Inconsolata

A few weeks ago I stumbled across Inconsolata, Raph Levien’s monospaced font and it has since become one of my favourites. The font is clearly inspired by Consolas, the new monospaced font designed by Lucas de Groot for Microsoft’s Windows Vista Operating System. Inconsolata borrows several characteristics of that font, but is longer in height (Consolas is too ’rounded’ for my taste, even though it is by far one of the most æsthetically pleasing monospaced fonts I’ve ever seen) and, as the Inconsolata web page explains, borrows from a wide variety of fonts and styles.

Inconsolata sample

There are a number of reasons I am not using Inconsolata on my development machines yet. First, it is completely devoid of any Hellenic characters, which for me is a problem as, more often than not, I come across them. Second, I prefer monospaced fonts where zero (0) is slashed as opposed to just thinner than the capital O. Obviously, Raph disagrees. While my latter ‘complaint’ is not that important, the former is.

I can only hope that in the future Raph will extend Inconsolata to support the Hellenic alphabet too.

Raph states that the completion of this font is sponsored by TUG and that donating to TUG would help finance the design and implementation of other fonts by him. If you’re interested in seeing this amazing monospaced font finished and possibly extended to support Hellenic drop Raph an email (check his page for details). Also, consider donating to TUG’s DevFund.

11 Responses to “Inconsolata”

  1. Sugar says:

    Nice and clean monospace font. Reminds me of something, but I really can’t put it… I think it reminds me of some C++ project I once did for uni.

    But you are right, the absence of greek support is a no-no for anything web. A pity :(

  2. cosmix says:

    @sugarenia. Huh? How can a font remind you of a C++ project? :)

    The first thing I thought when I saw Inconsolata was that it looked like a taller version of Consolas, perhaps of the same height as IBM’s Letter Gothic (an amazing, yet quite rare font). Looking at it for longer made some of the other sources of inspiration obvious.

    But you are right, the absence of greek support is a no-no for anything web.

    You mean no-no for web development in Hellas. Indeed, I agree with you.

    The other interesting aspect of it is that it looks amazing both under OS X’s subpixel renderer, under Freetype on linux and other *nices, and — I guess — under Cleartype on Windows (although I have no Windows machines to test this). This is in stark contrast to Consolas, which is a font created specifically for Cleartype and does not look as nice on non-Cleartype renderers.

  3. cosmix says:

    A friend that is — sadly — stuck on Windows sent me a screen grab from his windows editor with Inconsolata. Unfortunately, it does not look nice under Cleartype…

    But then again, that’s Cleartype’s fault not the font’s. Microsoft has stated in the past (see Channel 9) that Cleartype compromises æsthetics for ‘readability’. I think it compromises everything for nothing and I’d choose OS X’s renderer (by far the best I’ve seen on any platform) or even freetype over it anyday. :)

  4. atma says:

    What is a “renderer” and what job it does. I understand that it has something to do with fonts and the look & feel they have but I don’t understand the term.

  5. cosmix says:

    Well, the term is quite generic and I used it as such.

    Rendering is the process of generating an image from a model, by means of software programs.

    From Wikipedia.

    Most typically it is used with reference to programs that generate 3D graphics from 3D models. In this case I was referring to the program, in the respective Operating Systems mentioned, that takes care of displaying fonts on the screen, by employing some algorithm to improve on their appearance or readability, e.g. Subpixel rendering. ‘Font rasteriser‘ would have been the (technically) accurate term.

  6. Raph Levien says:

    Hi! I have Google Alerts set for Inconsolata, so I was able to find your nice blog entry.

    Thanks for the testing under OSX and various Linux configurations. My guess about the main reason it doesn’t look so good under ClearType is that the outlines are specified in CFF format, rather than TrueType, and I’d imagine Microsoft’s rasterizer has been much, much more carefully tuned for the latter. Of course, to make it look really good on screen would require intensive TrueType hint programming, which I’m reluctant to do for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the fact that the TrueType hint language is patented.

    Doing Hellenic characters is not out of the question at all. Mostly, I just need to know there is interest. Since it’s OFL licensed, another possibility is that others pitch in and extend the language range. This has already happened for a number of other fonts released under free license.

  7. cosmix says:

    Raph, thank you for your comment (and the font!).

    Your mention of the possibility for Hellenic characters for Inconsolata is thrilling (that’s not an exaggeration), not just because it is a beautiful font, but also because there is considerable lack of free Hellenic fonts.

    Hellenic has been scarcely supported by most European and U.S. font designers and it was only Microsoft’s efforts in the early to mid 1990s with Windows that provided a few free, relatively good fonts with Hellenic glyphs for most people. For this reason, and because the market for Hellenic fonts is relatively small, the very few font design houses in Hellas, charge huge premiums for the ‘extended’ versions of latin fonts, making them prohibitively expensive for the casual user.

    So, albeit limited by population, there is interest and I am sure many people dealing with Hellenic on a daily basis would appreciate your efforts should you decide to extend Inconsolata with Hellenic glyphs.

    Regarding the technical aspects of the font, I think CFF should not be a problem on Windows XP or later. Hinting, however, is. I dislike technologies that compromise font æsthetics under the excuse of readability (or any excuse for that matter). Those two should go together. Cleartype was built ignoring æsthetics and focusing on readability. Although I hear that it has improved under Vista, I truly believe the premise is wrong. I don’t use Windows so I cannot really tell how good or bad Inconsolata looks under different antialiasing settings. I have used it under OS X (Subpixel) and Freetype (Subpixel, hinting off) and it looks very readable and beautiful to me. I suspect, however, many people on Windows will not agree. Well, at least they’ll have Consolas :)

  8. Sugar says:

    Lol, don’t blame me, my dear cosmix. I guess the clean lines and the strick coloring reminded me of visual studio, for some reason unknown to me.

    And yes, I meant for anything greek web. I’m sorry. :)

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