The oldest font in Windows

In the past two days I decided to go all-in on a Windows 10 installation to see what it’s capable of and how it can support my workflow. While that experience may be worth another blog post it got me thinking about what is essentially my first operating system.

When Windows first entered my life it was in the very early versions. I remember poking around through MS Dos on our old green and black monitor. What I didn’t know until recently is that the terminal typeface was actually considered a font (although an ugly one in my opinion) called Fixedsys.

Fixedsys is a family of rastermonospaced fonts. The name means fixed system, because its glyphs are monospace or fixed-width (although bolded characters are wider than non-bolded, unlike other monospace fonts such as Courier). It is the oldest font in Windows, and was the system font in Windows 1.0 and 2.0, where it was simply named “System”. For Windows 3.x, the system font was changed to a proportionalsans-serif font named System, but Fixedsys remained the default font in Notepad.


Looking at it now the fonts seems terribly dated. It’s not pretty or elegant, but back in the day it certainly did get the job done. Today I still use the terminal (at least I did on Linux before I nuked it to try Windows 100%) and one of the neat things about modern terminal apps is the ability to customize the look and feel of the terminal. You can change the font! When I do Fixedsys is not one of the choices I go to. I have no sense of nostalgia that encourages me to use this in any of my applications.

What I do instead is appreciate that our computers have evolved, and I’m grateful for the elegance we enjoy today.

Seriously, Wingdings?

My supportive wife recommended that this FontFriday be dedicated to Wingdings.

Seriously? I thought. Is that even a font?

She countered, Well, it’s been on my font list since as long as I can remember.

She’s right. It has been around a while and it’s also part of the list of items labeled as fonts that appear from the drop down menu of Microsoft Office applications. But, is it a font?

It’s true you could communicate using the symbols of Wingdings. People are using emoji to replace whole sentences. In fact, my parents speak better emoji than I do. Of course emoji isn’t the first pictorial method of communicating. Neither is Wingdings. Pictorial communication goes back as far as mankind.

Wingdings is a dingbat font. Which is a term used for a printer’s ornament. Thus Wingdings is merely a collection of printer’s ornaments. It’s not a bad collection for the 1990s when it was originally created though (again) I would venture to believe that emojis are more popular.

What’s neat about Wingdings is it isn’t just an item in your font list. It’s also a patent.

Yes, Wingdings is a patent.

USD341848S is a patent that shows a printout of each character of the font. The patent lists this font’s birth year as 1991. So my wife saying that it’s been there as long as she can remember is correct, but seriously, Wingdings?

Photo by Alexander Dummer on

Calibri & Calibri Light

For producing documents inside of Microsoft applications I will often choose Calibri or Calibri light. While I have my frustrations with Arial’s creation, Calibri is one font that Microsoft got right.

Researching Calibri is also fun. It’s got a great backstory (Wikipedia), and was even responsible for someone in Pakistan going to jail.

The Microsoft font Calibri is now a key piece of evidence in a corruption investigation surrounding Pakistan’s prime minister. Investigators noticed that documents handed over by the prime minister’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, were typed up in the font Calibri. But the documents were dated from 2006 — and Calibri wasn’t widely available at that point, making a good case that they were forged.

The Express Tribune says that Pakistan’s court-appointed investigators sent the documents off to a lab for examination. The lab noticed the discrepancy, with one of its experts saying that since “Calibri was not commercially available before 31st January 2007 … neither of the originals of the certified declarations is correctly dated and happy [sic] to have been created at some later point in time.”

The Verge

Fonts matter people. Fonts matter.

Poiret One

Sometimes people from unexpected places in the world create beautiful things.  I’m amazed at the font designers and where their work comes from.  Alegreya is from Argentina.  Caslon is an homage to British design.  Helvetica is from Switzerland.

When one thinks of the Art Deco movement one thinks of the buildings and design in the 1920s and 30s in the United States and Western Europe.  It’s amazing that while most of the movement’s artifacts are enshrined in those countries one of the greatest monuments to them in print was created by designer Denis Masharov–a native of Russia.

Sbs2-1Russia is known for some interesting architecture, but not Art Deco.  Here’s a link to a lovely post on their bus stops!

Poiret One was added to the Google Font library some time ago and is a rather popular font with served over 40 million times in the week this post was written.  It epitomizes the Art Deco movement.  And so, if you’re feeling a bit like a flapper this might just be your cup of tea.

You’re welcome to download Poiret One from the Google Font library here.

Adobe Caslon Pro

What better way to end the week than with a new font to add to your library?  Fonts are your friends, and on Fridays it’s important to spend time with your friends.

In my book, A Heritage to Follow: Lucius Clark, I had to choose a font, and it was a bit of a toss up.  At the end of the book I explain the decision:

One of the most logical choices of fonts for this book would have been Century Schoolbook since it was designed for educational purposes, released in 1919 (with bold and italic versions released by 1923) precisely during the years Lucius was teaching. But Century Schoolbook takes up more space than what I wanted to use, and I don’t believe it works well at larger sized (chapter titles) or with numbers (0123456789).

So, the font used in this book is Adobe Caslon Pro. It’s become so well known and versatile that in Stephen Coles, The Anatomy of Type he relates the popular mantra, “when in doubt, use Caslon.” While there isn’t much variation in this book, italics and bold faces are used at different points and I believe Caslon has a cleaner expressiveness and consistency through these variations than many other font choices.

Lucius was a man who prided himself on good penmanship, so I wanted him to have a font designed by a master penman, William Caslon. Caslon’s font was first released in 1725. Among my favorite features are the swooping tail of the capital Q and the fact that the capital J extends below text line. While these aren’t very common letters they add character to the text in this book when they do appear. I smile when I see them because I feel they’re playfully doing a magic trick with the rest of the letters watching.

I may not have caught all the typos, but I did select the best type!

Download Adobe Caslon Pro here.  I’ll let your conscience dictate how you pay for it.  If you’re currently paying for a Creative Cloud subscription, you already have.

Google’s Product Sans Font

What better way to end the week than with a new font to add to your library?  Fonts are your friends, and on Fridays it’s important to spend time with your friends.

In earlier posts we’ve covered Google’s Roboto and Apple’s San Francisco.  Both were released in 2015, and both seemed to be each company’s answer to the fact that our fonts weren’t designed for screens.  Apple has continued for the last several years with their San Francisco font, but Google has opted to continue development.

This year they’ve released a new font, Product Sans.  Released is a bit of a loose term.  Google is known for paying the licensing fees for many fonts and releasing the fonts on their websites free for use and download.  Loading fonts quickly helps websites load faster and improve response time.  So Google giving away their fonts allows you and I to read more pages and in turn help Google increase its advertising space.

Product Sans is not one of those fonts.  As of writing this the official response from the company is:

“Google offers many fonts under open source licenses. This is not one of them. Please see Google Fonts for options you can use.”

That doesn’t mean we can’t say it’s nice and that actually doesn’t stop you from downloading it.  It just stops you from officially downloading it.

So if you feel like doing something a bit unofficial, please use the link above and enjoy adding a new and beautiful font to your library.