Font size

Now this is just a minor issue brought upon by my NaNoWriMo novel not going so well and finding myself easily distracted or prone to procrastination, but every once and a whole I become annoyed with the smaller font size with OS X word processing applications generally.

12pt TNR at 100% looks way smaller than on a Windows machine and I’ve been running Scrivener and Pages at 125% ever since I got my MacBook Pro and the applications. Open Office doesn’t seem to have the same problem. And running it at 150% makes it look just a bit too big and slightly awkward.

Is there anyway to fix this? Perhaps a custom zoom option or a Serif font that looks more naturally large on OS X.

First, comparing font appearance between a mac and win pc is like apple and oranges - it all depends on monitor resolution.

I generally run 125% magnification in Pages, MS Office, Notebook, and some other apps on my macbook pro (17" monitor). Are you saying Open Office is different at 125% on the same mac?

Open Office on the Mac at 100% looks about the same as the font size on the Windows PC.

I know resolution and stuff is a factor but even with a Windows PC at a similarly high resolution, the font isn’t that small as on my Mac. I have read that OS X renders fonts differently, a different resolution for just the fonts.

Do you just use Times New Roman 12pt at 125%?

This is a long, long running difference between the Windows and Macintosh environments. From the beginning, Macs used a resolution of 72 dpi, matching very closely the printing convention of 72 points per inch — yes, I know that before computers it was 72.27 points per inch … who came up with that one? :unamused: When Microsoft finally began to get a handle on windowing systems and “WYSIWYG” — Windows 3, I think — in their usual belief in “Bigger is better” they set the standard resolution as 96 dpi. A one inch box on Windows would be 96 x 96 pixels, on a Mac it would be 72 x 72.

So on a Windows box with the default setting, a 12 point line occupied 96 pixels vertically; on a Mac 72 pixels vertically, so using the same basic screen technology, the Windows one looks much bigger. Result … to many users who’ve always used Windows out of the box, 12 points looks too big for comfort on screen so they use 10 point. Mac users like me get a Windows document in 10 point and it looks too small … except Chinese Windows users tend to go for 10.5 pt, because of Chinese characters.

You, it seems, are used to and like 12 point at Windows pitch, so on a Mac it looks too small for you. But Scrivener to the rescue … set your editing font to say 14 point or even 16 point, and save the 12 point for when you compile.

Or you could switch to another font like Georgia, which definitely looks bigger to me, or you might like to try Gentium — SIL has just launched a new Gentium Plus, though some of the Mac specific features are some way off, apparently — which looks a little bigger, but is more open. And if you’re into wierd and wonderful languages, it is designed to handle non-Roman as well as Roman scripts within the single font, albeit not CKJ systems, I imagine. But complex diacritics and IPA, definitely.

Personally, I really dislike TNR … I have to compile to it, unless I’m producing a PDF, for the benefit of my colleagues who don’t know anything else exists … but for myself, I use Adobe Caslon Pro, which is smaller than TNR, but given my work and the periodic need for IPA, I’m thinking of giving Gentium Plus a try in my editing environment.


I think I might switch to Georgia for now and play around with font sizes and zoom until I’m happy. I don’t seem to have the Gentium fonts.

Yay for something to do in the absence of any motivation to work on my novel.

Gentium: … id=Gentium

Download link in the box on the right.


Edit: it is free, by the way, but being SIL, properly designed.

By the way, I don’t know what others think, but unless you have no specific reason for wanting your documents in the editor to be identical to your compiled version in terms of fonts, sizes etc., my gut feeling suggest using a larger font size rather than using magnification. I don’t know if the latter would have time penalties as a result of needing to calculate display size all the time, but there is another thread about visual degradation in kerning for instance, when using a zoomed size for the editor.

I haven’t yet explored the new approach to compiling to know whether you can preserve all the other aspects of a preset, while switching font and/or size.


