Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 158 Stack Exchange communities.

What is meta?
Here's how it works:
  1. Any Stack Exchange user can ask a question
  2. The community provides support, votes on ideas, and reports bugs
  3. Your voice helps shape the way Stack Exchange operates

The title of this question is:

Title font makes I and l indistinct

Title font makes I and l indistinct

The font used for question titles makes uppercase 'i' and lowercase 'L' (I and l) visually identical, or nearly so. (I see on close inspection that there's a very small hook at the bottom of the lowercase l, but if the actual letter is uppercase I it's hard to tell that it's not supposed to be l.)

(At least in my browser, the variable-width font has the same problem, but the fixed-width code font does not.)

Usually this doesn't make much difference, but for this question it caused one person to misunderstand the question the difference could be significant. (On re-reading the person's (now deleted) answer, he didn't confuse I and l; he assumed that I was supposed to be i, which isn't related to the font after all.)

I see this on Windows 7 using Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer.

Can something be done about this?

(Somehow I suspect that any solution won't work everywhere and/or will annoy a lot of people, but I thought I'd bring it up anyway.)

Related (but not the same): code font doesn't distinguish 1 and l

Obligatory screen capture with freehand circles:

Screen capture of this very question

share|improve this question
Shhhhhhhhh! Don't call attention to the "probIem" workaround! – Pops Aug 9 '12 at 20:30
SO/MSO uses Trebuchet MS for question titles, whose lowercase L has a tail. It's pretty easy to spot, at least for me. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Aug 9 '12 at 20:31
@BoltClock'saUnicorn: The tail on the l is visible, but it's easy to think that an I is really a tailless l if you don't know that l has a tail. – Keith Thompson Aug 9 '12 at 20:33
Oh, the Illiterates! – toscho Aug 10 '12 at 6:40

There aren't very many "pretty" sans-serif fonts around that solve this better than the current one. In fact, many of them are a lot worse, believe it or not. Have a look at the current font-stack for titles, which handle this problem progressively worse:

Trebuchet MS,Liberation Sans,DejaVu Sans,sans-serif

I still gave the Question a +1, because this kind of distinction is rather important, especially on a programming forum like SO. However, next to choosing a programming font I think the only two available options are:

  1. Stick with the current font.
  2. Move to a serif font.

The latter may end up something like this:

Title font in Comic Sans

But that may end up getting bunnies killed:

Bunny-kills for using comic sans

Bottom line: +1, good issue, but "no action required" IMO.

share|improve this answer
Woo QC ref woo! (You can vote for any reason or no reason at all, right? Yes? Good.) – Pops Aug 9 '12 at 21:28
Actually, I think Comic Sans is even worse: an isolated l could much easier be taken for an upper case I (if such I is not also used in the same title) than the current Trebuchet does. – Arjan Aug 9 '12 at 21:59
It looks like what we really need is a variable-width programmer's font. Unfortunately, we also need to use a font that actually exists. (Anybody interested in creating one?) – Keith Thompson Aug 10 '12 at 5:57
@KeithThompson hehe good idea. We could just programmatically chop off all-but-one-pixel of whitespace on the sides of all Consolas glyphs, but then we'll all probably suffer from this. – Jeroen Aug 10 '12 at 7:27
@Jeroen: It's a bit scary that I knew what that link was before I opened it. – Keith Thompson Aug 10 '12 at 8:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .