It’s no secret that I spend time customising my workspace. More recently, that has involved creating my own VS Code theme. Further in the past, it was a bit more hardcore, involving writing code that replaced core parts of the Windows experience. I’ll write some more on that one day soon, I hope: Windows shells saw great creativity in UX for the few years they were tenable (Windows 95 through XP), but sailed under most people’s radar.

For today, we’ll look at a smaller part of that fascination: fonts. Specifically, fonts for coding. I was set to this by Tim Bray’s Monospace and More Mono, a small excursion into ten or so monospaced fonts.

I can’t resist an excursion into ten or so monospaced fonts.

First, my existing favourites of the bunch.

Menlo: I used Menlo for several years after picking it up in 2009, when it was released with OS X Snow Leopard. There’s a lot to love in Menlo, although that fi ligature isn’t one of them when programming. Easy to turn ligatures off in your editor though.

Source Code Pro: I think I switched to this in the mid-2010s, and kept it for a couple of years. When I look at it against the font I use today, Fira Code, it looks awfully light.

IBM Plex Mono: Unlike Tim, I really like this typeface. I used it and its sibling IBM Plex Sans from early 2018, when it was released. Although I always felt a bit of an IBM shill for doing so (I’ve worked at IBM for about eight years). I still use Plex Sans in various places.

Fira Code: I switched to Fira Code last year sometime, attracted by trying out the ligature support in VS Code. I like it a whole bunch.

And as for new fonts? I’m trying out JetBrains Mono, which I’d not heard of before. I have to agree with Tim that it just gets out the way. I don’t know that it’s love on first sight, but it’s a nice font for writing Markdown in at the very least.

Looking at them next to each other, JetBrains Mono is very similar in character to Fira Code. There’s a lot of Menlo in each too. One thing that attracts me is the slightly more compact horizontal measurements. JetBrains Mono fits more characters into less horizontal space. That’s useful when working on the 13" MacBook screen I have. Squeezing an extra character or so in makes viewing code side-by-side that bit easier.

I’m not sure whether I’ll stick with JetBrains Mono or revert back to Fira Code. Without the catalyst of the article I doubt I’d have changed from Fira Code for a long time. So we’ll see. But it’s always nice to look at nice monospaced fonts, and a pleasure to spend so much of my life using them.

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