Tahoma is another TrueType font and one that most designers are pretty familiar with. Finding the perfect font for any given project is a challenge for both professional designers with years of experience and newbies. The font that one person loves, another will hate.

Still, fonts have a personality all their own. Each one has a tone to it and is known for being used in particular situations. Tahoma is one of those that works well both in headlines and in smaller sizes within blocks of text because it adapts so easily to different sizes. It also, like many digital fonts today, was created specifically for use with screens and is highly adaptive to different screen sizes, looking equally crisp on both a mobile device and a larger personal PC.

Origin

Tahoma was created by Matthew Carter for Microsoft Corporation. Carter’s name is one you might recognize. He is a 79-year-old British type designer who is known for creating Verdana, Georgia, Bell Centennial, Miller and Galliard fonts. He also co-founded Bitstream — one of the first companies to begin selling fonts online. It is obvious that when it comes to fonts, Carter has been and is a visionary.

Carter began designing fonts in the early 1960s. When he started, he used physical type or photo type-settings, but he has morphed over the years into digital font design. He is skilled in custom lettering, and these skills all come into play with typefaces such as Tahoma. You can see the influence of physical type in his designs, but he also seems to have an intrinsic understanding of how digital types work.

Tahoma was first released with Windows 95. The font was also included in later Office versions — Office 97, 2000 and XP. This made it pretty common over the years, but it still isn’t one of the most popular typefaces out there.

The Mechanics of Tahoma

Tahoma has been compared to Verdana, likely because Carter designed both, and the two are somewhat similar in appearance. However, Tahoma has a thinner body than Verdana does. In addition, the letters are spaced much closer together. This gives Tahoma a more slender overall width than Verdana.

Carter has stated that he designed Tahoma to serve as a bitmap font, but then he wrapped TrueType outlines around the bitmaps he’d created. This is a unique way to create a font and thus makes Tahoma unique among them. Designing in this manner makes Tahoma perfectly suited for screen use.

Tahoma is considered a humanist sans-serif typeface. The name comes from the iconic Washington stratovolcano, Mount Rainier, which is known as Mount Tahoma to the area’s Native Americans. In bold, Tahoma is built on a double pixel width, making it heavy in weight. The uppercase “i” is discernable from the lowercase “L,” which means that the font works particularly well in technical books and journals where letters and abbreviations are often used or where periodic table elements might be listed.

What Does the Font Imply?

Tahoma has an almost formal feel to it, which might explain why technical publications love it. Unlike Verdana, where the wider typeface sometimes creates issues, Tahoma is narrower and rarely has these same problems. Similar to Verdana, though, if the person does not have the font installed on their computer, it can look odd on the screen. However, since Tahoma was released with various versions of Windows and Microsoft products, most users have this font already installed.

The font is very readable on screens of varying sizes — since it was designed for that exact purpose. Because of this, it is a solid choice for any type of online design work from headlines to logos to blocks of text. The font can also be rotated and sized to scale, so it is very adaptable, too.

When it comes to this font, there doesn’t seem to be any strong emotions one way or the other, either. Tahoma isn’t hated like Comic Sans is.

Where It’s Commonly Found/Used

Tahoma was used in the default screen for several versions of windows (2000, XP) and has been used for Sega’s Dreamcast. People often use it in place of Arial in design.

In some fonts, the lowercase “L” and the uppercase “I” look exactly the same. So it is hard to tell them apart. With Tahoma, it is easy to spot the difference. If you’re writing technical or scientific publications and need to add abbreviations for the elements or some other formula-type listing, Tahoma works well to allow the reader to decipher the exact letters being shared.

What Should It Be Used As

Tahoma works well for anything that will appear on a screen. It’s ideal for eBook versions of technical and scientific books, magazines and journals.

The font works equally well as a headline — where it will appear bolder and a bit wider set — or as a body text font. It adapts well to these different sizes, so the uses are limitless for Tahoma.

Tahoma is one of those typefaces that is often overlooked. Imagine that you are a designer or even a layperson scrolling through a long list of font options. Tahoma appears pretty far down alphabetically and is under more common fonts, such as Arial and Times New Roman.

Because of this, users don’t always make it down the list to try out this versatile font. If you’ve overlooked Tahoma up ‘til now, it might be time to give it a second look for your design needs.

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