Quartz reckons Google Plus is going to be stripped for parts: it’s going the way of Google Wave and Google Buzz. I was consistent from the start about Google Plus, unlike a good part of the tech press, which drank the Google Kool-Aid and talked about how it would be a Facebook-killer.
The logic was never there to begin with. If Google organized the internet, and Facebook organized your friends, then what on earth was Google Plus for?
I have an account and I even like the user interface, despite my misgivings about Google.
But I never saw a real purpose for it. Mine tends to be used to post warnings about Google, because I enjoy irony. On occasion it didn’t even work.
I have friends who are Plus fans, because they have built up decent followings and have, I presume, more intimate discussions on there than one would have on Facebook, which, if you are like me, has friends from all walks of life. Personally, I prefer seeing different viewpoints so I can learn about how others thinkâ€”I’m seldom dismissive of thoughts that disagree with my own unless that person has proved to waste my time with content-less drivel on too many occasionsâ€”so I never really had a need to build up a new bunch of folks who might share a narrower range of interests with me.
However, for me, my Google Plus activity never even exceeded my Myspace activity. And these days, Myspace is in the crapper again, introducing a YouTube player that plays songs that have no relationship to the ones you choose. It has ceased to be a viable platform despite a very good interface and music library at the time of its second coming. After epic fails on the part of Myspace to play the correct music, I gave up on it, and I haven’t been back for a long time.
Google Plus never did a thing for me, and now I see from the Quartz article that Google is changing its narrative again.
â€˜For us, Google Plus was always two things, a stream and a social layer. The stream has a passionate community of users, but the second goal was larger for us. Weâ€™re at a point where things like photos and communications are very important, weâ€™re reorganizing around that. Hangouts will still exist,’ said Android boss Sundar Pichai.
Apparently it was meant to be a “social layer” from the start. You could argue that this isn’t entirely inaccurate, if you read Google’s launch blog post about Plus. However, there’s every sign it was meant to be a Facebook rival, and that’s what the tech press took from Google at the time. It was even called ‘Googbook’ internally. It was just like Microsoft Internet Explorer, trying to take on Netscape. Except Internet Explorer actually did much better in getting market share.
The failure of Plusâ€”sure, I could be premature, because Quartz‘s article is careful not to make this a dead certâ€”cements Gordon Kelly’s view that Google and Microsoft have swapped places to some extent. Microsoft is acting like an upstart, while Google is defending old businesses, resting on its laurels. Kelly also says:
Googleâ€™s pillars of ads and search have become its Windows and Office. Both are being chipped away by more targeted advertising within social media and the compartmentalisation of an apps-based world. Your details and desires are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram more than in your Google search requests and we increasingly go to specific apps (eg weather) rather than web searching for it.
The knock-on effect: Adsense is declining and Googleâ€™s search market share is currently at its lowest point in seven years. Like Microsoft had done with Windows and Office, Google understandably still tightly holds onto the duo as its primary revenue pillars but the future implies only further slow decline with no obvious escape route.
Furthermore Google appears to be making another old Microsoft error: deprioritizing mobile.
The rest of the article makes a good read. If Facebook is becoming a thing of the past, and Google is rethinking Plus, then the latter half of the decade could be very interesting in terms of what new websites might take up our time.
I’ve gone into the reasons I support â€™net neutrality elsewhere, but it was nice to hear about this on the wireless:
even though we still don’t know the specifics, as the FCC has kept this to itself for now. (We do know that Google has written a letter to the FCC, and that ‘an entire core part of the document was removed with respect to broadband subscriber access service,’ according to dissenting commissioner Ajit Pai.)
While I knew Comcast had spent tens of crore lobbying against â€™net neutrality, the rest may surprise you. According to SumofUs.org (emphasis added):
Just six months ago, we were facing staggering odds. Big corporations like US cable TV giant Comcast had spent more than $750 million lobbying for a corporate-controlled Internet. Google, the biggest lobby in the industry, was refusing to speak up. The FCC chair Tom Wheeler, a former Big Cable lobbyist, was hostile to Net Neutrality.
