Fixed Width Fonts are so 80’s

Seriously – why is it that when I walk around the office I see all the developers staring at Visual Studio code windows displayed using “Courier New” font. Trust me – the “new” in “Courier New” ain’t that new!

Can someone please explain to me how using a fixed width font so that your character positions line up is more important that readability gains of using proportional fonts such as Verdana. Ok – the guy using vi down the back of the class – you can put your hand down – I’m sure your hippy editor is just the bees knees but if it don’t support proportional fonts I’m really not interested.

How is this:

/// <summary>
/// Provides a simplified overview of the validation failure in multi-line text format.
/// </summary>
/// <returns>A multi-line description of the validation failure.</returns>
public override string ToString()
{
return string.Format("{0}: \t{1}\r\n\t\t{2}",
Severity,
string.Format(Message, MessageParameters),
string.Format(MessageDetail, MessageParameters));
}

Better than this!?

/// <summary>
/// Provides a simplified overview of the validation failure in multi-line text format.
/// </summary>
/// <returns>A multi-line description of the validation failure.</returns>
public override string ToString()
{
return string.Format("{0}: \t{1}\r\n\t\t{2}",
Severity,
string.Format(Message, MessageParameters),
string.Format(MessageDetail, MessageParameters));
}

I’m mean it’s not like we’re all writing in some old version of COBOL or RPG where the column positions really matter. I know they’ll be some old sticklers that really can’t let go of their last hold of the ‘good ol’ days of 80s programming – but for the rest of us – let’s move on.

I hope Visual Studio 2008 RTM ships with a proportional font as the default editor font.

4 thoughts on “Fixed Width Fonts are so 80’s”

  1. Proportional Fonts are so 90s

    Seriously, what’s so great about proportional fonts? I am not an “old school” developer; I graduated college less than 3 years ago, I can’t stand VI, and am all in favor of modern development tools. But when it comes to fonts, I don’t see any of these supposed “readability gains” you speak of. When I look at your two examples, the first is clean and easy to scan quickly, whereas the second makes my eyes hurt. Granted, Courier New is showing its age, but I would still much rather read code in a fixed width font than Verdana.

  2. Fair enough – if you think the first example is easier to read then I can’t argue to much with that – of course you’ll stick with what works for you.

    I will say though that I’ve noticed developers’ initial reaction to the proposal is very similar to the original introduction of proportional fonts in computing. The suggestion that word processing packages should move to proportional spacing, that mono-spaced printers were a bad thing really didn’t go down well with a lot of computer users at the time. I still cringe when I get mono-spaced receipts, or view plain text e-mails in mono-spaced fonts. 

    As for readability – I’d bet there’s plenty of evidence easily available on the net to show the benefits of using good fonts to improve readability and thereby increase productivity and reduce eye strain. Still – “horses for courses”.

  3. I am a Cobol and Visual Basic programmer.

    When using VB or C++ I change the font to FixedSys because it is easier to read than Courier New.

    I am also dyslexic.

    If you don’t like mono spaced fonts then don’t use them.

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