Helvetica to Arial to Helvetica

Helvetica was my favorite font for a long time -- I used it in articles and presentations, and then suddenly it wasn't there any more. In general, a 10-pt san-serif font is just as readable as a 12-point serif font (like Times) and you can pack more words on a page or slide. So, I looked for a sans-serif font to use and discovered Arial which is my new default font.

But is Arial as good as Helvetica? Not quite. Look at the word "Rates" in Helvetica and Arial . Helvetica just seems friendlier, doesn't it?

Arial started life as simply a knock-off of Helvetica, used by Microsoft to avoid paying a license fee to the Swiss foundry that owns the original font. Apple and Adobe, on the other hand, licensed the real thing. So, when you use Microsoft software to write a document in Arial and print it using an (Adobe) Postscript printer, the printer will often replace the knock-off Arial with the real-thing Helvetica. And in yet one more instance, the rest of the computer industry skates around Microsoft's poor behavior.

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