Jeff Croft

I’m a product designer in Seattle, WA. I recently worked at Simply Measured, and previously co-founded Lendle.

Some of my past clients include Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, and the University of Washington.

I’ve authored two books on web and interactive design and spoken at dozens of conferences around the world.

I’m currently accepting contract work and considering full-time opportunities.

Blog entry // 08.29.2006 // 11:36 AM // 30 Comments

An open letter to Apple and Microsoft

Mr. Gates and Mr. Jobs:

A few days ago, Andrei Herasimchuk (whom I consider a friend and admire quite a lot) posted an open letter to John Warnock, CEO of Adobe Systems, with regard to typography on the web. Andrei proposed that Adobe, being the license holder of several of the classic typefaces, “consider releasing eight to twelve core fonts into the public domain.” Andrei’s list of suggestions include Warnock Pro, Jenson Pro, Caslon Pro, and more.

While these are great typefaces and would certainly be an incredible addition to any web designer’s toolkit, I can’t help but think the request is a bit too idealistic to have a chance of really happening (Adobe, please feel free to prove me wrong). Not only do these typefaces make up a decent revenue stream for Adobe that would be lost, but Adobe also has a vested interested in a little web technology called Flash, and may well believe that making great type available in HTML and CSS-based web pages could hinder Flash adoption amongst designers who demand great typography. And I know neither of you want Adobe coming to the web’s rescue.

So, while I’m all for Adobe following through on Andrei’s request, I’m asking another company to do something about the state of web typography — and I’d like to think my request is a bit more likely to happen.

At some point (sorry I can’t be more specific, it’s a bit of a moving target), Microsoft will release Vista, the next version of Windows. Bundled along with it is a set of new typefaces Microsoft has commissioned. These fonts are no match for Adobe’s Frutiger and Univers, but they are quite nice, nonetheless. Certainly they’re far better than the typefaces we web designers can currently rely on being installed on the vast majority of PCs and Macs (a list which, for practical purposes, isn’t much longer than Verdana, Georgia, and Arial).

The only problem with these new Vista typefaces is that they’re only distributed with Vista. So, I have two simple requests:

  1. Microsoft, please distribute these new Vista typefaces for older versions of Windows, especially XP. Perhaps include them with the release of Internet Explorer 7 and future Office updates?
  2. Apple, please license this set of fonts from Microsoft and include them with Mac OS X.

Making good on these two simple requests would go an incredibly long way towards improving the state of typography on the web — and should cost each company next to nothing.

Thanks,

Jeff Croft Web Designer

Comments

  1. 001 // Jason Santa Maria // 08.29.2006 // 11:59 AM

    They are actually more than a match for Univers and Frutiger as far as on screen type is concerned. Like Verdana and Georgia, the new Vista fonts were made with screen use thoroughly in mind. I can’t of anything better than for Apple to distribute these as well. Man, that would be swell.

  2. 002 // Dan Boland // 08.29.2006 // 12:31 PM

    Here here! I, too, long for the day when I have more than a paltry few fonts I can rely on for the web. I’m tired of being handcuffed by the low number of reliable font choices.

  3. 003 // Elliot Swan // 08.29.2006 // 1:24 PM

    I’m with you on this one, we really need some more typefaces available. But unless people start coroperating, we’re not going to get anywhere.

  4. 004 // Luke L // 08.29.2006 // 1:37 PM

    Reply: Dear Mr Croft, while we have taken your request into consideration, due to the fact that we cannot load fonts with DRM, make a pretty penny from them and simply do not care about our end users or web developers we have to decline your request. Here’s hoping you continue paying for our OS’s even though we mock your pleas for help.

  5. 005 // Josh Blount // 08.29.2006 // 2:15 PM

    Incredible. I was just listening to a talk Dave Shea gave about typography on the web and the current limitations. Here’s hoping your plea will work!

  6. 006 // Tobias Batt // 08.29.2006 // 2:41 PM

    Love this post, this is a bit of a dream and I doubt It will ever really happen. Would be really nice but its just too good to be true I think.

