SharePoint – fun with fonts

I hit another weird little problem on my SharePoint project today. This one’s a bit different from the previous ones I’ve blogged about recently. A key point to start: I’m developing my solution on a VM running Windows Server 2012 R2. But the end-users are all using Windows 7.

I have one big detail page for this  project that’s got a lot of information on it. It’s a regular Web Forms ASP.NET page, in a SharePoint farm solution. I’ve tried to get everything on the page looking reasonably nice, while staying within the default look and feel of SharePoint 2013. So I’ve just got some CSS tweaks to get everything laid out right and looking good. And the page does look reasonably good on my dev VM. But I’ve noticed that certain text looks pretty bad when viewed on a Windows 7 machine.

The default font in SharePoint 2013, for most stuff, is something called “Segoe UI Light”. This is a Microsoft font that they, apparently, use for a lot of internal stuff. If you look at this page, you’ll see something interesting: Windows 7 uses version 5.00 of the font, while Windows 8 uses version 5.27. Checking my desktop Win 7 PC, I can see that it is indeed on version 5.00. (And I have version 5.36 on my Win 2012 R2 VM.)

This blog post goes into the differences between these font versions in a bit more detail. Here’s the one line that really caught my attention: “Microsoft’s fonts team has also worked on improving the hinting of Segoe UI, especially the Light variant which was never properly hinted.” So, yeah, that “never properly hinted” thing is probably why my page title looks horrible on Windows 7.

I don’t want it to sound like I’m bashing Microsoft’s font too much. It’s actually pretty nice, especially if you have a recent version on your PC and not the 5.00 version. But, for my project, it’s a problem. So I looked into switching to a Google web font. I choose Open Sans as a replacement for Segoe UI. I’d seen it suggested somewhere, and it seems to work well, and is free to use.

I’ve used Google fonts before, but had forgotten how to use them. It’s pretty easy. Just Put this in your page head:
<link href="" rel="stylesheet">

And use this for your CSS:
font-family: 'Open Sans', sans-serif;

This has worked out pretty well for me. The page now looks good on Windows 7 and on more recent versions.

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