Unraveling the great font mystery

By | October 29, 2011
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Just about every week we receive an email from a reader wondering why no one can see the fancy font they just installed and are now using in all their emails. And this past week we received two such emails. We’ve covered this topic before but apparently we weren’t (SURPRISE!) making ourselves clear, so we’ve decided to try to clear up the great font mystery once and for all.

There are a lot of free font sites out there – some are good and some are bad. Most of you who like fonts have found one or two free font sites you like and have probably downloaded a few dozen or more fonts and installed them.

Before we clear up the great font mystery, here are a few things you should know:

1. Installing a huge number of fonts on your computer is a great way to slow your computer down. We’re not talking about installing a few dozen or even 80 or 90 or 100 fonts. But some people go berserk with fonts, well, because they really like them. TC is one such person. Installing 500 or 600 fonts on your computer pretty much ensures a long Windows boot time (unless you have a lot of extra RAM) because Windows had to load all the fonts you’ve installed at start up. So don’t go crazy installing fonts on your computer. Install the ones you really like but keep your wits about you. You may not be able to use those fonts as much as you were planning to use them … read on.

2. Every Windows computer from Windows 95 through Windows 8 has certain core fonts – like Arial, Verdana, Times New Roman, etc. These are Web-safe fonts. If you’re building a Web site you can use Windows core font and be pretty sure your visitors will see the font you intended to see. Unless, of course, they’re using an Apple computer which has Geneva, Helvetica, and other core fonts. Which brings us to the point of this article:

Generally, if someone does not have the font you’re using installed on their computer they won’t see the font the way you intended. This is true of emails, Web pages, and blogs. There is something called “font embedding” but we’re not aware of anyone who uses it – and it’s very old technology.

So here’s what happens when you download those fonts you love and you sent emails to all your friends to show them your new fancy fonts. They’ll get your email and they will be able to read it, but unless they have the exact font you used installed, they won’t see your fancy font – they’ll see your email in their default font – usually Arial or Times New Roman.

Since this is a someone arcane subject, the best way to explain it is to show you.

Here is a portion of an email we just composed:

Dear EB,

I just downloaded this great new font called Santa’s Big Secret.

How do you like it? Pretty cool, eh?

You don’t think I work hard do you?

Your buddy,


Anyone who has Santa’s Big Secret font installed should see exactly the same font in the copy of the email above and below this paragraph. Everyone else will see two completely different fonts.  Yes we know the font in the email below is a little bigger – it’s an image :). But it’s exactly the same font.

Cloudeight InfoAve

If you send an email to someone using a font they don’t have installed, they’ll see the font as Arial, or whatever their default font is. So many people download a lot of fonts and use them to send emails to others, and while the font looks great to them, the recipient wont see the font unless they have that particular font installed. What’s the chances of a big bunch of you having “Santa’s Big Secret” font installed? Not very great. So very few of you are going to see first email in the font I used – but all of you will see how it was supposed to look (how it looks to me) because I made an image file of the font.

We hope this clears up the great font mystery. It should save many of you a lot of time figuring out why people are not seeing your email the same way you see it when you send it. If you’re writing a business email always make sure to use a Windows core font like Arial, Verdana, Times New Roman, Tahoma, etc. Want a list of Windows core fonts? Visit this page.

3 thoughts on “Unraveling the great font mystery

  1. RB

    On Win 7, where I can find the fonts folder? And can I just move the ones I don’t want into another folder – leaving just the Windows default fonts?


    1. infoave Post author

      It’s in C:\Windows\Fonts – but no you can’t just go into the fonts folder and start removing fonts without using caution. You can safely remove the ones you’ve added – if you’e sure of which they are.

  2. Wendy

    I have over 1,000 fonts on my computer as I do a lot of work involving Paint Shop Pro. However, I downloaded a free programme from the internet called AMP Font Viewer. This programme enables me to see the fonts installed under windows and also the fonts I have in a separate folder under my documents. I can access either just by clicking on the font I wish to use and if I want to temporarily instal a font in windows I am able to do so with a click of the mouse.

    I find this to be a very easy programme to use and it’s “free”.




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