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When we first announced the plan for our new theming (see post for the gory details) we hadn't fully thought through the implications around fonts. The community kindly pointed out this failure in planning via the answer entitled "Can we at least select our fonts". Special thanks to Adám, Monica, and several other community members who very gently pointed out the oversight and compiled the issues to consider.

New plan is the old plan, mostly

So, we went back and re-evaluated our need to keep a more manageable font stack while keeping those issues in mind. In the end, we realized that our current approach (the one you see on almost every site today) works great. So, we will stick with it.

Themes can specify what elements use serif, sans-serif, or monospace fonts. We believe this approach continues to provide the necessary character-set coverage and a cohesive look while meeting the content needs of the various sites.

Our Stack Overflow font stack is as follows:


Sans-serif: Arial, "Helvetica Neue", Helvetica, sans-serif; Serif: Georgia, Times New Roman, Times, serif; Monospaced: Consolas, Menlo, Monaco, Lucida Console, Liberation Mono, DejaVu Sans Mono, Bitstream Vera Sans Mono, Courier New, monospace, sans-serif


Custom fonts

As mentioned, for most sites this means no change. However, 15 sites use a custom font not included in the Stack Overflow font stack. Even these sites will see a very small difference. A few sites, will see a bigger change since they use a funky little font called for body or navigation (rare.)

Sites that download a custom fonts:

Body font

Navigation font

Sites that have an alternate font stack

Some sites have an alternate font stack and assume/hope you have the font on your machine. The reality is that what people see depends on what is installed on the device. Switching all sites to our Stack Overflow standard font stack (see above) will increase the consistency.

Sites impacted by this change because they use a non-Stack Overflow font stack are:

  • Academia: 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;
  • Area51: Trebuchet MS,Liberation Sans,DejaVu Sans,sans-serif;
  • Ubuntu: Ubuntu, Arial, "libra sans", sans-serif;
  • Bicycles: 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;
  • Blender: 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;
  • Electronics: Verdana, "Bitstream Vera Sans", "DejaVu Sans", Tahoma, Geneva, Arial, Sans-serif
  • Quantum Computing: 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif
  • Sharepoint: 'Segoe UI', Segoe, 'Helvetica Neue', Lucida Grande, Arial, sans-serif;
  • Tex: "Lucida Grande","Lucida Sans Unicode","Lucida Sans",Tahoma,sans-serif;
  • Worldbuilding: 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;

Next steps

Feel free to post an answer below to point out any significant issues with this approach or concerns that you feel aren't taken into consideration. We will consider future improvements that address any existing content needs. For now we will move forward with this plan as we update individual sites' themes; the first of which will be up for review and a round of community feedback here on Meta Stack Exchange soon.

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    Thanks for compiling this information. For all the sites that you don't specifically enumerate, does this mean that what we see now for special characters (Hebrew, Kanji, IPA, etc) is what we'll see going forward, because the font is already there? Or might they still change because of ordering? (The Hebrew on Mi Yodeya is much more readable than the Hebrew on BH; which one will we end up with?) – Monica Cellio Jun 7 '18 at 22:05
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    No support for comic sans :( – Luuklag Jun 13 '18 at 10:21
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    At least some of the sites using a different stack simply have it in a different order: Academia, Bicycles, Blender, Quantum Computing, Worldbuilding. Just noting because they don't make any more assumptions about what's on my system than the SO stack does. – muru Jun 15 '18 at 3:41
  • Also, why is the font stack listing an image? – muru Jun 15 '18 at 3:41
  • @MonicaCellio It looks like Mi Yodeya is using Georgia/Times New Roman and BH Arial, so if Mi Yodeya picks the Serif stack you might be able to keep the better Hebrew font. Less clear (and I'm interested in the answer) on Kanji. I think today it just defaults to the system font, and then it becomes a question on how the Japanese text looks mixed with the English, especially since they're taking away the current Open Sans. Arial and Japanese is an older style, but one modern programs have moved away from because of readability. – Troyen Sep 8 '18 at 0:10
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What about LaTeX integration?