  7. 007 // Jeff Croft // 08.29.2006 // 2:51 PM

    Tobias-

    I don’t really think it’s that far-fetched. Apple already licenses Verdana, Georgia, Arial, etc. from Microsoft — why couldn’t they license these Vista fonts, as well?

  8. 008 // Brent O'Connor // 08.29.2006 // 2:57 PM

    Preach it brother! Amen!

  9. 009 // Baxter // 08.29.2006 // 3:56 PM

    Jeff, does Apple license those, or do they just end up on every Mac that ever had Office/IE/Outlook/Anything-else-MS installed?

  10. 010 // Jeff Croft // 08.29.2006 // 4:07 PM

    Yep, they come with the OS

    http://docs.info.apple.com/artic…

  11. 011 // Luka Marinko // 08.29.2006 // 4:38 PM

    I have a problem with your request. For one it leaves us (“linux/bsd/*”) folks in the dry. Also you are forgetiting mobile market(which is growing rapidly). Ps3 might even have browser etc.

    In my not so humble opinion, solution is to have these fonts standardised by standards body (maybe w3c), and included with every browser.

    Problem here is that neither Microsof or Apple have any financial initiative to do that. In fact you could argue that they really don’t want this to happen. it probably MS’s wet dream that most/all web apps would only work on windows.

    So the only solution that I can see, is that someone somewhere buys/pays for set of standard fonts to be developed and released for free. (Like for instance Sun buying starOffice and releasing Open office, or like community bought source for blender 3d).

    There is an effort to create free fonts http://dejavu.sourceforge.net/wi… unfortunately they are still converting existing fonts to support as much unicode as possible, but hopefully when that is done, they will create new ones.

  12. 012 // Jeff Croft // 08.29.2006 // 5:08 PM

    I have a problem with your request. For one it leaves us (“linux/bsd/*”) folks in the dry.

    Then write red hat/ubuntu/debian/whomever an open letter. I’m not “forgetting” them, it’s just not my target market. If I can get fonts on Windows and Mac, I hit 96% of the users of my sites. Sorry, but that’s my focus.

    If having pretty type on Linux matters to you, then you write a letter.

    Also you are forgetiting mobile market(which is growing rapidly). Ps3 might even have browser etc.

    Again, not forgetting the, just considering them irrelevant when it comes to this. I’m perfectly happy with mobile devices seeing ordinary fonts. Mac and Windows users expect their experiences to be fully rich, and they should have nice typography. Also, these fonts are entirely inappropriate for most mobile screens, so it wouldn’t be right for me to ask for them there, anyway.

    It probably MS’s wet dream that most/all web apps would only work on windows.

    Probably, but how is that relevant here? I’m not talking about making web apps work. I’m talking about having a variety of type to choose from. The apps, obviously, will work whether we have that choice or not.

    So the only solution that I can see, is that someone somewhere buys/pays for set of standard fonts to be developed and released for free.

    This is not a solution. Having free fonts won’t help. There are already a million free fonts. The problem is distribution. We need to be able to count on these typefaces being on 90% + of computers. Putting some free fonts up for download will never solve this.

    Free fonts are nice, but the quality usually sucks and they’ll always be unusable on the web because they’ll never be on most computers.

    The only way to having fonts web designers can use is distribution with the major operating systems.

  13. 013 // Luka Marinko // 08.29.2006 // 7:26 PM

    I think i didn’t make myself clear enough, I didn’t sugjest that fonts come with OS be it Win, mac or linux. I sugjested that the only way to get all the fonts everywhere is to ship them with browsers. This means IE, Firefox, Safari … you name it.

    And the only way to do that is to have tham freely distributable, and standfardised by some standards organization.