You’d think that Google would want to keep its squeaky-clean good-guy image up, but not speaking up seems to support Julian Assange’s allegations that the firm is a â€˜privatized NSAâ€™, becoming increasingly militarized. Gordon Kelly in Forbes goes so far as saying that Microsoft and Google have swapped places, with Google now the old-school establishment firm trying to defend the good old days.
This highlights even more the importance to keep the â€™net neutral, away from some of these larger firms whose mandate is, at best, uncertain and, at worst, unethical. When you think about innovations, including some of the websites we use today regularly, many were started by the little guy, and I’d like to see more of what independent minds come up with. (Facebook was one; Duck Duck Go was another.) Keeping the internet neutral in the US for all playersâ€”and that includes New Zealanders selling their wares thereâ€”is a good thing.
And if you needed a reminder, here is perhaps the most widely seen argument for â€™net neutrality of them all in 2014:
During the six hours wasted with Ubuntu today (13 would no longer upgrade, so I removed it and decided to start afresh with 14â€”big mistake, since it would not let me use the same hard drive), I had to open up my five-year-old Windows Vista laptop and upgrade my Firefox. After all, what were the odds that Mozilla would cock up its flagship browser on two OSs? After all, it’s fine on Mac OS X and Linux.
As it turns out, pretty high. Just as in Windows 7, Firefox for Windows Vista displays no text. And unlike Windows 7, which was solved by switching on hardware acceleration, Windows Vista proved a bit of a bugger to fix.
During the months where I was trouble-shooting, and after my last post, one of the more knowledgeable Mozilla volunteers admitted that there is a fault with the Cairo rendering engine in Firefox: ‘This means that (at least in your case) the issue is most likely specific to the cairo drawing backend. Good to know, thanks.’
It is still definitely related to the 2011 bug I filed where PostScript Type 1 fonts were incompatible with Firefox due to something breaking that time.
Firefox for Windows Vista’s bug, as far as I can make out, is down to Type 1 fonts being incompatible with the browser, even though they are compatible with nearly everything else on the OS. This is slightly different from the Windows 7 fault, as I still have PostScript Type 1 fonts on that computer, but Firefox simply ignores those when specified in a stylesheet in favour of what it can load under hardware acceleration (usually the default).
Despite my updating some of the system fonts that were particular to my Vista set-up to OpenType (which Firefox might have trouble with sometimes, too), that did not fix it. Firefox requires you to delete fonts off your system.
On some websites, including Facebook, Helvetica is specified before Arial in stylesheets. If your Helvetica (not Neue Helvetica) is PostScript Type 1â€”and it probably would be on a Windows machineâ€”Firefox will detect it, and return blank spaces.
This is still a daft state of affairs with Cairo. Here’s how (to my very basic layman’s mind, and obviously to the minds of everyone at Adobe and a bunch of other places) how a program should deal with fonts:
* Is it installed on the system? Yes.
* Use it.
Firefox seems to adopt this approach:
* Is it installed on the system? Yes.
* Let’s ignore the ones our programmers dislike in favour of the ones our programmers like, which would only be certain TrueType fonts, and to heck with the people who have licensed other fonts and installed them in good faith. Let’s punish anyone who decided to carry over older software. Let’s also fail selected OpenType fonts such as the italics in Source Sans Pro for no apparent reason. [PS.: If the first font family is incompatible, let’s display nothing. On a stylesheet, if one does not work, we won’t load the second one, but we will try to load the system font even if that is incompatible, too.]
When it comes to stylesheets, neither OS makes much sense. Normally a program would go through each font specified, and display in the first one available. I don’t understand the rationale but Firefox will skip the ones in the stylesheet even when installed, even when compatible, and opt for system fonts or those specified as defaults in the program.
All of this is counter-intuitive, and if it weren’t for what must be my OCD, I’d never have found out, and have given up to use another browser.
