash? Are these working fine under new Flash?

hrant's picture

> bad news for pixelfont designers?

And discriminating onscreen users too. :-(

> Are these working fine under new Flash?



vinceconnare's picture

Tahoma was first made and was suppose to be used to replace MS Sans in the UI of Windows but wasn't used because of the need to exactly match all the widths of the existing UI font. Then it was decided to use a more expanded font. So Matthew made one a bit more normally spaced and it was made for the Web and not the UI.

I made the embedded bitmaps for Tahoma and then instructed Tom Rickner a bit what to do to match the widths and shape of the embedded bitmaps.

Then after that I was told to make another web font so I made Trebuchet. And I was very conscience not to copy the shapes Matthew made (or such as the ascender height (added one pixel) lowercase 'l' (added the hook) the UK 'M' had to add the flares since his was straight and a different LC 'e' and 'g' and basically made different bitmaps at a very low resolution at 9..13 pixels per EM the target screen resolutions.

So they are all about the same and I had a hand in the developement and hinting of Tahoma, Verdana and Trebuchet but really only get credit for Trebuchet... Oh well got paid in the end anyway.

Si_Daniels's picture

>Oh well go paid in the end anyway.

...in the end? These days Microsoft employees get paid every two weeks.

edwh's picture

I made the mistake of using tahoma for a website - I was bored of verdana then :op ... its not just tighter than verdana but kindof ugly as well when used to set whole pages of text.

Has been said here before and I agree is that tahoma is great for navigation or areas where you have "no space" to work with, times when verdana would seems unbelievably wide.

hrant's picture

It's not impossible to have a narrow face but with 2 pixel letterspacing.
I know because I've done it. :-)


rs_donsata's picture

Tahoma is a great display face for websites, especially if you are using Verdana for body.

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