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Arial, sometimes marketed or displayed in software as Arial MT, is a sans-serif typeface and set of computer fonts. Fonts from the Arial family are packaged with all versions of Microsoft Windows, some other Microsoft software applications, Apple Mac OS X and many PostScript 3 computer printers. The typeface was designed in 1982 by a 10-person team, led by Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders, for Monotype Typography.
The Arial typeface comprises many styles: Regular, Italic, Medium, Medium Italic, Bold, Bold Italic, Black, Black Italic, Extra Bold, Extra Bold Italic, Light, Light Italic, Narrow, Narrow Italic, Narrow Bold, Narrow Bold Italic, Condensed, Light Condensed, Bold Condensed, and Extra Bold Condensed. The extended Arial type family includes even more styles: Rounded (Light, Regular, Bold, Extra Bold); Monospaced (Regular, Oblique, Bold, Bold Oblique). Many of these have been issued in multiple font configurations with different degrees of language support. The most widely used and bundled Arial fonts are Arial Regular, Italic, Bold, Bold Italic, along with the same styles of Arial Narrow, plus Arial Black. More recently Arial Rounded has also been widely bundled.
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Embedded in version 3.0 of the OpenType version of Arial is the following description of the typeface:
Contemporary sans serif design, Arial contains more humanist characteristics than many of its predecessors and as such is more in tune with the mood of the last decades of the twentieth century. The overall treatment of curves is softer and fuller than in most industrial style sans serif faces. Terminal strokes are cut on the diagonal which helps to give the face a less mechanical appearance. Arial is an extremely versatile family of typefaces which can be used with equal success for text setting in reports, presentations, magazines etc, and for display use in newspapers, advertising and promotions
In 2005, Robin Nicholas said "It was designed as a generic sans serif; almost a bland sans serif."
The letter shapes of Arial are based on Monotype Grotesque. Subtle changes and variations were made to both the letterforms and the spacing between characters in order to make it more readable at various resolutions.
The changes cause the typeface to nearly match Linotype Helvetica in both proportion and weight (see figure), and perfectly match in width. Nevertheless, there are differences. One columnist observed "Arial was drawn more rounded than [Helvetica], the curves softer and fuller and the counters more open. The ends of the strokes on letters such as c, e, g and s, rather than being cut off on the horizontal, are terminated at the more natural angle in relation to the stroke direction."
The styling of Arabic glyphs comes from Times New Roman, which have more varied stroke widths than the Latin, Greek, Cyrillic glyphs found in the font. Arial Unicode MS uses monotone stroke widths on Arabic glyphs, similar to Tahoma.
The Cyrillic, Greek and Coptic Spacing Modifier Letters glyphs initially introduced in Arial Unicode MS, but later debuted in Arial version 5.00, have different appearances.
IBM debuted two printers for the in-office publishing market in 1982: the 240-DPI 3800-3 laserxerographic printer, and the 600-DPI 4250 electro-erosion laminate typesetter. Monotype was under contract to supply bitmap fonts for both printers. The fonts for the 4250, delivered to IBM in 1983, included Helvetica, which Monotype sub-licensed from Linotype. For the 3800-3, Monotype substituted Helvetica with Arial. The hand-drawn Arial artwork was completed in 1982 at Monotype by a 10-person team led by Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders and was digitized by Monotype at 240 DPI expressly for the 3800-3.
IBM named the font Sonoran Sans Serif due to licensing restrictions and the manufacturing facility's location (Tucson, Arizona, in the Sonoran Desert), and announced in early 1984 that the Sonoran Sans Serif family, "a functional equivalent of Monotype Arial," would be available for licensed use in the 3800-3 by the fourth quarter of 1984. There were initially 14 point sizes, ranging from 6 to 36, and four style/weight combinations (Roman medium, Roman bold, italic medium, and italic bold), for a total of 56 fonts in the family. Each contained 238 graphic characters, providing support for eleven national languages: Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish. Monotype and IBM later expanded the family to include 300-DPI bitmaps and characters for additional languages.
In 1989, Monotype produced PostScript Type 1 outline versions of several Monotype fonts, but an official PostScript version of Arial was not available until 1991. In the meantime, a company called Birmy marketed a version of Arial in a Type 1-compatible format.
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Version 2.76 or later includes Hebrew and Arabic glyphs, with most of Arabic added on non-italic fonts.
Version 5.00 added support for Latin-C and Latin D, IPA Extension, Greek Extended, Cyrillic Supplement, and Coptic characters.
TrueType editions of Arial have shipped as part of Microsoft Windows since the introduction of Windows 3.1 in 1992.
Since 1999, Microsoft Office has shipped with Arial Unicode MS, a version of Arial that includes many international characters from the Unicode standard. This version of the typeface is the most widely distributed pan-Unicode font.
Arial MT, a PostScript version of the Arial font family, was distributed with Acrobat Reader 4 and 5.
