Posts tagged with android

Android’s Roboto system font for Ice Cream Sandwich

Google have switched system font for Android’s latest release (known as Ice Cream Sandwich) from the Droid Family to a new typeface known as Roboto.

Typographica opened today with a critique of the Roboto font which boils down to this:

Roboto compared at Typographica

The similarity to Helvetica is obvious but that similarity can be drawn with many modern typefaces – the other comparisons are tenuous indeed:

  • FF DIN has little resemblance other than having straight edges on rounded letters. Lots of faces do that. Envy Code R does extensively :)
  • Myriad is more open in it’s white-space, ends t with a slant and features a different approach to shoulders on mnpqr
  • Ronnia only shares the single horizontal stem which is also present in many monospace bitmap fonts

Yes, some of these differences are subtle when you put them side by side but subtleties are what give the typeface its character.

There are only so many ways to draw letters with consistency and readability especially if you want a modern sans look. That’s exactly why copyright refuses to cover letter-forms in the USA.

So coming to the font itself at first glance, yes, on my laptop it doesn’t look as pretty as Helvetica when blown up for comparison but here’s something you should consider.

Typefaces are designed for a specific environment

Consider the following typefaces:

Use a typeface outside its intended environment and you’ll easily believe it’s a bad design, ugly or unrefined as those very characteristics that made it great for that environments completely fail to fit new surroundings.

Even the famous Helvetica has an environment of white-space, bold colors and clean-lines where it shines. That makes it a top choice for corporate logos.

Roboto is the work of independent type designer Christian Robertson and until I see it on a Droid device I’ll cut him and Google some slack – from the screenshots I’ve seen online it looks like a good fit.

You have to at least respect Google for continuing to improve typography by commission fonts. Microsoft are the only other major UI player doing this as Apple’s sole contribution to typefaces in the last 10 years has been a hack-job on the open-source Deja-Vu Mono to rename it Menlo, move some bars around and to trash the hinting in the process so they have something to replace the aging Monaco with.

If you want to download the font yourself here is a complete set of the files taken from the SDK (unlike the other zip floating around this one has all variants + the license).

Download Roboto (2015) Font Family (ZIP of TTF) (1.2 MB)


Droid Sans Mono great coding font

Google’s Android project, an open platform for mobile devices, has been hitting the news a lot in the last couple of days with it’s open APIs, Java-based development platform and optimized virtual machine which includes the lovely set of typefaces from Ascender known as the Droid family.

Check out previous coverage of the well-known and lesser-known coding fonts.

There are a number of Droid fonts including Droid Sans and Droid Serif but of particular interest for developers is the Droid Sans Mono font that looks great in Visual Studio not only at my favorite 10 point… but from 7 point upwards with either ClearType or standard font smoothing although some might find the fact it smooths at all sizes a little soft (or Mac-like).

Here it is at 9 point with Rob Conery’s Vibrant Ink (WekeRoad Ink) theme:

Screen shot of Droid Sans Mono at 9 point with Vibrant Ink 2 theme in Visual Studio

Here it is at 11 point with my Humane theme:

Screen shot of Droid Sans Mono at 11 point with Humane theme in Visual Studio

And here it is 12 point in Xcode on the Mac:

Screen shot of Droid Sans Mono at 12 point in Xcode on the Mac

The only issues are:

  • the lack of a bold weight or italic variant which limits the syntax highlighting options
  • the 0 is currently not slashed (there could be some other indistinguishable character pairs)

Being that the Droid family is Apache licensed no doubt somebody will fill that gap (okay, okay, I’ll give it a shot when I get some time;-)

Download Droid Sans Mono (TrueType TTF) (79 KB, 10/2011 source)

Try my free scalable coding font Envy Code R (shown below) with Visual Studio italic support, has a bold variant and distinguishable pairs 0O etc:

Envy Code R font at 10 pt with italics in Visual Studio using Humane theme.