Arial is for Windows, Helvetica is for Mac

After watching the movie Helvetica a few years ago and playing the game Helvetica vs. Arial, I’ve become more aware of the ubiquity of Helvetica and the creep of Arial. In skimming this year’s edition of the NSF grant proposal guide (why yes, I am writing some proposals now), I saw that for the main proposal guidelines, the typeface requirement are:

  • Arial, Courier New, or Palatino Linotype at a font size of 10 points or larger;
  • Times New Roman at a font size of 11 points or larger; or
  • Computer Modern family of fonts at a font size of 11 points or larger.

with a footnote on “Arial” that says “Macintosh users also may use Helvetica and Palatino typefaces.” Quite apart from the discrimination issue, does a PDF identify the OS of its creator? Also, can you imagine reading a proposal in 10 point Courier? Yikes.

Clearly I need to spend less time thinking about this and more time chopping the last half a page…


2 thoughts on “Arial is for Windows, Helvetica is for Mac

  1. “… does a PDF identify the OS of its creator? ” Some (not all) programs that create PDF files also include the name of the author and other stuff (file creation date etc) in the hidden stuff that does not show up on your screen when you view the file! If you get a (anonymous) review of your paper from the Editor handling your paper, try running “cat -v review.pdf | more” on a UNIX machine and you may be able to find out who said those nice things (or rude things!) about your work and how long ago they sent it in.


  2. Try File->Properties on a PDF file you created. It might say who the author is. There is a field for “Producer” that miktex’s pdflatex fills in with miktex-pdflatex-…

    That field probably gives away what kind of machine generated the PDF.
    My vague impression is that miktex reveals less than it used to about who the creator is.

    As for the NSF, in the old days, the worst proposals were Times at 10pt.

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