Linux Font Equivalents to Popular Web Typefaces

I have written before about my admiration for Web typography, and in that article I touched on the fact that many “Web safe” fonts can’t be applied to Linux. Linux distributions each ship with their own font libraries, but I’d like to focus on similar typefaces you can use within a font-family to help make your design bulletproof.

Like Windows & OS X, Linux does type too

I’ve been a Linux user for some time now, and Linux is my platform of choice both at work and at home. My distribution of choice is Ubuntu not because it’s the most popular, but because I’ve tried a wide variety of Linux versions, and Ubuntu works the best for me. I say this because I’m going to focus on the fonts that ship by default with Ubuntu, so there may be some discrepancy among distributions.

While the list of Web safe fonts we have come to know and love is relied heavily upon, it can be very beneficial to include similar default Linux fonts in your font-family as well.

What about msttcorefonts?

msttcorefonts is a Linux package providing many Microsoft fonts for easy installation. Personally msttcorefonts is one of the first packages I install when setting up a new Linux installation, but it can’t be assumed that every other Linux user does the same. I’m sure there are many people who choose not to install the package as well, leaving readers out to dry when a bulletproof font-family is not provided.

The fonts provided with msttcorefonts are as follows:

  • Andale Mono
  • Arial Black
  • Arial (Bold, Italic, Bold Italic)
  • Comic Sans MS (Bold)
  • Courier New (Bold, Italic, Bold Italic)
  • Georgia (Bold, Italic, Bold Italic)
  • Impact
  • Times New Roman (Bold, Italic, Bold Italic)
  • Trebuchet (Bold, Italic, Bold Italic)
  • Verdana (Bold, Italic, Bold Italic)
  • Webdings

Taking into consideration Common fonts to all versions of Windows & Mac equivalents, there are a number of fonts often included in designs that readers running Linux will never see (by default).

  • Book Antiqua
  • Charcoal
  • Helvetica
  • Geneva
  • Lucida Console
  • Lucida Grande
  • Lucida Sans Unicode
  • MS Sans Serif
  • MS Serif
  • New York
  • Palatino Linotype
  • Symbol
  • Tahoma
  • Times
  • Wingdings
  • Zapf Dingbats

Using a fresh installation of Ubuntu, I took some time to find Linux typefaces that closely resemble fonts commonly used in Web design. I have purposely left a number of fonts out due to their rarity in actual use. The fonts you won’t find in the following screen shots are:

  • Webdings
  • Wingdings
  • Zapf Dingbats
  • Symbol
  • MS Serif
  • MS Sans Serif

While Linux does ship with a couple symbol-based fonts, I have chosen to exclude them due to character inconsistencies

Linux equivalents to common Windows and OS X Fonts

The following aren’t meant to be exact replicas of fonts from Windows or OS X. They’re merely a similar typeface to use as a last resort in your font-family for us Linux users.

Screenshot the Linux equivalent to the Arial typeface
Screenshot the Linux equivalent to the Charcoal typeface
Comic Sans MS
Screenshot the Linux equivalent to the Comic Sans MS typeface
Courier New
Screenshot the Linux equivalent to the Courier New typeface
Screenshot the Linux equivalent to the Georgia typeface
Screenshot the Linux equivalent to the Helvetica typeface
Lucida Grande
Screenshot the Linux equivalent to the Lucida Grande typeface
New York
Screenshot the Linux equivalent to the New York typeface
Screenshot the Linux equivalent to the Tahoma typeface
Times New Roman
Screenshot the Linux equivalent to the Times New Roman typeface
Palatino Linotype
Screenshot the Linux equivalent to the Palatino Linotype typeface
Screenshot the Linux equivalent to the Verdana typeface

I know some of the above examples are a stretch and certain flagship characters don’t quite fit, but in my opinion they’re pretty close. That is much of the reason behind the existence of multiple equivalents for certain fonts. I’ll leave the final decision up to you and your good discretion.

There are still a few fonts to go over

Unfortunately there was a list of fonts to which I was unable to find a Linux equivalent:

  • Book Antiqua
  • Impact
  • Monaco
  • Lucida Console
  • Geneva
  • Lucida Sans Unicode
  • Trebuchet MS
  • Arial Black

While these typefaces don’t have a similar equivalent in Linux, all is not lost. You should always provide a very generic “failsafe” font at the end of your font-family in an effort to at least control whether your font is serif, sans-serif, or monospace.

Keep Linux Web fonts in consideration

Many people find Linux to be an afterthought as far as target audience is concerned, but Linux is exponentially increasing in popularity as an alternative to other operating systems. As a Linux user, it’s easier for me to keep an eye on inconsistencies and try to compensate in the best way possible. Web design should be bulletproof & your choice of type should be no different.

Hopefully the above screenshots will help your font-family of choice to become that much more bulletproof now that Linux users aren’t forced to see the lowest common denominator.