November 2, 2018

Windows 10 vs. Helvetica

More than three years after general availability of Windows 10 we finally rolled it out to the users. Well, one reason we didn't roll it out faster was because the big bosses wouldn't buy new computers, so some users got stuck with old computers running Windows XP for ages.

Immediately after setting up the brand spanking new desktops, users came crying that their ERP reports look different than before. I started explaining to them that it's normal since every version of Windows had different fonts and drivers, so even if the same fonts were used it could look slightly different, especially if it was a big jump from XP to 10.

But this time the users pointed out to me that the fonts looked completely different. I looked again and sure enough, printouts from Windows XP had serif fonts, while printouts from Windows 10 were sans-serif. Hmm, this suggested that it could be a font substitution problem. I examined the fonts closer and realized the serif fonts from XP were Tahoma, while Win 10 used Arial.

Now the problem got interesting. There shouldn't be any reason for a type change from Tahoma to Arial, especially if it was a font substitution issue. Upon further inspection of the reports, I realized the ERP reports were all created with the default font Helvetica. I looked at Windows' font substitution setting, and sure enough, Arial is the standard substitution font for Helvetica.

So there lies the big mystery, this suggests that for the past 10 years, all our Windows XP and Windows 7 computers have been substituting Tahoma for Helvetica. While Windows 10 actually fixes the issue and correctly uses Arial? And now I have to put in the wrong value so users get to use the wrong font?

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