Elastic tabstops - a better way to indent and align code

Programming fonts: proportional vs monospaced

Update on 2012-03-10: Someone wrote a link to some interesting proportional programming fonts in the comments section. Here's the link.

One of the main reasons why I originally invented elastic tabstops was because I'm a big fan of using proportional fonts for programming. As programmers we spend most of our time looking at code and in my opinion proportional fonts make this an easier and more pleasant experience. The creators of Smalltalk, Oberon and Plan 9's Acme seem to agree.

I've made some screenshots of Gedit using my elastic tabstops plugin (minimum-width: 32, padding-width: 8) and the zenburn theme with some different fonts I have installed on this Ubuntu system.

So that's the list. I hope you'll agree that proportional fonts are much easier to read than monospaced ones. You can use them for coding now (as long as no one tries to align text for anything other than indentation), and if elastic tabstops catch on you'll be able to use them for aligning text as well as indenting. I'm working on a plugin for Eclipse now (since a blocking missing feature has now been implemented), so depending on which tools you use that day may be coming soon.

Posted on Tuesday, 2009-12-22 at 23:52 UTC


Wednesday 2009-12-23 12:30 UTC
Can you compile your gedit plugin for win32?

Wednesday 2009-12-23 20:39 UTC
anonymous: I might one day. So far I haven't really been convinced that there are that many Windows users using Gedit (heck, I don't know that there are that many developers using Gedit on Linux as their main programming editor). My main focus at the moment is Eclipse as I think this is the best way for elastic tabstops to get any significant mindshare.

Thursday 2010-01-28 07:55 UTC
I work with typography and I evaluated many fonts before also converging on Verdana (not without some surprise and disbelief). Praise to Matthew!

Saturday 2010-08-28 00:11 UTC
George Hovey <ghova0 AT gmail DOT com>
Are you able to use Microsoft's Cleartype Font Collection (Consolas, Candara, Cambria, etc)? They have absolutely the best legibility in very small sizes that I have ever seen.

Thursday 2011-09-22 17:15 UTC
There are several proportional fonts designed specifically for programming at http://code.google.com/p/i3project/wiki/Fonts.

Friday 2012-08-03 01:20 UTC
Clearly you do not understand the issue.

Friday 2012-08-03 06:23 UTC
I've always been a fan of terminus. It is mainly a terminal font, but since I use vim over ssh for most of my programming, it is the same font. What I love most is how easy it is to distinguish between all the lookalike characters, like Iil1 and 0oO. Something that verdana isn't really good at, especially the 0.

Sunday 2012-12-09 12:57 UTC
Wax <zenith AT swamptales DOT org>
For free fonts, take a look at the Acidfonts website.It has a large and vaired collection of free fonts and dingbats for download. The fonts are sorted alphabetically and in style groups which include Sci-Fi, Graffiti, Horror, Halloween, Christmas, Retro, Stencil, Valentine, 3D and a whats New Fonts section which is updated daily.For a complete walk thru, with help and info on downloading and installing fonts onto your PC, check out the following linkOnce your fonts are installed they then become available for any programs you have on your PC that use fonts.

Wednesday 2014-08-20 09:38 UTC
Bart <realbart AT hotmail DOT com>
I like Calibri, but the I and l are too similar. So I started looking and found out Google has some interesting fonts too. Source Sans seems to be made for editing source code. However, I really think you should look into Noto Sans. Both fonts are available for download at https://www.google.com/fonts

Tuesday 2015-11-24 22:37 UTC
Charity <charitygerstaecker AT gmail DOT com>
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Friday 2016-06-10 06:31 UTC
Dave <d DOT vasegh AT gmail DOT com>
Thanks for you time to compare those fonts. One of the most important differences between regular fonts and mono-space ones is the Characters Shape. In most of the regular fonts you can hardly distinguish "1lI|" or "0oO". The other criteria, at least for me, is the normal distance between the lines. Some fonts, like "Verdana" is so compact and all lines look entangled. Recently, I've worked with "Source Code Pro" that can satisfy almost all criteria.

Friday 2016-07-22 03:32 UTC
Shane <shanept AT iinet DOT net DOT au>
I would have to disagree. Although some of the latter proportional fonts are easier to read than the former... I still think that the monospace fonts are easier to read again. But, this is why we have our own settings in our own editors :)

Tuesday 2016-12-06 21:54 UTC
Code Boi <j746349 AT mvrht DOT com>
1. Liberation Mono 12px 2. Verdana 12px

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