  14. 014 // Arthur Case // 08.30.2006 // 4:03 AM

    Related to Jason’s thoughts, are Adobe fonts such as Warnock Pro (which are designed for high resolution printing) legible on Windows XP with ClearType turned off? I’d always thought you need screen fonts that are designed to work on low-res screens with no anti-aliasing. I also wonder if the new Vista fonts work ok with XP and no ClearType.

  15. 015 // Jeff Croft // 08.30.2006 // 6:52 AM

    Arthur-

    I don’t know the answer(s), but I do know that the new Vista fonts are optimized for ClearType. Also, I know that IE7 (on XP and Vista both) will have ClearType on by default (it’s got an application-speific setting, in addition to the system-wide one).

  16. 016 // Mike Cherim // 08.30.2006 // 5:12 PM

    More broadly distributed web-safe fonts! Now that’d be a creative nirvana. :-)

  17. 017 // David // 08.30.2006 // 7:45 PM

    @Luka, i must be missing something also in your response, because unless i’m mistake-and that could very well be the case- simply shipping fonts with borwsers wont cut it also, the fonts have to be installed on the machine for them to work, now i could wrong again, but i dont see browser makers taking the extra time and expense in creating an addition to their install program to install fonts on a users machine, what happens when their are conflicts, or damaged fonts?

    right now on mac most installs of browsers are drag and drop a folder in one place, on windows who knows where all that stuff gets sifted and shuffled to on install, but me thinks it a greater headache for a browser manufacture to then have to be tech support for their browser and somebody elses fonts, no?

  18. 018 // Jeff Croft // 08.30.2006 // 7:52 PM

    Luka, I agree with David. Shipping them with the browsers isn’t good enough, and the main reason is that most PCs out there still only have one browser: IE. Most people don’t download and install browsers. If, for example, Firefox shipped a set of fonts with their browser, that would penetrate something like 20% of the market — making it completely useless for web designers. The only distribution method that will work is Apple and Microsoft shipping the same fonts with OS X and Windows. It’d be nice is some Linux distros got on board, too, but it’ll never happen because they’ll never pay Microsoft money to license the fonts.

  19. 019 // Dan Rubin // 08.30.2006 // 10:56 PM

    Well written, Jeff. Messers Jobs and Gates would do well to listen, given their unique position to make the web a nicer looking place…

  20. 020 // Markus // 08.31.2006 // 10:47 AM

    The free Office 2007 Beta 2 for XP already includes the new Vista fonts.

  21. 021 // Jeff Croft // 08.31.2006 // 11 AM

    Markus-

    That’s good news. Still, the majority of PC users don’t have Office, and certainly most won’t have Office 2007. So, while that helps some, it’s far from a solution. Microsoft needs to distribute the Vista fonts into Windows XP proper via Windows Update.

  22. 022 // .sara // 09.01.2006 // 1:28 PM

    Here’s to hoping; esp. since those new MS faces are so nice! Aren’t they open type, as well? (Looked, but couldn’t find confirmation on that point.) That’d make ‘em dead easy to include in OS X.

  23. 023 // erik // 09.04.2006 // 3:25 PM

    No. These faces belong to Microsoft who have no profit by making their own work available to Mac users. Why should they care if a website looks different on OSX? The problem here is that one can’t push one of the companies to act by letting them feel that webdesigners disagree with proprietary pseudo-solutions. (Unlike IE-Haters that make a few negative comments in the IEblog and just switch to a better browser… leading to a decreasing IE marketshare) But regarding fonts? Shall i deinstall Photoshop?

  24. 024 // Jeff Croft // 09.04.2006 // 4:08 PM

    No. These faces belong to Microsoft who have no profit by making their own work available to Mac users. Why should they care if a website looks different on OSX?

    The answer is that no one will use the faces unless they’re available for Macs, too. Why do people use Verdana, Arial, and Trebuchet on the web? Because they’re available on nearly every computer out there today. Why do people not use Garamond, Franklin Gothic, or Tahoma? Because they’re only available on Windows.