Not that IE11 is much good:
I’m sure this is familiar to anyone who has done web development. Lucire has a new home page and the tests show:
Firefox on Mac, Windows, Ubuntu: OK
Chromium on Windows: OK
IE9 and IE10: OK
Safari on Mac OS X, Iphone and Ipad: OK
Dolphin on Android: OK
A really old version of Seamonkey we had at the office: OK
IE8 on Windows XP: not OK
All the roman text is showing as bold, and as usual this is not a bug that I can find reported (I even looked on Google). I have found bugs about italics showing instead of romans caused by installation issues, which don’t apply here as we are using webfonts. There is another common bug about faux bolds and italics, but I’m having the opposite problem: a true bold showing up where romans should (and bold italic instead of italic).
Annoyingly, this bug may have been with us for over a monthâ€”when we changed our body type.
Given that IE8 was never a good browser to begin with, and anyone who cared about their surfing experiences would not have touched it, it makes me wonder if we should invest any more time trying to get things to work. It does mean that just under a tenth of our readers (or is it just over a fifth? Depends who you want to believe) won’t be able to experience our website the way we intended. I realize older IEs are more commonplace in China but our readership this year in the Middle Kingdom had dipped.
The good news, in some ways, is Microsoft’s announcement that it will cease support for the venerable XP platform in 2014. If trends continue based on the first set of stats, the well obsolete IE8 should dip below the five per cent mark this coming year.
It’s a toss-up between leaving it and fixing it, given that we don’t know why IE8 is misinterpreting the linked fonts (theory: are the character sets of the roman and italic too large for it to handle?). If we knew, then fixing things would be a no-brainer. (Clues are welcome!)
Con Carlyon inspired this post today. He’s kept an eye on the best browser and forwarded me a test from TechCrunch where Firefox, Chrome, IE9 and Opera 11 are pitted against one another. The victors are Firefox and Chrome.
My needs are quite different from most people. For starters, the number-one criterion for me on any browser is decent typography. Firefox has been, at least since v. 3, the most typographically aware browser, picking up the correct typefaces from stylesheets, and providing access to all installed fonts on a system through its menu.
I had done these tests before, but I thought it was about time I revisited the main four browsers and their typographic capability. These were all done on the same machine, and the full screen shots are available if anyone wants to see them. Firefox and IE9 were already on my system but were checked to be current and up to date. Chrome and Opera were downloaded today (February 23, 2012).
This is not a test about Java or overall speed, just typography. But I would have to give the speed crown to Chromeâ€”bearing in mind that my Firefox is full of extensions and add-ons.
The Lucire home page
Not the latest HTML, but there is a fairly standard stylesheet. Here is how the four browsers performed.
I am used to this, so I don’t see anything unusual. Firefox is my browser of choice (though I have since tried Waterfox 64-bit, and noticed no speed difference). It picks up the web font (Fiduci, in the headline), kerns (see We in Week) and the text font, Dante, is installed on this machine. It’s the ﬁrst type family speciﬁed in the stylesheet.
Kerning: 1. Font ﬁdelity: 1.
Not much difference on the left-hand side. However, Chrome fails to pick up Dante, even though it’s installed. It’s opted for Monotype Garamond for the body text. It’s the eighth typeface family speciﬁed in the stylesheetâ€”an unusual choice. At least two of the other typeface families preceding Garamond are installed on this machine.
Kerning: 1. Font ﬁdelity: 0.
Microsoft Internet Explorer 9
Awful. IE9â€™s bugs have already been documented on this blog, and it is very limited on which fonts it allows you to access in its menu (TTFs only). There is no kerning, and Monotype Garamond, again, has been chosen as the text font. There were some even less attractive choices on the home page that I didn’t take a screen shot of.
Kerning: 0. Font ﬁdelity: 0.
Interestingly, Fiduci is picked up for the headlines and Dante for the text. But a bug that Firefox had back in v. 2 in 2006, and which I ﬁled with the makers of Opera in 2010, remains present. Opera fails to display characters above ASCII 128 properly, and when it hits a ligature, it will change the following characters to a different typeface, in this case, Times. No kerning, either.
