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It is subjective question. I actually want to put it in the Community Wiki but I cannot find the check box to mark it as a Community Wiki question.

Among fonts listed in The LaTeX font catalogue with math support, which one is the most comfortable to be viewed on the screen?

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any sans serif font ... and there are a lot of them –  Herbert Jun 7 '11 at 5:53
    
@Andrew:Thanks for flagging for attention, I converted it to CW. –  Stefan Kottwitz Jun 7 '11 at 20:15

7 Answers 7

up vote 34 down vote accepted
  1. Well hinted font,
  2. Viewer that correctly interprets hinting,
  3. The font has good math typography,
  4. Sans Serif is usable only for presentations.

That's what Font hinting is. And here is a good example found in Google:

Fully hinted font vs. Non hinted font


And here is a comparison between Adobe Reader (left) and Sumatra PDF (right):

enter image description here

Adobe Reader renders better, even if the font used (CM-Super) doesn't have the best hinting possible.


And here is what good math typography means. Hidden defects in mathdesign Blackboard Bold:

enter image description here

And yes, thats not a defect in the viewer, they print as seen from any reader. That means, it's good to use fonts with proven quality. Not to use something that in the last minute shows its hidden defects.


And finally the Sans Serif math. Can you easily read that? I can't.

enter image description here

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What’s your particular issue with the sans-serif math? Apart from the fact that the subscript “i”s are too small, I find it superb (although I prefer serifs for math fonts for aesthetic reasons, especially for the lower-case “l”, “i” and “j”). –  Konrad Rudolph Jun 7 '11 at 13:37
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@Konrad Rudolph It's too long to describe it in a comment. See that video - Math never seen and that Minion Math — The Design of a New Math Font Family. I, 1 and l are not obviously different, the same goes for v and nu. Thats because Sans Serifs are low on detail. –  Karl Karlsson Jun 7 '11 at 13:50
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So what's the problem with mathdesign Blackboard Bold? In the included image I see that something's wrong, but they don't look like this if I create a document with them, so can someone give an explanation? –  marczellm Feb 5 '13 at 13:09

If the font is large enough, serif fonts are not an issue even on screen.

The predominant problem of serif fonts on screen is the rendering accurate of the tiny serifs without creating visual clutter. But with modern displays, modern font rendering techniques (ClearType anti-aliasing and proper hinting) and large fonts, this is not an issue any more.

The advice of using sans-serif fonts in favour of serif fonts is therefore outdated, and using serif fonts on screen has the same advantage that it has in print; namely,

[…] that serifs help guide the eye along the lines in large blocks of text. [Source]

The only potential problem is that not all fonts were designed with screens in mind, and are therefore poorly adapted to ClearType rendering. A properly hinted font mitigates this.

Next-generation displays (Apple’s Retina Display) promise to make even that obsolete: their resolution is so high that the naked eye cannot distinguish individual pixels, and text looks as smooth as in high-quality print1.

For now, though, most displays in use still have comparably low resolutions and require properly hinted fonts for best rendering. So, in summary (for now): Use a large font that was designed for on-screen usage. Serif or sans serif is irrelvant.

For inspiration, look at the free fonts listed at the Google Web Fonts directory, especially Vollkorn or the Droid Serif font which was particularly developed with small font size in mind.


1 Ironically, the article does pretty much the opposite: it uses a small font which, though developed for on-screen usage, contains hinting errors and looks smudged: smudged font on Daring Fireball

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this is good advice, but the OP was specifically asking for a font with math support, among those in the LaTeX catalogue… –  fudo Jun 7 '11 at 13:23
    
I find the summary somehow quite in contradiction of the rest of the (good) advice: with modern screens (high resolution) and modern rendering techniques, isn't the requirement of designing "for screen" becoming more and more irrelevant? We're not there yet (350 ppi screens vs 1200 dpi print) and certainly not yet mainstream, but I believe the difference between screen and print is fading, and the requirement of using a font especially designed for screen less and less relevant (as the first part of your answer also suggests). –  Xavier Feb 4 '13 at 15:01
    
@Xavier Uhm. That is mostly what I’m saying in my answer. But while on-screen font design is becoming irrelevant in the future, it isn’t yet at present (unless you happen to have a Mac Book Pro with Retina Display). –  Konrad Rudolph Feb 4 '13 at 15:06
    
@KonradRudolph That's why I was confused: I love the answer and upvoted it, but found the summary somehow misleading / lacking the whole point about evolution you laid out first. –  Xavier Feb 4 '13 at 15:54
    
@Xavier Hmm. Maybe I should amend that. –  Konrad Rudolph Feb 4 '13 at 15:57

It is normally considered that sans serif fonts are easier to read on screen and serif fonts are more suitable for printed material.

Some how the absence of tips in the sans case make it more accessible when displayed on the screen. BTW: this holds also for presentations.