Mac OS X was the first Mac OS version to include Arial. The operating system ships with Arial, Arial Black, Arial Narrow, and Arial Rounded MT. However, the default Mac OS X font for sans-serif/Swiss generic font family is Helvetica. The bundling of Arial with Windows and Mac OS has contributed to it being one of the most widely distributed and used typefaces in the world.
In 1996, Microsoft launched the Core fonts for the Web project to make a standard pack of fonts for the Internet. Arial in TrueType format was included in this project. The project allowed anyone to download and install these fonts for their own use (on end user's computers) without any fee. The project was terminated by Microsoft in August 2002, allegedly due to frequent EULA violations. For MS Windows, the core fonts for the web were provided as self-extracting executables (.exe); each included an embedded cabinet file, which can be extracted with appropriate software. For the Macintosh, the files were provided as BinHexed StuffIt archives (.sit.hqx). The latest font version that was available from Core fonts for the Web was 2.82, published in 2000. Later versions (such as version 3 or version 5 which include many new characters) were not available from this project. A Microsoft spokesman declared in 2002 that members of the open source community "will have to find different sources for updated fonts. ... Although the EULA did not restrict the fonts to just Windows and Mac OS, they were only ever available as Windows .exe's and Mac archive files." The chief technical officer of Opera Software cited the cancellation of the project as an example of Microsoft resisting interoperability.
The known variants of Arial include:
Arial Alternative Regular and Arial Alternative Symbol are standard fonts in Windows Me, and can also be found in Windows 95 and Windows XP's installation CD, or in Microsoft's site. Both fonts are Symbol-encoded. These fonts emulate the monospaced font used in Minitel/Prestel teletext systems, but vectorized with Arial styling. The fonts are used by HyperTerminal.
Arial Alternative Regular contains only ASCII characters, while Arial Alternative Symbol contains only 2 × 3 braille characters.
Arial Baltic, Arial CE, Arial Cyr, Arial Greek, Arial Tur are aliases created in the FontSubstitutes section of WIN.INI by Windows. These entries all point to the master font. When an alias font is specified, the font's character map contains different character set from the master font and the other alias fonts.
In addition, Monotype also sells Arial in reduced character sets, such as Arial CE, Arial WGL, Arial Cyrillic, Arial Greek, Arial Hebrew, Arial Thai.
Arial Unicode is a version supporting all characters assigned with Unicode 2.1 code points.
The TrueType core Arial fonts (Arial, Arial Bold, Arial Italic, Arial Bold Italic) support the same character sets as the version 2.76 fonts found in Internet Explorer 5/6, Windows 98/ME.
Version sold by Linotype includes Arial Rounded, Arial Monospaced, Arial Condensed, Arial Central European, Arial Central European Narrow, Arial Cyrillic, Arial Cyrillic Narrow, Arial Dual Greek, Arial Dual Greek Narrow, Arial SF, Arial Turkish, Arial Turkish Narrow.
In addition, Monotype also sells Arial in reduced character sets, such as Arial CE, Arial WGL, Arial Cyrillic, Arial Greek, Arial Hebrew, Arial Thai, Arial SF.
It is a version that covers only the Windows Glyph List 4 (WGL4) characters. They are only sold in TrueType format.
The family includes Arial (regular, bold, italics), Arial Black, Arial Narrow (regular, bold, italics), Arial Rounded (regular, bold).
Ascender Corporation sells the font in Arial WGL family, as well as the Arial Unicode.
Arial glyphs are also used in fonts developed for non-Latin environments, including Arabic Transparent, BrowalliaUPC, Cordia New, CordiaUPC, Miriam, Miriam Transparent, Monotype Hei, Simplified Arabic.
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Arial is held in disregard by many professional typographers and type enthusiasts, for reasons relating to its similarity to other typefaces and the involvement of Microsoft in its development and distribution. It is reinforced by Arial's apparent status as a de facto Helvetica stand-in, but without paying royalties, or credit, to Helvetica. Arial's glyph widths are nearly identical to those of Helvetica, rather than Monotype Grotesque, on which Arial is otherwise based. "But to an experienced designer," writes typographer Mark Simonson, using Arial "was like asking for Jimmy Stewart and getting Rich Little." At the same time, there are a number of fonts which are direct copies of Helvetica that several type manufacturers have created, including Triumvirate, Helios, Megaron, and Newton.
In 2005, Robin Nicholas was asked, before bringing up the subject of Arial, how far he would compromise his artistic principles for money. Nicholas responded that he would never just recreate an existing font, and the only areas where he would take a stand are "those where there would be legal problems; somebody wanting us to make a typeface that's clearly a corruption of somebody else's typeface."
Arial is a proprietary typeface to which Monotype Imaging owns all rights, including copyright, design and trademark rights. Its licensing terms prohibit derivative works and free redistribution.
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