Kerning: 0. Font ﬁdelity: 0Â·5.
A Lucire news page
Much the same comments apply from the above, but it gave me conﬁrmation of each browser’s issues.
The ﬁrst choices in each CSS spec are picked up.
Instead of the Lucire typeface in the central column, Chrome speciﬁes Verdana, the sixth typeface family for the spec.
Microsoft Internet Explorer 9
Same as Chrome, except without the kerning.
Correct typefaces, but for the changing fonts in the middle of the line.
If I really didn’t care about typeâ€”and most people don’tâ€”I would have a hard time choosing between Chrome and Firefox. On this test alone, Chrome was the fastestâ€”but I suspect a Firefox without add-ons would be comparable. But once you factor in type, Chrome makes some very odd decisions, as does IE9, about which fonts it chooses from the installed base. It doesn’t, consistently, pick the ﬁrst oneâ€”and previous versions did.
Interestingly, Chrome now displays Facebook in Verdana. When I ﬁrst encountered it, it displayed Facebook in our in-house Lucire 1, which we had programmed to substitute for Arial on our older machines.
So somewhere along the line, someone changed the way Chrome picked fonts, but having something installed is no longer a guarantee it will even show up on Google’s browser. That can’t be good for corporate environments where companies have paid a site- or company-wide licence to have the correct fonts installed. But I’m glad Chrome now uses the kerning pair data in fonts, and that’s made a positive difference to legibility.
IE9 is simply terrible. It made the same wrong calls as Chrome, but, to make things worse, it won’t even use the kerning data. Of the four tested, it comes dead last.
Opera is not far ahead, mind, at least based on the arbitrary point scale I assigned above. While it picks up the correct typefaces, some might think its irritating habit of changing fonts mid-line to be more annoying. It could well be, as this does nothing for reading. Imagine every quotation mark and every word with a ligature changingâ€”for no apparent reason. As mentioned, this bug was in Firefox in 2006, and Opera knows about it, but evidently Opera users are not displeased with the glitch and it remains unﬁxed.
Typographically, Firefox 10.0.2 is the victorâ€”and that’s no surprise. When I discovered bugs in Firefox 4, I was met with professional developers on the forums who actually understood type and the niceties behind the OpenType spec. Those are details some professional typeface designers don’t know. It looks I won’t be changing browsers any time soon.
A ﬁnal postscript on my IE9 blank-window bug, again solved, as so many technological matters are here, by not following the advice of a self-proclaimed “expert”. Hayton at the McAfee forumsâ€”which seem to be populated with polite peopleâ€”mentioned the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer earlier today. This checks for what updates are missing, etc. As I was told that my missing Windows 7 updates were a direct cause of my ‘injudicious’ use of System Restore by the man from Microsoftâ€”who then proceeded to say that the only way to ﬁx my blank-window issue was to format my hard driveâ€”I wanted to conﬁrm that he was wrong about everything.
You see, he was wrong about the cause of the bug. He missed the basic fact that before my System Restore, IE9 was already not working. And I suspected he was wrong about the updates, since they should have occurred before the System Restore.
This is what you get with some of these experts: they’re never right.
And lo and behold, what did I discover?
Just as I expected: Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer reported that all my updates were up to date and I wasn’t missing a thing.
Lesson: believe polite people. Disbelieve snarky people. Especially if they tell you to format your hard drive.
Speaking of experts, Conrad Johnston found gold today for our Font Police site. In Whitby, there are some Experts in propertyâ€”that’s right, with a capital E. If you’ve been to our Font Police site before, you’ve never seen anything this bad yet. One faÃ§ade, countless offencesâ€”it’s the funniest one we’ve ever had.
A friend had his Gmail hacked, and, much like an Atlantic article I read in the print edition a few months ago, the hackers deleted his entire mailbox. Google says these hacks only happen a few thousand times daily.
I’m concerned for him because he has to deal with the Google forums, and we all know how unhelpful and obstructive they can be.
