This is one area of CLI Mastery that few people ever take time to investigate, but the choice of FONT that you use in your console window tells me a lot about you the person and you, the engineer.
Show me the engineers console, and I can judge the man
I remember my father telling me once that if you look after your tools, they will look after you. Sure, he was talking about hammers, chisels, soldering irons and pinch nose pliers but I think that the same holds true for the tools of our trade, of which one is terminal programs.
The way that terminal displays text on your screen can make a big difference to how effective you are. A good clear font will help to reduce eye strain and make fewer mistakes when both typing and reading a configuration back from the screen. You can safely assume that the default font supplied with Microsoft Windows and, to a lesser extent, Mac OSX are OK. Not good, just OK.
You can do a lot better by getting your hands onto a decent font, installing it to your system and then making a judgement on what suits your eyes best. I can’t make a recommendation on what would be best for you, you need to make a judgement and go with it. Over the last few years I switched between fonts according to my eyesight, whether I have new glasses and my current level of fitness.
- A terminal font MUST be monospaced for console work. This is because the screen output uses character spacing to make columns. Variable spaced fonts sure look nicer in documents, but trying to set a column requires advanced techniques that a console just does not have.
- A font should be clear and easy to read. Specifically, characters that can look almost the same must be different so that mistakes are not made. Consider the characters, 1 & l and how easy they are to mistake. What about O & 0 ?
- They should make more room available on the screen by being tight and relatively small.
But first let’s have a look at a few different fonts and see the differences between them. In the following I have prepared a bunch of screenshots.
Good console font ( not as good Source Code Pro)
My Preferred Fonts
Anonymous Pro – No Anti Aliasing
I find this font a little thin and hard to read compared to some of the others.
Anonymous Pro – Antialised
Droid Sans Mono
Droid Sans is free & open Google Font that is used on Android phones. It is very readable but not quite to my personal taste.
Driod Sans Mono – Antialias
terminal-droid-sans-mono-antialias-1.jpg.(Click for fullsize image)
There are only a few terminal programs left today. In the past there were dozens of packages but the market has settled down to a just a few survivors. Networking people tend to chose from a the free versions, except for SecureCRT (because it was popular historically, and is used in the Cisco CCIE Lab exam. Alpha geeks tend to set the standards, tend to use what they know, and what works. )
Setting the font in SecureCRT
Setting the FONT in Putty
You can set the font in Putty by going to the Appearance tab
The EtherealMind View
The purpose of this article is to highlight that there is are many excellent fonts that can be used to improve the readability of the command line. The fonts I use most today is Adobe’s Source Code Pro (Wikipedia) which is highly readable and perfect for programming. While I haven’t been able to understand anti-aliasing and why it makes a difference, it doesn’t bother me I just goes with what works.
Finally, as I’m getting older my eyesight is degrading. Not much I can do about it but take some time to make the screen easier to read. I keep looking for a better programming / console font and keep trying them out. There are lots of them.