Is the Helvetica font in the public domain

Recommendation for Helvetica-like font with excellent distinguishability

I'm looking for a recommendation for a font with certain properties. It is intended for use in illustrations in a scientific publication. The diary defines style requirements (preferably Helvetica), but unfortunately there are incompatible practical requirements (distinguishability of glyphs).

  • Must be sans serif and should preferably be similar to Arial / Helvetica.
  • Must have excellent distinguishability from letters similar to I / l. It should be obvious what letter a glyph represents, even if it is out of context.
  • Should be free like in beer or available very often (e.g. comes with MS Office).
  • Would be nice if it had a clearly distinguishable bold variant (no hard requirement)


A very nice option (if you ask me) is the new font from IBM called Plex . The family includes both a sans serif, a sans serif and a sans serif variant with excellent distinguishability (1 / I / l and O / 0 are easy to distinguish and both dotted and slash-separated alternatives for zero are available) as well as the entire Family is free and open source. *

Only written Latin languages ​​are currently supported (although the family supports a wide variety of diacritics), but more are in the works (Cyrillic is almost ready; Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, and Thai will be introduced) soon; CJK will follow in mid-2018). Unfortunately no small caps (yet).

You can download it through FontSquirrel or directly from IBM GitHub where it is hosted.

* Or at least it will be open source. The actual source files that you can use to compile your own fonts from scratch won't be available until 2018, although all of the compiled font files are now available.

Your requirements are conflicting and may even be mutually exclusive. You state sans serif characters as a requirement, but what sets the similar characters in your example apart is the serifs. That said, there are likely some scriptures out there that are a reasonable compromise. My first suggestion would be Anonymous Pro:

Like many fonts that suit your needs, it is aimed at programmers. Many more, with discussions of their pros and cons, can be found in this article:

Even if none of them are perfect, it will likely help educate your choice. Happy hunting!

Another option would be to use a font editor to adapt Helvetica to your specific application. To do this, however, you would need to purchase font editing software and learn how to use it. This can be trivial or prohibitive depending on your skills.

Well the hard part is the "free" aspect ...

There are several fonts in my library that may meet most of your needs: - Museo Sans - Bunday Sans - Source Sans

Not sure if Museo or Bunday are free. However, I believe Source Sans is free if it suits your needs.

None have a single slash, but all have a Unicode symbol for the slash.

And if a monospaced font is acceptable, there are plenty.

Personally, I like the Johannes Kepler (kp) font ( which is available with and without serifs (you will probably need the Sansserif) and in all of these variants are used for scientific Texts required (italic, typewriter, small caps ...). Good for the math sentence too. Me, me and I are markedly different, all the more if you use the old numbers.

I like Droid Sans. There are several varieties, two of which are mono and fallback (proportional).

The special one I use is the one WITHOUT the ugly dot (or slash) in the middle of the zero.

I was trying to find a helvetica-like font for a presentation that I would use as a recurring variable, and I went for Lucida Sans Typewriter to make it more distinguishable. It is also installed in most standard operating systems.

Make your own font. Take a font in the public domain, grab a font editing tool, and make the adjustments you want to suit your needs.

This is no longer common because the tools are available so quickly.

And as IBM shows with its Plex series, you can With Serifs help separate the EYE and Ell values ​​and zeros without making them serif or ugly. Seriously editing 3 characters and I think you would do the world a favor. "Techvetica" or something.

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