I’ve never trusted Gmail, or any web-based email system, “on the cloud”. I’ve always kept POP3 archives and the worst thing that might happen is that some of the older CDs and DVDs might be less reliable. But this event actually brings to mind something else that has concerned me about my method: the email client.
I’ve used Eudora since the 1990s. I started with v. 1.2, and for years, my standard client was 4.3. I happily paid for a licence to get the pro version, and used 4.3 till it no longer worked with the settings on our server. That meant I stayed with one email client from 1999 to 2008. I was then forced to upgrade to 7.1, and I have used that since.
Qualcomm no longer makes Eudora, and for the last half-decade or so, there have been various â€œEudorized” versions of Mozilla Thunderbird. That won’t ﬂy with me, because my demand is actually very simple, but it is going completely unmet: I want an email program that has a vertically tiled inbox and outbox. For the majority of my working life, I have used this method as a to-do list of sorts, and I can see at a glance who I have to deal with.
The sad thing is that the three-window interface has become a standard for email programs, but this does not work for me. I don’t want an email program that syncs with calendars or creates automatic Dropbox links. I just want one that works, where I can have ﬁlters and multiple accounts, and where I can have inbox and outbox side by side. This should be, I thought, a relatively simple request, especially as Eudora was, at one point, considerably more popular than it is today.
Above: Eudora 7.1, with an inbox on the left and an outbox on the right. Does anyone else make an email program that does this?
This is the story of many industries, where inferior norms become the standard. As I typed this, Preston Tucker came to mind: a pioneer who created a safe, fast and aerodynamic car with fuel injection, decades before Detroit could manage the same. But the big players won out and Tucker died a broken man. Americans, and indeed the rest of the world, made do with the same old junk till they were forced to innovate and use ideas that Tucker wanted to mainstream in the 1950s. Similarly, I laugh when people talk about the novelty of hybrids, when you consider how prevalent dual-fuel natural gasâ€“petrol cars were in New Zealand 30 years ago.
In the tech world, I happily usedâ€”and still useâ€”WordPerfect. Why? It works. And it still works considerably better than its competition. Even a 20-year-old version will blow modern word processors away in terms of sheer functionality and ease of use, assuming you could install it. The latest versions are buggier because of the small user base and the absence of Unicode compatibility. But I persevere with it because, at the end of the day, these programs are tools, and I get my work done far more quickly with WordPerfect. I might be the one person on the planet who does not know how to use Word.
I can’t get my head around Word. With WordPerfect, if I set margins and font, it stays that way till I tell it otherwise. Word and its later competitors have a habit of needing styles set, and try to be too clever for their own good. It might tab paragraphs automaticallyâ€”even when you don’t want it to. It might change margins and fonts on me because it can. And Word’s footnote and endnote creation is still light years behind what WordPerfect could do in 1991.
But Word is the standard because Microsoft gave it away in the 1990s. When OpenOfﬁce and Libre Ofﬁce came out, it aped the standard, right down to the crazy way it handled styles. Why? By all means, create versions which would ease the transition, but if you’re to adopt any method, why not start with the best? Word, for years, had WordPerfect transitional settings, to steal customers from the market leader. Before Word became a freebie, friends who I converted to WordPerfect were still thanking me profusely for making their lives easier. It would seem logical for these open-source programs to go with a better underlying technology.
I have subbed with Word, and regularly do, because most of our team write using it. By the end of the piece I will have noticed the original writer adopt three styles, because Word has done it that way. My editing will have caused another three or more stylistic changes. It is a mess by the time I save it, with my only solace being that no member of the public ever sees it in that state.
When I open a Word ﬁle in WordPerfect, which is what I have to do now with the DOCX format, I see all the superﬁuous code (through Reveal Codesâ€”for Dreamweaver users, it’s not unlike HTML source) and it answers precisely why the program lacks any logic. Styles upon styles upon styles. Even Dreamweaver users who have ever had to deal with a Word-created HTML ﬁle post-Word 2000 know exactly what I mean. Word is an ineﬁcient program, in every respect of the adjective.
