As I’m sure you know, programming involves spending hours staring at code. This can lead to eye strain, yet many developers don’t think to change their coding font.
Have you noticed that your eyes start to blur after going through hundreds and hundreds of lines of code? Or perhaps you end up with a headache after a day of programming? If so, it might be time you switched to a different font.
Why Switch to a Different Coding Font?
Developer environments and tools don’t always use the best fonts. Although some programmers are fine with their chosen tool’s default font, others can struggle with poor readability and eyestrain.
Although many programming tools allow you to change the font, not all developers think to do this. You might not realize you were using a subpar font until you change over to a better one.
Once you switch to a good font, you will likely notice fewer headaches, less eyestrain, and an improvement in your workflow.
Here are some things to look out for in a good programming font:
- The characters are clear and easy to read.
- There is a clear difference between the letter “O” and zero, as well as the number 1 and lowercase “L”.
- Multiple variations of how to display certain characters, so you are able to customize it to your preference.
What Is a Monospaced Font?
Many programmers prefer monospaced fonts, so I should probably take a moment to explain what those are. Monospaced fonts are those where all or most characters take up the same amount of horizontal space.
You may notice that monospaced fonts tend to add some stylistic touches to some of the characters to make them fit neatly within the same amount of space as all the other characters. For example, the lowercase “i” will often have serifs at the top and bottom to widen it, and the letter “m” will be squashed to fit in.
The reason why monospaced fonts are so popular for programming is that individual characters are vitally important. One incorrect character can mess up your entire code, so it’s important that you can see every character clearly.
Compare this with regular text, where individual letters are not so important as it’s more about the overall meaning of the words and sentences. Thus, monospaced fonts are less common outside of programming.
6 Best Coding Fonts
So, programmers tend to prefer monospaced fonts. But that doesn’t mean any monospaced font will do. Each font is a bit different, so it’s worth looking for one that works well for you.
If you want to explore a wide range of coding fonts and compare them, check out CodingFont. They have 30 different coding fonts you can quickly switch between to see what they look like.
But if you just want a handful of awesome programming fonts to try, below are six of the best I have found.
Fira Code is a monospaced font with a very helpful feature — ligatures. This combines commonly used multi-symbol sequences into single characters, making it quicker for you to scan through it to find specific bits of code.
- Using – and > together results in one arrow symbol.
- Typing <=> results in one two-way arrow symbol.
- Typing \ and / together results in a downward arrow.
This doesn’t actually change the individual characters themselves. It just changes how they are displayed, so they are quicker and easier to read.
In addition to this, you can also fine-tune how the font is displayed to suit your particular preferences.
If this font seems familiar, your eyes are not deceiving you. Since Windows 8 was introduced in 2012, it has been the default font in Notepad.
I must confess, when I was younger, I used to wonder why Notepad used this typewriter-style font that differs from the fonts used in other text editors such as Microsoft Word. Now, in hindsight, it seems obvious that this is because many programmers use Notepad to edit their code.
However, Consolas has proportions closer to normal text than traditional monospaced fonts like Courier, enabling a more comfortable experience when reading through lots of text.
If you like customizing things to suit you, you might want to check out Input. Rather than being one single font, it is a flexible system of fonts intended for programmers. For example, you can choose between monospaced and proportional fonts and decide on your preferred width, weight, and style.
Adding up all the variations available, Input offers as many as 168 individual styles. For some people, this might feel like they are spoilt for choice. But others will welcome the opportunity to fine-tune their programming font so that it suits them perfectly.
The intention behind the DejaVu fonts was to cover the whole Unicode character set entirely. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite achieve that, although they do provide greater character coverage than many other fonts.
DejaVu Sans Mono is no exception to this but is specifically intended for programmers due to its readability and distinguished characters. Due to its free, open-source nature, DejaVu Sans Mono comes bundled with many operating systems, including Linux. So, if you already have this font on your computer or laptop for programming, you might want to try it before you go to the bother of installing another one.
If you use a JetBrains development tool, you may already be familiar with the JetBrains Mono font.
Similar to Fira Code, it comes with many space-saving ligatures. 139 of them, in fact. It also has 8 different weights and is available in 145 languages.
But One feature I particularly like with JetBrains Mono is its increased letter height. Although characters are standard width, lowercase letters are taller. This significantly reduces the length of your lines of code.
Also, oval shapes are slightly more rectangular in appearance, which makes the whole pattern of the text more clear-cut.
If you are not concerned with the length of your lines of code and prefer a wider font, you should check out MonoLisa. It is about 7% wider than most other monospaced fonts.
However, unlike the other fonts on this list, MonoLisa is not free, starting at $59.50 for the Basic version. So, before deciding whether to buy, you might want to take a look at the character set and font playground.
There are many fonts for coding, most of which are monospaced, which means each character has the same width. This makes it easier to read code because individual characters are more critical when coding than when doing other forms of writing.
The best fonts for programming are Fira Code, Consolas, Input, DejaVu Sans Mono, JetBrains Mono, and MonoLisa.
Which Is the Best Coding Font for You?
Everyone is different, so I cannot give a universal answer that will suit everyone. You might need to try all the fonts I mentioned here to see which one you prefer.
However, for your convenience, here is a quick summary of each font:
- Fira Code contains ligatures that combine certain characters to save space.
- Consolas is Microsoft Notepad’s font.
- Input has many options that can be customized to suit you.
- DejaVu Sans Mono provides greater character coverage than other fonts.
- JetBrains Mono has many space-saving ligatures and also has taller lowercase letters.
- MonoLisa is a wider font.
I wish you the best of luck in finding a programming font that suits you.