Droid Sans Mono, a sweet monospace font

I've just switched to a monospace font called Droid Sans Mono, a free, Apache-licensed (see below) face. I do all my work -- novel writing, blogging, article- and short-story writing, email composition -- in a text editor (currently using Gedit, a free and open editor) using a monospace face. Droid shows up very nicely indeed, at a large variety of sizes. I've been using it all morning and I've already switched my monospace preferences to it system-wide. Link (via Joshua's Delicious)

Update: From the comments, Javier fact-checks my ass: "Sadly, it looks that Droid Sans is not Free after all, and anyone wanting to use a free-as-in-speech font of these characteristics has to pick between DejaVu (Bitstream Vera license, has italics, bold and almost every character under the Unicode sun) and Inconsolata (definitive version will be under SIL's Open Font License, prints pretty but is not so screen-pretty at small sizes, so far has no cursive or bold)."


  1. Nice font, but it looks so very similar to “Lucida Console” which is my personal favourite for all programming. The 2 main drawbacks of this new font however are (1) No bold, and (2) no italics. This makes it practically useless for most development programs (like Notepad++) that make heavy use of bold and italics! :-(

  2. I can understand why monospace fonts make sense for programming, but I’m curious to know why you prefer one for all writing. I’ve tried it, and I find traditional variable width faces much more natural and easy to read, I assume because the overwhelming majority of the written word I consume is presented in this way.

  3. if the O and 0 get fixed i’ll use it. i’m using consolas at the moment but i do prefer to have zeroes with the slash, or at least a dot or something, or broad O’s and very elliptical 0’s either works for me.

  4. Hey! Pre-empted. I’ve been using Bitstream Vera Sans Mono for some time now.

    Interestingly, the font review site posted above (the lowing.org one) rates it the highest, too.

  5. @#3:

    Although I most certainly can’t speak for Mr. Doctorow, but whenever I’ve done any kind of creative writing for things I’ve been involved in, and when I do research writing now, I write in Courier New with basically no formatting but carriage returns.

    I got the idea from some MacWorld article a million years ago about the BeBox, and how the writer found he had done his best work on it with its poor word processing program. He said it didn’t allow his work to look finished and ready to go–fooling the eye into seeing great prose where there was none.

    Ever since then I’ve done it, and I’ve found that, for me at least, that really rings true. If it sounds good with a monospace font and no formatting, then it actually sounds good.

    My $0.02.

  6. My favorite coding font is Ti92Pluspc. Slashed zeros and a clear difference between the number one and a lower-case L make it a winner. It’s part of a TI-89/92 emulator, I think.

  7. I use monospace when writing because I’ve done it forever. If you’re going to do a “word count” for a short story market, you need to start with monospace layouts, since a “word” in that context is 1/250th of a letter-size page with 1″ margins, 1/2″ indents, and rag-right 12-pt Courier, double-spaced.

  8. Does using mono-space for everything mean that you use two spaces after the period? If so, do you remove all those extra spaces when converting to a variable-width font?

    The rules of typography are 2 spaces for mono and one space for variable after a period.

  9. I only use terminal. It’s the font that the windows cmd line uses, so when programming console apps it’s the only font where the code is WSIWYG.

  10. One ot the very first things I do after installing yet another GNU Linux distro is to download and install Terminus font for console and editing in Vim.

    For me the “breakthrough” for Linux desktop (meaning that I started to like Linux desktop more than Windows one) was when I “discovered” the terminus font.

    The original Terminus font is fixed, it means it has hand tweaked various sizes, so it looks extremly sharp and crisp acros wide range of sizes. Antialiasing is a good thing, but … .

  11. Cory: If you’re going to do a “word count” for a short story market, you need to start with…

    …a program that counts words for you?



  12. Cory, I was intrigued that you’ve settled on gedit (the default GUI text editor) as a substitute on Ubuntu for BBEdit on Mac. It works for me as a Notepad substitute (and a huge improvement of course), but I would have pegged you as a vi user, or perhaps Cream.

    Are you using any non-default plugins for gedit?

  13. No bold and italic? No good for programmers then. My all time favourite programming font is Anonymous. I’ve settled down on it for a couple of years. Never changed to any other fonts again.

  14. #20:

    I agree; for a professional writer, learning the basic features of vi is well worth it. Gedit is designed to be easy to pick up, not powerful. If you spend more than an hour a day with a text editor, it only makes sense to spend a few minutes learning some commands in exchange for the thousands of timesaving features vi or (if you must) emacs can offer.

  15. I just tried it in jEdit, and the first thing I noticed was the 0/0 problem. Argh! It’s otherwise very nice looking. l,I,1 are all easily distinguishable, which makes the 0,O problem all the more annoying.