Above: This is about as simple a document as you can get and the ﬁrst I found with public information: one set only in Courier, 14 pt. WordPerfect shows that Word, on which the document was originally prepared, has still inserted Times New Roman font-change codes on every blank lineâ€”for no reason whatsoever. This is one of the reasons I dislike Microsoft Word. Had the document been prepared on WordPerfect, every incidence of the Times New Roman code would not have been present.
I don’t know much about programming, but it seems, from every article I have read about these open suites, the new programs are playing the anti-Tucker game, mostly unconsciously, since the developers I have met are usually generous idealists. Let’s stick with this less productive, less logical method of word processing, because that is where the market is. But with fonts and more complex layouts now what people need, I would have thought that the methods employed by old computerized typesetting machinesâ€”which used codes similar to WordPerfectâ€”would have been a more logical start for a word processing program.
This isn’t an ad for WordPerfect. I simply ask for utility and logic. It doesn’t have to have WordPerfect code. It just needs to be a word processor that does what I tell it to do. Set font, stays in that font. Set margins, stays with those margins. Is this too big an ask? Wouldn’t this save time, which is the whole idea of technology? Why should we become slaves to software, when we created it to be our slave?
Email clients, then, I ﬁnd, follow much the same pattern. When I chose Eudora, I have a vague recollection that the New Zealand competitor, Pegasus, was structured in much the same way. The tiled inbox and outbox was a norm, and it worked. People rejoiced.
Then, Microsoft decided it would adopt the present three-window standard in Outlook, and it gave away Outlook. I resisted it from the get-go: who wants to click just to see their outbox? Isn’t that an extra step? Why can’t I see my lists of emails at a glance? For someone who gets several hundred messages a day, I need to see more than ten. I would rather see 25 or more. And my outbox would have action items, things I had promised people I would do. So I stuck with Eudora.
It’s not about being in Luddite position. It is going back to basics and saying: what would improve people’s workﬂow? Forcing them to click to see something or just showing it? (Twitter UI designers, take note.) Is the three-window convention the best way to use that on-screen real estate?
It seems that Thunderbird, the open-source rival, again missed an opportunity by using an inferior convention as its base. By all means, ape Outlook, to ease a transition. But give the publicâ€”you are, after all, on the 11th version nowâ€”a chance to move the windows as we see ﬁt. Computers are powerful enough now so it must be possible. It was in the 1990s.
Let those who love the three-window convention stick with it, but let the rest of us move those windows to our heart’s content, and make life as easy as possible.
The aim, therefore, is to gather as much success in the next decade before these programs become obsolete, by which time I should either have (a) hired extra folks to take care of these tasks exclusively or (b) pushed for these features in the open-source programmes.
Therefore, making leaps ahead is a good thing, but will people do it? This is always the gamble with predicting future needs: will we go so far that we still miss the boat? We ﬁred but the missile landed in front of her bow.
But I’m not even talking about creating something that doesn’t exist yet. I’m talking about existing methods, things that have been around for ages, waiting to be rediscovered. Resizing and detaching windows is a standard feature in so many programs. All it takes is being able to grab this stuff from historyâ€”a lesson that could well apply to organization memory as well. History has already told us, when the playing ﬁeld was level, which methods were superior, and what people opted for when confronted with having to spend their own money on software. Before their giveaway periods, the choices were never Word or Outlook.
The open-source movement, in my opinion, has a wonderful opportunity ahead of it for creating a new round of ofﬁce efﬁciency.
To think, if I actually followed the advice of the Microsoft expert, I would still have a non-functioning Internet Explorer 9 that displayed blank pages. Rule no. 1: when it comes to computing, never follow the advice of a self-righteous expert. An everyday user who found out things the hard way, sure. An expert who has kept an open mind and wants to dig with you, you can probably trust. But an out-of-the-box certiﬁed expert who believes in the superiority of a product as though it were a cult, probably not. No more than you should believe members of cults.
