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What the the default sans serif font in LaTeX? If it is a clone what is it based upon?

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    The default is Computer Modern Sans Serif, although, as the link says, it's recommended to instead use Latin Modern Sans. – N.N. Oct 7 '11 at 9:21
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    It's Computer Modern Sans Serif, a font designed by Knuth as part of the Computer Modern (meta)family. The Roman variant is inspired to Monotype Modern 8A; the Sans Serif variant has been generated by a "meta" process. – egreg Oct 7 '11 at 9:22
  • I tagged this {computer-modern} even though this tag partially answers the question itself; this way people looking for info on CMSS will find this question more easily. – doncherry Oct 7 '11 at 15:53
  • If I want to '/setmainfont{?}', what is the name I should put in there? – Yan King Yin Mar 11 '15 at 16:55
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The default sans serif font used by LaTeX is Computer Modern Sans Serif, a font designed by Knuth as part of the Computer Modern (meta)family.

The Roman variant is inspired to Monotype Modern 8A; the Sans Serif variant has been generated by a "meta" process, without any previous model in mind, I believe.

When the output encoding is T1 (\usepackage[T1]{fontenc}) the default font is European Modern Sans Serif, which was designed very similarly to Computer Modern, adding missing letters and diacritics needed to cover a wide range of European languages.

European Modern fonts have been converted to Type1 outline fonts as part of the CM-Super project. Another very similar font family is Latin Modern, also available in Type1 format (\usepackage{lmodern}). There's always some debate about what Type1 version is better.

When XeLaTeX or LuaLaTeX are used, the default is not changed, so one gets Computer Modern (Roman and Sans Serif). However, a call of

\usepackage{fontspec}

will change the default fonts to Latin Modern, as these are also available on all recent TeX distributions as OpenType fonts. There is, actually, an OpenType version of Computer Modern (CMU fonts), also in the TeX distributions.

  • To confuse the situation slightly, I'm using xelatex and hence have not used fontenc. I have not redefined the sans font so it is using whatever is the default. Is it still Europeon Modern Sans Serif? – Darling Oct 7 '11 at 10:37
  • @Darling I've added info about XeLaTeX – egreg Oct 7 '11 at 10:44
  • @egreg Do you know where I could find further information on the 'meta' process behind the generation of Computer Modern Sans? – emacsomancer Mar 30 '19 at 0:31
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    @emacsomancer You want to read Knuth's “The Metafontbook” and volume E of “Computers and Typesetting”. – egreg Mar 30 '19 at 10:43
  • @egreg I couldn't find any explicit discussion of the sans serif fonts in either the METAFONT book or 'Computers and Typesetting'. I did come across this paper: zigzaganimal.be/elements/the-concept-of-metafont.pdf - which is suggestive but not fully explicit - it seems to suggest that the sans fonts could be based on the serif fonts with certain features tweaked (e.g. serifs set to 0), but again is not fully clear. – emacsomancer Mar 30 '19 at 18:38

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