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For on-screen viewing, the font should be well-hinted as well. –  Michael Ummels Jun 7 '11 at 7:53
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As Michael Ummels said, and also - the viewer must be able to correctly interpret all that hinting information. Like Adobe Reader for example. Well hinted serif, in a viewer properly interpreting hints, looks better than poor quality sans serif without good hints in a viewer not properly interpreting hints. So it's not that simple... –  Karl Karlsson Jun 7 '11 at 10:41
    
Does this still hold in these days of high resolution devices? I believe that serif adds visual clues that make it easier to read (esp. for math) but that tends to "clutter", i.e. display poorly, when rendered at low resolution (old screens instead of print). But as retina displays & co with ppi higher than 200 become mainstream, I am not sure if / how longer these old rules will still be valid... –  Xavier Feb 4 '13 at 14:52

There are a couple of fonts that were designed for low-res devices, such as Charter (mathdesign), Utopia (fourier), Lucida Bright, etc. These fonts all have a large x-height and minimum thin lines. They normally print very well and are therefore very useful in PDF docs for onscreen viewing and printout.

Fonts to avoid for onscreen viewing are those with fine lines and smallish x-height such as Palatino (mathpazo) and the traditional Computer Modern LaTeX default.

For presentation material sans-serif fonts are mostly used and printouts are not an issue.

enter image description here

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@Daniel: Charter should be avoided for on-screen? –  xport Jun 7 '11 at 8:51
    
@xport: No, I recommend Charter for documents such as manuals that can be viewed onscreen (and printed). This is different from prensentation material (Beamer, PowerPoint, etc.) that are projected on a large screen for an audience. –  Danie Els Jun 7 '11 at 8:57
    
Charter is designed for low resolution (~300 dpi) printers. The screens have ~3 times lower resolution. So, the design isn't enough. Good hinting is required. And also a viewer that interprets and uses all that hinting, like Adobe Reader. –  Karl Karlsson Jun 7 '11 at 10:34
    
@Karl Karlsson: Yes I agree with that. There are fonts that are better for 90 dpi screen resolution, but the OP asked for fonts with math support and Charter and Utopia have math support and are a lot better, especially with good hinting than most of the other math capable fonts. –  Danie Els Jun 7 '11 at 10:55
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mathdesign has a defective Blackboard Bold. And honestly, its math isn't of the same typographic quality as Computer Modern. And Computer Modern has at least 3 vector based versions (Type 1 fonts). AMS-BlueSky, which has the best hinting, Latin Modern which is actually reinterpreted Computer Modern, and CM-Super which is auto-traced and auto-hinted. And many times CM-Super is default, other times Latin Modern is default. But the best is AMS-BlueSky, and the difference is quite visible. –  Karl Karlsson Jun 7 '11 at 11:57

I find euler fonts to be very good for on-screen math, perhaps combined with concrete fonts for text. Euler is not geometrically as austere as most other sans-serifs, but does not have too much tiny details of most serifs. I like it a lot for its handwritten blackboard shapes.

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I am very picky on fonts for interface (menus, titles, tabs, icons, etc.)

The best font for interface and application software, have to be:

  1. condensed (to save space on-screen)
  2. sans-serif (simplest shape available)
  3. very comfortable to read on-screen (with minimal but necessary empty space around and between characters, so you can easely recognise the character shapes with the minimum visual strain)
  4. with an optimal distance between rows of text, to save space without decrease on-screen readability

After many tests i have found these fonts very very good:

  1. Myriad Condensed Web (my first choice)
  2. Workplace Sans (taller lowercase but a bit larger in width)
  3. PT Sans Narrow (higher lines spacing)
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UPDATE - I hadn't noticed how bad fouriernc looks in Adobe Acrobat Reader. tgschola improves on it, but some characters still look weird in Acrobat. Currently I think the best font for on screen reading is Latin Modern Sans

\usepackage{lmodern}
\renewcommand*\familydefault{\sfdefault} % use lmodern for paragraphs
\usepackage[T1]{fontenc} % i.a. makes title font non-serif

I tried all fonts provided on tug.dk/FontCatalogue/seriffonts.html with TexLive and found \usepackage{fouriernc} very promising, but its titles don't seem to fit. Luckily that's not a problem if you're using KOMA classes (also see Andrew's comment):

\usepackage{fouriernc} % sharper font for on-screen
\DeclareMathAlphabet{\mathbf}{T1}{fut\mathfamilyextension}{b}{n} 
\renewcommand{\bfdefault}{b}
\setkomafont{sectioning}{\bfseries} % bold titles for fouriernc

This yields a more playful high contrast look, that still feels like LaTeX.

If you're looking for something more serious, the good old Times might be for you:

\usepackage{mathptmx} % a more serious times font
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Consider adding \DeclareMathAlphabet{\mathbf}{T1}{fut\mathfamilyextension}{b}{n} \renewcommand{\bfdefault}{b} when loading fourier as it doesn't come with a bold extended version, just bold as standard. –  Andrew Swann Feb 4 '13 at 11:37
    
You might consider TeX Gyre Schola, the "successor" of New Century Schoolbook. –  Xavier Feb 4 '13 at 15:06
    
@Andrew Care to elaborate, I don't see any difference? (using fourienc btw.) –  sao Feb 6 '13 at 15:42
    
Have a look in the log file - there will be messages about bx fonts not being found and font substitutions being made. –  Andrew Swann Feb 6 '13 at 15:58

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