Doing IT and programming for a living means that I look at a lot of monospaced text. Recently I decided to look for a font to replace the trusty Bitstream Vera Mono that I have been using for several years. I found the humanist sans-serif Inconsolata font by Raph Levien, which had been recommended by several programmers.
Inconsolata is heavily influenced by Luc(as) de Groot’s Consolas — a lovely but unfree, closed source font for Microsoft. Inconsolata is released under a free and open source licence. So you can use, study, change and share it.
Monospaced fonts do not have to suck
On the Inconsolata font page, Raph outlines his motivation for making the font saying that de Groot’s work on Consolas and TheSansMono demonstrated to him that
monospaced fonts do not have to suck.
He goes on to talk a bit more about his influences, which include Adrian Frutiger’s Avenir and Morris Fuller Benton’s Franklin Gothic
The humanist lines give Inconsolata a good amount of personality without overdoing it. That is critical for a font I am going to need to spend a fair percentage of my day staring at.
One of the great things about Inconsolata is the zero. Have a look at Damien Guard’s typography in 8 bits and you will see that all the old 8-bit fonts that I grew up with had a diagonal on the zero. That might seem like an artistic flourish, but being able to distinguish 0s and Os when the surrounding context doesn’t provide enough information to help you reduces the load on your brain. I feel sorry for Scandanavian programmers who have to differentiate O,0 and Ø!
I have switched my email client, terminal and Vim to use Inconsolata and I am enjoying the change.