Memo on some of the best free typefaces.


Nimbus Sans L


This is my typeface of choice if there needs to be a single typeface for everything. It serves the most fundamental purpose of text - conveying written message - most correctly and clearly. It doesn’t have any “look” or “expression,” attaching no “atmosphere” to the pure content.

Helvetica is known better for having completely neutral expression, but it’s not free (important). Surprisingly, the Nimbus Sans family predates Helvetica.


Apache License 2.0.

High on-screen readability. My recommendation for most websites. Not as tasteless and scentless as Nimbus Sans L, but still objective enough to fit under all circumstances. Compared to the flatness of Nimbus Sans L that rejects emotion, Arimo has a hint of modernistic positiveness and looks relatively “newer.”

If you take Arimo’s sentiment further you get Open Sans.


Apache License 2.0.

This used to be the default typeface of the Android mobile OS. Its slightly futuristic and electronic feeling comes from that some elements, compared to more traditional sans-serif ones, are reduced to a simpler geometric form, possibly to enhance readability in a multitude of screen resolution.

Open Sans

Apache License 2.0.

Contrary to Roboto, Open Sans leans to “modern” instead of “future.” It’s cool and organized well enough to deserve the name “Open Sans”, but is not all “dead pan” like Nimbus Sans L, manifesting optimism. A nice flavor of curvy elegance is added which is both friendly and professional. Take this sentiment further and you get Lato.

A beauitful example of web design centered around Open Sans is Mozilla’s Sandstone.


Open Font License.

Lato is a very successful attempt to design a modern alternative typeface for modern websites in 2010. As its name (meaning “summer” in Polish) suggests, it definitely has a cheerful quality, but this never goes too far to harm legibility or break coherence. The hidden innocent mischief is in lowercase ‘e’ whose central horizontal line is positioned slightly above the ordinary placement.

Lato looks like what Tahoma and Verdana wished (and not quite succeeded) to do. I’d say Lato is definitely a good idea for web apps and services, just as the web-based IRC client Shout’s default theme did.


Envy Code R

This is what I’ve been using for more than a decade. This is what I’m using right now in my terminal which runs Vim to write this document. Yes, for more than a decade, I’ve failed to find a cooler coding typeface than this.

As of writing, I’ve waited for the official Envy Code R 1.0 for 12 years. I don’t know. One day I’ll probably switch to a higher-DPI monitor, at which point the advantages of this typeface will be less significant. I guess that will happen sooner than the release of 1.0. It’s a bummer.

But at any rate, I’ll feel forever indebted to Damien for the thousands of hours I’ve already spent watching the screen, the text materialized by his work of art, the information constantly poured to me in such a pleasant and precise manner. Thank you Damien.