On sites that have heavy use of LaTeX/MathJax for mathematical notation, the body font is generally chosen such that it will harmonize correctly with the mathematics. This is quite important, and if you get it wrong, it can look ugly as hell:

enter image description here

Squint and see if you can pick out which bits are maths. Hint: you can. Other hint: you shouldn't be able to.

Now, I'm not that fussed about which font gets chosen to do the job, and I appreciate that the variability in the math renderer provided by MathJax means that it's a hard problem indeed, but I'm not clear on what's meant to happen on this front from the current announcement, so since we're on a matter-settling mood: what fonts will be used for sites (maths, physics, chemistry, cs, tcs, &c) that have a heavy use of displayed mathematics?

If it's the current font stack that's live right now on Stack Overflow then the result is OK (though not completely brilliant),

enter image description here

If the current candidate is the Open Sans choice that's currently live on CS, then again, it's just about OK, but I'm not a huge fan either:

enter image description here

To my mind, the best achiever with respect to that integration (on the up-to-2017 stack) is the chemistry site, but I don't see Georgia anywhere on the plans you've sketched out.

Anyways, I'll stop rambling and just ask straight up: what are the plans for the font choice on sites with heavy maths use?

  • Georgia is in fact mentioned as the first font to be used (if available) as a serif font. – Just a student Jun 13 '18 at 6:18
  • Duh. Yeah, of course control-F doesn't work on screenshots. – E.P. Jun 13 '18 at 6:54
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I'm only speaking for myself, but I wouldn't mind if the font stack on Christianity.SE changed. Lusitana is not great, the bold is very muddy looking, and is especially poorly hinted in headings:

samples from the Christianity site

Probably a more generic font stack would be fine. But maybe this is something to discuss on the C.SE meta.

Also, if the implication is that the rest of the sites will stay the same, that's quite sad for Biblical Hermeneutics in particular. Don't forget we've been asking for over five years. It would be a huge shame to leave the current font stack when the rest of the theming is getting an overhaul. It seems a little premature to give the post the tag when the sites requesting alternate fonts are left with the generic stacks. :)

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    You will definitely have the choice between serif and sans-serif, which seems to be the issue in that post. Also, we won't want any degradation of the MY.SE site, so I think we can make you happy. – Joe Friend Jun 8 '18 at 0:38
  • As to tagging the post status-completed, the original issue raised wasn't about decorative uses of fonts. It was focused, as is your answer, on content related needs (e.g. character sets). – Joe Friend Jun 8 '18 at 0:39
  • @JoeFriend If the beta sites can switch to a serif stack then that's fantastic! I couldn't see that in the main post, so it's good to have the clarification. – curiousdannii Jun 8 '18 at 0:41
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    The issues with Lusitana on Christianity.SE have been documented on its meta, but perhaps new discussion is needed, to take into account the available options. – Nathaniel is protesting Jun 8 '18 at 1:10
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    I struggle to read questions on C.SE because of that font. Not that I spend a lot of time there, but when I do visit it's not a good visual experience for me. I just figured y'all liked it and, eh, I'm not a stakeholder. – Monica Cellio Jun 8 '18 at 2:06
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On Ask Ubuntu the bar above the “top bar” which links to Community, Juju and suchlike uses the Ubuntu font. This is the same across all the other (non Stack Exchange) sites which have this bar.

Will the font of the bar change (and not be consistent across the Ubuntu network), stay the same (and complicate the font stack) or be removed (possibly breaking workflows and reducing Ubuntu integration)?

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    I'm inclined to drop the bar all together, as mentioned here. Askubuntu is the only place that has this type of bar. It is very inconsistently applied to the Ubuntu sites. It shows some places, not others. It has different contents in different places. – Joe Friend Jun 14 '18 at 19:40

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