14pt Georgia does look pretty fine at 100%. I agree, it’s better than zooming in. Zooming always make it look strange.

Zooming causes other issues too, some of which 2.0 has fixes for, at the slight expense of speed (and they can be disabled): most notably, kerning atrocities and text wobble while typing, at certain zoom settings. Personally I’ve never seen the point of using zoom in Scrivener, what with compile sitting there and all—but I understand many push out text as-is instead of using the reformatter.

I’ll be curious to see how you feel about Georgia after a few days. I often feel that font looks nice for a while, but then find that its heaviness is too fatiguing for extended bulk usage (the Scrivener web site used Georgia for a bit, in an early prototype, and then eventually went back to TNR even though I feel Georgia is a better font—it’s just not as readable in bulk to me—though I did leave it for the titles). Palatino and Calluna are both good serif “classic” fonts in my opinion. They have a wider kerning block and better per-character treatment than TNR (which seems to bunch up distractingly, to my eyes, on some letters and spread out too much on others). Adobe Garamond Pro is another nice classic font that seems to hold well to hours of usage, and at 14pt/1.2x feels good to me on a large monitor. Pity that one isn’t in common circulation though.

I’ll try those other fonts, as well as Garamond. I have a copy of it but it’s an older one I copied over from my old Windows laptop.

You can get a free copy of Calluna Regular from, still, I think. Note though that “Garamond” is not a trademarked name. It refers to old punch cuts from the 16th century. There have been hundreds of modern digital font designers who have created “Garamond” fonts in varying degrees of quality, but some of the features I like that most have are the long distinctive extenders which increase readability.

Interesting. I never knew that. Thanks, Mark!

I’m using Garamond 16pt now at 100%. It seems pretty similar to the Windows version at 12pt.

I experienced the same issues as well. Web pages on my MBP 15" at 1680x1050 felt very small and difficult to read. I had to set the minimum font size in safari to be 14 points to ensure it read well.

For scrivener I often worked at 125% but have chosen to use Optima Pro at 16pt. Optima is a softer font so the contrast between the black font and white background isn’t as harsh on the eyes to read. At 16pt I get a nice large font, easy to read even at the high resolution of 1680x1050.

I find that Optima Pro at 100% zoom, and 16pts gives me the same number of characters per row as Optima Pro at 125% zoom, and 13pts. Comfortable for reading and small enough to get a nice length per row.

I’ve tried Georgia, but the contrast was too stark on my eyes.

For years I used Adobe Garamond as my default font under Mac-OS 8 and 9, and now have Adobe Garamond Pro, but I switched to Adobe Caslon Pro just to be a bit different. But I have to say that I think Adobe Garamond (Pro) is, to me, the most beautiful, best kerned and hinted font out there, for body text at least. On the other hand I dislike the Windows Garamond intensely … it has none of the finesse of the Adobe version. That’s just my personal taste.
And if you think about it, 72 : 96 = 12 : 16, so what you’re seeing on your Mac should now look exactly like it looked under Windows.

I need to see if I can get a copy of Adobe Garamond. I bet it costs money though.

You bet it costs, an arm and a leg, probably. I got it originally with PageMaker, I think, or it might be that it came free with my first Mac — the ill-fated IIvi — and then AGPro came with CS1. But if you’re comfortable working in the one that you’re used to, then that’s what really matters.


I’m following this thread and tried out all the fonts recommended here by now - Adobe Garamond pro is a good solution for me as well.
As an addition, it would be great to hear which experience you have with Hoefler Text for writing on the screen. I use it for a while already and like its appearance a lot. On the other hand, I have some problems with kerning sometimes, which can get odd with double letters like “ff”, “tt” and so on.
Has anyone experimented with this font? pros and cons I maybe did not realize yet (always trying to optimize screen read- and writeability)?

It’s like $169 or something with italics, bolds etc. included. Way too pricey. Will stick to the Windows version until I get a hold of it some other way.