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The Case of the Missing Microsoft Fonts

Peter wrote in this morning saying that Microsoft was no longer offering their core font pack (you know, Arial, Verdana, Georgia, etc.) for download. Thinking he was a dirty, rotten liar and scoundrel for saying so, I checked the download page myself. They’re gone: “Web fonts program discontinued. Microsoft’s TrueType core fonts for the Web are no longer available for download from” What’s going on here?

Whatever the reason, MS makes up for the loss by offering a darn good typography weblog. From it I’ve learned that there’s a new edition of the essential Stop Stealing Sheep and Find Out How Type Works, Andy Crewdson (late of Lines and Splines) is back writing longer pieces about typography on the Web at New Series, and, a great typography resource/store, gets a redesign.

Reader comments

tobiasAug 13, 2002 at 9:26AM

You should check out - probably the best design/type site online - worth a visit every day. And post!

Christopher WalkerAug 13, 2002 at 9:27AM

That's strange. More strange: if you go to the bottom of the typography weblog at the Microsoft site, there is a section called "Hot links to hot sites" (well, it looks like a section header, but it isn't really), and just below that a link to the core fonts. That link then goes to the "Discontinued" page - which is very silly.

Why link to a page if it's discontinued? If it was from one site to another, then that's fair enough, but within the same site? And Microsoft? Talk about left hand not telling the right.

merlinAug 13, 2002 at 9:52AM

This may be unrelated, but I've read where Apple says OS X ships with (what they claim is) over $1000 worth of fonts.

I wonder if this discontinuation might be a way to "add value" to the OSs that currently ship with MS fonts installed (Windows XP being the obvious example).

Man, talk about false scarcity.

jkottkeAug 13, 2002 at 10:20AM

This thread on MeFi has stolen this discussion away.

APAug 13, 2002 at 3:50PM

this is where weblogs kind of suck. why has microsoft stopped offering them? if we had journalists, someone could ring them and find out. but the way of the weblog is the way of blind speculation.


Steven GarrityAug 13, 2002 at 4:11PM

Good point AP - although, I see no reason why one of us can't contact Microsoft. I've emailed their typography group (see contact info) - I'll post here if/when I get a response.

MorrisAug 13, 2002 at 4:32PM

Microsoft's freely available fonts were a great resource to many. While not targeted at designers, their typography section was a rarity on the web in that it provided both high quality and freely available downloads. In contrast to the dead links, garbled licenses, poor organization, home-brewed payment schemes, and generally questionable quality of the majority of font websites, it was a beacon of stability and reliability. Users of any operating system were able to furnish their system with some of the most standard and highest quality TrueType fonts available. Unfortunately, this was it's downfall. Because nearly all their fonts came bundled with most Microsoft products, the prime beneficiaries of the service were not users of Microsoft products. In fact, the service was probably most beneficial to *nix users, who would often otherwise lack quality TrueType fonts.

Thus, I morn the loss of such a great topographic website. May another someday take it's place.

AndrewAug 13, 2002 at 8:16PM

Nice page, but jeez the clip-art they used sucks.

Steven GarrityAug 13, 2002 at 8:30PM

I wrote to the address listed on the Microsoft Typography contact page and received a response pointing me to a post on typographica that includes a response from a Microsoft spokesperson.

CymenAug 13, 2002 at 8:31PM

There have been various scripts written for certain *nix operating systems that go out and grab the .zip files from Microsoft's Font page and install them on the *nix system. Where all of the fonts available on the page included with Windows ME, XP, and 2000? Perhaps Microsoft realized the only way to cut the *nix people out was to stop hosting the font files.

I hope we get to the bottom of this!

Moises KirschAug 14, 2002 at 7:32AM

Microsoft is one of the main supporters of the OpenType Techonoly wich "is the unification of the two most powerful and widely used font formats today, PostScript and TrueType".

Probably they removed these fonts to support OpenType and maybe at some point they will put new versions.

As far as I know you may not download the fonts only, but if you download explorer, or any other free application from Microsoft they are included for free.

xianAug 14, 2002 at 11:36AM

Glad you mentioned "Stop Stealing Sheep," a classic that belongs in every designer's library. I'm no designer, but I've always loved type (since my father, a printing salesman, brought home books on typography and plenty of dummy/samples to scribble in when I was small), and that brief little book helped me understand how type works a lot better.

The explanation for the title along is worth the price of admission, especially given all the wide-letterspaced designs that show up in text-heavy media like the web.

Simon WillisonAug 14, 2002 at 1:04PM have found a link to an FTP site where you can still download the fonts.

MichelleAug 14, 2002 at 2:18PM

Christopher Walker: you don't spend much time at Microsoft's little corner of the web, do you? No? Lucky you!

That sort of thing is rampant on their site/s, and it's why I dread coming up with a technical question about a Microsoft product that will require a frustrating troll through their support pages. You'd think they could afford to invest in a couple of copies of Linkbot or similar, but since not.. vive linkrot!

LodeJul 27, 2003 at 7:02PM

Sadly for Microsoft, the license that came with the fonts allowed for them to be distributed provided the package was not changed... So you can find them at this site, complete with an easy-to-follow guide to create an RPM (package to install on RedHat-based linux systems).

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.