Top 7 Open Source Monospace Fonts for Developers

I’ve been looking for an Open Source font (aimed at developers) that I could use to do all my coding and that I could expand upon. There aren’t that many choices out there, but a few more than I had anticipated. I narrowed the choices to the list below based on certain features such as its license and readability.

Open Source Monospace Fonts for Developers by omarrr

Here’s the criteria I followed for selection:

License

  • Free distribution: Fonts created with the Open Source philosophy
  • Derivative works: Fonts that allow for free redistribution of derivative work

Design

  • Monospace: Fixed width font
  • Sans: Might be a personal preference but I find mono-serif fonts tiring to look at for long periods of time when writing code
  • Readability: Above all the font must be readable at different sizes across different devices/screens
  • Whitespace: Because negative space deserves some love
  • Distinguishable characters:
    • ‘l’ and ‘i’ should be easily distinguished
    • ‘0’ and ‘O’ should be easily distinguished
  • Non-bitmap fonts: We are moving into the retina-era, we can’t depend on bitmap fonts for much longer
  • Beautiful: Because we spend lots of time looking at our code

Character set

  • Extended characterset: Most of the times good old ASCII is all we need, but a extended character set is favored since coding is an international art

Anonymous Pro





Anonymous has 624 glyphs and bold, oblique and oblique bold variations. The family looks beautiful and it’s one of the most rounded and serifed fonts in this list. I feel, thought, that it needs more space between the lines for better readability.

Anonymous Pro

[…] a family of four fixed-width fonts designed especially with coding in mind. Characters that could be mistaken for one another (O, 0, I, l, 1, etc.) have distinct shapes to make them easier to tell apart in the context of source code.

Anonymous has both vector and bitmap characters (for instances when antialiasing is not available). Bitmap glyphs might prove problematic for derivative work.

While Anonymous Pro looks great on Macs, Windows and Linux PCs with antialiasing enabled, it also includes embedded bitmaps for specific pixel sizes (“ppems” in font nerd speak) for both the regular and bold weight.

This font family is distributed under the Open Font License.

Anonymous Pro can be found at Font Squirrel


Inconsolata



Inconsolata has 359 glyphs. It is a beautiful font and very aesthetically pleasing. It lacks bold or oblique variations. A font with potential if it had a more extensive character set and wasn’t specifically geared to print and other high-resolution reproduction.

Inconsolata has been released under the Open Font License.

Inconsolata:

It is a monospace font, designed for code listings and the like, in print. There are a great many “programmer fonts,” designed primarily for use on the screen, but in most cases do not have the attention to detail for high resolution rendering.

Download at FontSquirrel


Liberation Mono





Liberation has 666 glyphs (including cyrillic and greek) it also has bold, oblique and oblique bold. It has been released as open source under the GNU General Public License version 2 (with exceptions).

Liberation Fonts

[Liberation Mono] aims at metric compatibility with Arial, Times New Roman, and Courier New. It is sponsored by Red Hat […]

Download at Font Squirrel


Droid Sans Mono



The Droid font was created by the same font designer of Liberation, it has 900 glyphs (greek and cyrillic), and no bold or oblique variations. Its original goal seems to be rendering text rather than writing code. The zero is not slashed or ‘dotted’, the one is not serifed, etc. This font is licensed under Apache License.

Droid font

created […] for use by the Open Handset Alliance platform Android. […] The fonts are intended for use on the small screens of mobile handsets

Droid Sans Mono and other variable width variations can be found in the GitHub mirror of the Android repository and Font Squirrel


Ubuntu





A beautifully crafted font it includes a total of 1296 glyphs (extended latin, cyrillic, greek, basic symbols) plus bold, oblique and oblique bold variations. I would say that’s slightly overly designed (see “i” and “l”), it’s one of the fonts with most personality. I also have some readability issues with the “m” but it’s one of the best looking fonts both with and without antialiasing.

This font is “distributed under an open licence and you are expressly encouraged to “experiment, modify, share and improve.”

Ubuntu Font:

The Ubuntu typeface has been specially created to complement the Ubuntu tone of voice. It has a contemporary style and contains characteristics unique to the Ubuntu brand that convey a precise, reliable and free attitude.

Both the final font Truetype/OpenType files and the design files used to produce the font family are distributed under an open licence and you are expressly encouraged to experiment, modify, share and improve. The typeface is sans-serif, uses OpenType features and is manually hinted for clarity on desktop and mobile computing screens.

Ubuntu Mono at Font Squirrel


Bitstream Vera Sans Mono





Bitstream Vera has a small character set of 269 glyphs and includes bold, oblique and oblique bold variations. I would say it’s one of the most clean and readable fonts in this list.

From Wikipedia

It is a TrueType font with full hinting instructions, which improve its rendering quality on low-resolution devices such as computer monitors

Bitstream Vera was created as an open font to build upon (see DejaVu below). Here’s an extract from its license:

“The fonts have a generous copyright, allowing derivative works […], and full redistribution […]. They can be be bundled, redistributed and sold with any software.”

Download directly from Gnome or Font Squirrel


DejaVu Sans Mono





DejaVu, an derivation of Bitstream Vera, has 3289 glyphs covering latin, cyrillic, greek & arabic. It is one of the most extensive typefaces. It comes with bold, oblique and oblique bold variations. Besides the additional characters it looks exactly like Vera.

DejaVu Fonts

“DejaVu Sans Mono is based on the Bitstream Vera Sans Mono font, and has a wider range of characters than Bitstream Vera.”
“Its purpose is to provide a wider range of characters while maintaining the original look and feel through the process of collaborative development (see authors), under a Free license.”

You can download DejaVu Sans at Font Squirrel


Side-by-side Comparison

Anonymous 14pt


Inconsolata 14 pt


Liberation Mono 12 pt


Droid Sans Mono 12 pt


Ubuntu 14 pt


BitStream Vera Sans Mono 12 pt


DejaVu Sans Mono 12 pt


In Closing

BitStream Vera/DejaVu are my top choices (for now). They are very readable, have great hinting and have been created with the spirit of the Open Source community. I’ll be test running this typeface for a while. Like everything in this world it’s a matter of personal choice and you probably can’t go wrong with any of the fonts above.

Reference

2 comments on “Top 7 Open Source Monospace Fonts for Developers

  1. Claver Moraes on

    My favourite is Liberation Mono, very easy to read with small texts and not “serifed” as Courier, FreeMono and others. And look like old mono spaced fonts of old math books which I have, I just love it.

    I will try Inconsolata and Anonymous Pro.

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