IE9 has never worked on the ﬁrst installation of any computer I own. But, earlier this week, it worked on my Vista laptop, after blank screens since March 2011. This was curious to me, since the blank screen problem is fairly common on the â€™net, just that Microsoft refuses to acknowledge its existence. If the standard replies do not work, the solution is to format your hard drive.
That already shed doubt on the Microsoft “expert” advice I had, beyond the arguments I made in my last blog post. Obviously, for Vista, Microsoft knew there was a problem and ﬁxed it between March 2011 and February 2012. It only took them 11 months.
As a failing IE9 also takes out Microsoft Gadgets and McAfee Internet Security, by showing blank screens on those, too, it’s a pretty serious matter.
Microsoft’s “expert” had told me that my use (or any use?) of System Restore was ‘injudicious’, when with hindsight it appears to have been the most sensible thing I could have done, given that IE9 also took out Firefox on ﬁrst installation on this machine. This so-called standard installation had had effects far beyond the norm, and had I removed only IE9 the “proper” way, there was no guarantee that Firefox would have returned to normal.
Yesterday, I ventured on to my laptop to see if McAfee would run. Sure enough, it displayed. But also interestingly, it displayed in Arial Narrowâ€”a font family I know we did not have.
Microsoft had included Arial Narrow in one of its updates and that was the one key to allowing IE9 to function.
People who know me, and have heard my speeches, know that the ﬁrst thing I do, after installing updates and anti-virus, is see to the ugly default fonts. We have numerous licences for Helvetica, and since Arial was designed to supplant a superior design, we install Helvetica. We remove the font substitute line in the Windows registry. And we delete Arial.
This has been the practice for years, certainly since Windows XP, and we ensure every Mac we use remains Arial-free, too.
It has never presented a problem at any level.
Windows 7 doesn’t like Arial being deleted, but I programmed in the usual font substitutes, took out ‘Helvetica=Arial’ (in typographic terms, this is like saying ‘Grace Kelly=Katie Price’) and ensured the four main Arial fonts could not be found by the system on start-up.
Of course, every program in the world works with these settings. Except IE9 and anything that uses IE9 to render its pages.
I still doggedly refuse to have Arial on any of our computers because of its poor design. This would be like having Prince William marry Britney Spears and ensuring her future position as Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britney and Northern Ireland. There are just some things that aren’t done.
So we found a version of Helvetica, one that had been superseded that was not being used on any machine, and renamed it. We saved each of the four variants as an OTF, an OpenType, PostScript-ﬂavoured font. And it worked.
Above: IE9 doesn’t actually need Arial. It just likes knowing it’s there. This is called “security blanket programming”.
Here’s the great irony. IE9 is still one of the worst browsers typographically, even worse than Opera 11. Even though Windows Vista and 7 support PostScript, TrueType and OpenType fonts natively, IE9 doesn’t show anything but TTFs in its font menus (left). Short of linking your own fontsâ€”and it messes up there as wellâ€”the only ones that will ever display are the TTFs you have installed. On the actual pages, a lot of fonts that you know are installed on your machine won’t show in IE9. If you bought licences, too bad.
Therefore, Arial is actually not needed by IE9: it just likes knowing it’s there, as a security blanket.
I think this illogical state of affairs shows how poor the product remains. Those who are less typographically inclined might not care, and look at things like speed (frankly, I see little differenceâ€”and if anything, it seems slower than Firefox), but since every other program on the planet works quite happily without Arial, my opinion is that Microsoft messed up. IE9 noticeably slows down Photoshop and a few other programs, which begs the question: beyond making sure your Microsoft Gadgets and McAfee work, why bother?
Fellow computer users: don’t format your hard drive. Only a quitter would do that.
On a related note, Steve Matteson’s Liberation Sans (above) shows how it should be done. Steve was faced with the same briefâ€”make a sans serif with the same metrics as Helveticaâ€”and designed something quite beautiful that came as an Ubuntu 10 default. It’s very well hinted, too. You can download it here.