  16. I’ve been using Inconsolata for the past couple of years. It was designed for print, but at the pixel height I normally use it works ok on screen too.

    I still prefer monospace fonts for email, and just checking, apparently also for irc. It just feels like part of the medium, I guess. Apparently script writers still use monospaced fonts exclusively. I’ve heard both tradition and page-count suggested as reasons.

    So, no more bluefish? :)

  17. Agreed, Kyle Armbruster. Courier New at 10 points in both vi and just about any other editing program I use on a regular basis. And I want a #00ff00 font on a #000000 background.

  18. Michael@20: Man, Cream is AWESOME! I’ve switched!

    Only one complaint — cntl-F brings up a find-dialog, without a replace option (cntl-H does find-and-replace) and there’s no obvious way to remap cntl-F to invoke find-and-replace.

    Ralph@24: Naw, swore off Bluefish. A couple of its bugs (crash on spell-check) and missing features (no printing) made me crazy.

  19. I did a small survey of monospace fonts a while ago. The short story is that I fell in love with a font called APlusBM (download, sample), despite the fact that its bold isn’t really monospace. It’s a real pity, because I found its proportions and style by far the most pleasing to the eye of any other I’d found.

    I found the bold to be close enough to the regular spacing to overlook it. Not sure I ever tested italics.

  20. My own font, Envy Code R, has more distinguishable characters as well as bold, italics and a special version to get italics inside Visual Studio… but Droid Sans Mono is the one that gets linked to on my blog!

    Oh well,


  21. Cory@27: Well, gedit certainly gets more love. I use it occassionally when I have lots of cut-and-paste work to do, but normally write everything in nano in a terminal.

    People used to roll their eyes at this, but since it’s only of the official “favorite editor” options on the LCA registration two years running, I know I’m not alone!

  22. My fave at the moment for both terminal work and for programming stuff has to be ProggyCleanTT. It’s a bitmap font (and therefore not rescalable) but man is it ever clear and well designed at its designated point sizes. Proggyfonts.

  23. Courier 12 pt. is my favorite for writing. It’s gotta have a serif, and it’s gotta be monospace. Anything else distracts my ear-eye. I’ve always found that for creative writing, the typeface and program you use has as much impact on the story as the room and town in which you work. Just like some stories feel “Boston” while others could have been written anywhere– there’s no reliable correlation, except that some pieces I write just feel “word processed”.

    Honestly, I’ll never get over Word for MS-DOS, ’cause that’s how I learned.

  24. Perhaps it’s just because I’ve been programming in Smalltalk for 25 years but I can’t imagine why you would use a monospace font when writing software. What virtue(s) would you claim it has?

  25. Good grief. This spawned a discussion? Cory Doctorow’s font preferences?

    This is truly the end of civilization.

  26. Tim@34: Near as I can tell, it means you don’t have to fix your coding practice (and editor) to not indent in a combination of tabs and spaces.

    On a related note, I’m also still waiting for a terminal that can use proportional fonts…

  27. Tim @34:
    My coding is in C++, and I do strongly prefer a monospace font. Sometimes successive lines of code can be made clearer by making them line up vertically in nice ways. But I’ll be the first to admit that’s an only-occasionally edge case. Monospace for code is mostly just habit. What mystifies me is the people saying they need bold & italics for code; I’ve never seen that. For me, code is monospace, albeit in a rainbow of colors.

  28. I live in my IDE, and IMO the very best monospace font is Consolas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consolas).

    This one has it all:
    * uppercase-sensitive forms;
    * sub and superscripts;
    * arbitrary fractions (well, my editor doesn’t care about those, but it’s still cool);
    * most importantly: it’s ClearType enabled, and when it’s on this is about smoothest font there is. With the resolution at 1600×1200 it’s like reading a finely printed book.

    Tim, I think that many coders use monospace fonts because it makes the number of spaces clear (you might not see two spaces in a proportional font, but your compiler will if whitespace is significant) and because continuation lines don’t line up when your statement is longer than the width of your editor.

    Also the proportional fonts tend to place the braces tightly. If you use the One True Brace Style, seeing “}}}}}}}” at the end of a line in Times New Roman will immediately give you a headache. And don’t even try counting them.

  29. Inconsolata is full of win. If Inconsolata, Courier New, and DejaVu Sans Mono had a fight, Inconsolata would feast upon the entrails of the other two.

    Yes, it’s designed for print, but at about 14pt it’s full of win. Inconsolata and the Vibrant Ink vim colorscheme are my current faves.

  30. Cory,

    Droid Sans is not under an Apache license.