    Microsoft has made these web typefaces because they want web designers to use them so the Internet will be a prettier places, especially when viewed on Vista with ClearType. But, unless they properly distribute the faces, they won’t be used. Thus, they’ll have wasted all the money they spent in commissioning the typefaces.

    Considering the massive number of web designers that use Macs themselves, this effect is compounded. If Microsoft wants these typefaces to be used, they need to be pre-isntalled on Macs, too. If they’re not, they won’t be widely-used. Period.

    The problem here is that one can’t push one of the companies to act by letting them feel that webdesigners disagree with proprietary pseudo-solutions.

    Why can’t we? This doesn’t make sense to me. We do disagree with “proprietary pseudo-solutions.” Why shouldn’t we let them know about it?

    But regarding fonts? Shall i deinstall Photoshop?

    Huh? What does this have to do with type on the web? I’m confused. Not sure what you’re getting at here.

  25. 025 // erik // 09.04.2006 // 5:27 PM

    What i was heading at was that unlike webstandards, typography has nothing (“I’ll just use a different browser instead”), that webdesigners could use to (really) put pressure onto these companies. I dont think there’s an IE7 because they “heard us” or believe standards is the way to go - it’s all about marketshare and profits… nothing fonts have an effect on (in the first place) so it won’t be easy to comminucate this towards these companies.

    J. Siebert CEO of FontShop AG points out to me

    We all suffer under the few number of Screen-optimized fonts, but it will need a lot of work (and dollars) to rework these fonts for different platforms and rasterizers and regarding “Frutiger, Futura, Gill Sans, Helvetiva and Univers” Adobe would be the wrong to address these (Andreis’) Open Letters.

    But in the end i totally agree with you and Andrei for the need of a change in company-roadmaps now as the results of this effort, will be needed in the future more urgent and urgent. I just hope they listen and that people start discussing on this more intense. I started a discussion on a german forum (all professionals) and i am surprised how many people believe that either “more fonts equal more bad design (through font abuse)” or “then they shall use flash instead” or “don’t expect a website to look equal on all systems” … etc. illustrates that this discussion hasn’t even arrived webdesigners, so needs much more discussion. What if MS doesn’t react? Alternatives? Then Andreis Letter would need more discussion especially the details of License (so who are the License owners?) and the effects this has on comapnies selling “Print”-Licences for these fonts… regards, erik

  26. 026 // Jeff Croft // 09.04.2006 // 11:06 PM

    What i was heading at was that unlike webstandards, typography has nothing (“I’ll just use a different browser instead”), that webdesigners could use to (really) put pressure onto these companies. I dont think there’s an IE7 because they “heard us” or believe standards is the way to go - it’s all about marketshare and profits… nothing fonts have an effect on (in the first place) so it won’t be easy to comminucate this towards these companies.

    Ahh yes. That makes sense now. I think you’re right, there isn’t as much leverage here. Thanks for clarifying! :)

  27. 027 // Michael Whalen // 09.09.2006 // 10:30 PM

    I couldn’t agree more, and I hope that they take a good look at your letter. I am using the Vista code font, I can’t remember what it’s called, and I love it. It looks great.

    Thanks again for your tips on Django, I’m working on the templates right now!

  28. 028 // Demian // 10.26.2006 // 4:12 PM

    I wrote something about this post and the post by Andrei Herasimchuk. I tried to make a trackback but found no way to do it. Regards.

  29. 029 // Apple // 11.16.2006 // 1:07 PM

    Any news on this topic? Did you get an answer?

  30. 030 // Font User // 03.14.2007 // 1:01 PM

    The new fonts are also installed as part of PowerPoint Viewer 2007 or the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats.

    To install the fonts only, one could run e.g.

    FileFormatConverters.exe /quiet /extract:ffc
    expand -f:*.tt? ffc\*.cab c:\windows\fonts
    rd /q/s ffc
    

    or

    cabextract -d ffc -LF*.cab FileFormatConverters.exe
    cabextract -d ~/.fonts -LF*.tt? ffc/*.cab
    rm -r ffc
    
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