Recommendation for Helvetica-like font with excellent distinguishability

I am looking for a recommendation for a font which has certain properties. It is for use in figures in a scientific publication. The journal sets style requirements (prefers Helvetica), but unfortunately there are incompatible practical requirements (distinguishability of glyphs).

  • Must be sans serif, preferably resembling Arial/Helvetica.
  • Must have excellent distinguishability of similar letters like I/l. It should be obvious what letter a glyph represents, even if it stands alone with no context.
  • Should be free as in beer, or very commonly available (e.g. comes with MS Office).
  • Would be nice if it had a clearly distinguishable bold variant (not a hard requirement)

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One very nice (if you ask me) option is IBM’s new set of fonts called Plex. The family includes both a sans-serif, a serif, and a monospaced variant, all with excellent distinctiveness (1/I/l and O/0 are easily distinguished and it has both dotted and slashed alternates available for zero), and the entire family is free and open-source.*

At the moment, only Latin-script languages are supported (though the family does support a wide variety of diacritics), but more are in the works (Cyrillic is nearly done; Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, and Thai will kick-off soonish; CJK will follow some time in mid-2018). Sadly no small-caps (yet).

IBM Plex Sans specimen

You can download it through FontSquirrel or straight from the IBM GitHub where it’s 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, though all the compiled font files are available now.

Source : Link , Question Author : GarrPons , Answer Author : Janus Bahs Jacquet

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