    At first I thought so too, and I was so happy about this new free font that I emailed a couple of mailing lists about it before checking. People answered they could not find the license anywhere. So I have had to do some digging.

    I have downloaded Android, and while the license says that in the future “Google intends to release most of the components under the Apache v2.0 open source license”, it’s not clear which components that will cover, and whether the fonts are covered.

    The downloaded .zip with the droid font has no license file either, but rummaging inside the font itself with Fontforge (thank you, George Williams!) I have unearthed the following:

    > License URL: http://ascendercorp.com/eula10.html
    > License: This font software is the valuable property of Ascender Corporation and/or its suppliers and its use by you is covered under the terms of a license agreement. This font software is licensed to you by Ascender Corporation for your personal or business use on up to five personal computers. You may not use this font software on more than five personal computers unless you have obtained a license from Ascender to do so. Except as specifically permitted by the license, you may not copy this font software.
    > If you have any questions, please review the license agreement you received with this font software, and/or contact Ascender Corporation.
    > Contact Information:
    > Ascender Corporation
    > Web http://www.ascendercorp.com/

    Sadly, it looks that Droid Sans is not Free after all, and anyone wanting to use a free-as-in-speech font of these characteristics has to pick between DejaVu (Bitstream Vera license, has italics, bold and almost every character under the Unicode sun) and Inconsolata (definitive version will be under SIL’s Open Font License, prints pretty but is not so screen-pretty at small sizes, so far has no cursive or bold).

    Unless, of course, Google decides to buy the copyright from Ascender Corp., and publish the font under a free license. That might still happen, but so far it hasn’t.


  31. Shrdlu@35: No, this is about *everyone else*’s font preferences. But you just go on sneering over there, you’re clearly amusing yourself.

  32. Why would you use a fixed width font? I can understand using it for things like code, but “real” fonts (for lack of a better term; I do not mean it to be demeaning) are spaced to be read by the eye better. Proper spacing and things like ligatures that greatly help with your eye processing words.

    I could possibly see an argument about using monospace for coding, but for actual writing? Monospace would seem to be like etching into wax tablets when you have a perfectly good piece of pen and paper sitting next to you.

  33. Hmm, on further experimentation, I think Cream is a bust for me — the search-and-replace-all won’t operate on a selection of text, only the whole document. That’s a deal-breaker, unfortunately.

  34. Regeya@41, Inconsolata is basically a reproduction of Consolas, but without many of its features and about half of its glyphs. You might want to check it out some time, if your OS supports ClearType.

    Thanks for turning me on to Vibrant Ink. I just tried it and it’s easy on the eyes (I don’t like the feeling of staring in to a light bulb for hours on end, like I get with a white background) while remaining readable.

  35. Cory, I’m not sure exactly what functionality you’re looking for, because from what I can tell, gedit doesn’t have what you describe either.

    Can you explain what it is you need?

  36. Cory, if you’re still following this discussion, here’s how to do what you want in Cream:

    1. Choose Settings/Preferences/Expert Mode. Hit OK.

    2. Select a range of text.

    3. Hit : (colon) and at the weird prompt at the bottom, type:


    (where “old” is the text to search for, and “new” is the replacement text). Hit enter. Voila.

    Note: this is actually the underlying Vim search and replace command, so “old” is really a regular expression. If there are punctuation characters in your search string, they might be interpreted in unexpected ways. Precede them with backslashes to avoid this. The full documentation on regular expressions is available in Cream by hitting escape, then entering “:help regexp” (without the quotes). Escape then :q exits help.

    Of course, by this point, you might be better off just learning Vim…

  37. Shrdlu, you’ve been taking cheap shots at Cory for months now. This one was more blatant than most — it’s unlikely that someone who goes by “Shrdlu” can have failed to notice that the thread was discussing everyone else’s font preferences.

    I mention this just in case you think the pattern’s gone unnoticed.

  38. Personally, I’m glad to hear about font preferences. In addition to just aesthetics, I use Zend for my coding…9 hours a day, and I’m always looking out for recommendations for clear, easy on the eyes fonts that other people know of and recommend.
    (Currently, I use Optimus Prince for window titles, Univers for everything else, and Deja Vu Sans Mono for coding.)

    And now I’m really interested in good, recommended text editors. And I’d take seriously anything used by someone, like Cory, who writes (a lot) for a living AND is more tech savvy than probably most of us commenters. :)
    (So let us know when you fall in love with the RIGHT editor!)

  39. “[the RIGHT editor] outshines all other editing software in approximately the same way that the noonday sun does the stars. It is not just bigger and brighter; it simply makes everything else vanish.” — Neal Stephenson.

Comments are closed.