Since reading on Matt’s site about his opinions on monospace alternatives for coding, I’ve been giving some thought to trying a different font for my editor. The fonts that Matt suggested were “Andale Mono on Windows or Monaco on OS X ”. Windows is still my primary development environment — at least until TextMate gets indented soft wrapping — so I thought I’d check out Andale Mono. As I soon learned, though, it doesn’t come with the OS (apparently it came with IE5, but of course that’s no longer available).
I then came across a gold mine of monospace font alternatives from the TextMate wiki. Looking over the list, my eye was drawn to the Bitstream Vera family, specifically Bitstream Vera Sans Mono. In case you aren't familiar with it, the Bitstream Vera family is a set of 10 fonts that Bitstream released as open source. Many people get to know them as one of the fonts that come with OpenOffice.org or Gnome, but they’re available for anyone to download.
In any case, I tried Bitstream Vera Sans Mono and I’ve been using it ever since. Compared to Courier New (my programming font up until this point), its stroke width is a bit wider (at least how Windows XP’s ClearType interprets it). My favorite characters within the font are probably the lowercase “l” (el) and the number zero (pictured above).
The glyph for “l” has a lovely subtle bend at each end, almost like a backwards “S”. And, as for the zero, it’s differentiated from the letter “O” through a dot in its center. Now, maybe it’s just the nostalgia speaking, but I’ve liked that zero-style ever since the days of playing around on the DOS command line (where I’d see it all the time).
I’d give it a try, if you haven’t already. It’s a free font so you have nothing to lose :).
Update: Ah, it looks like those old Microsoft fonts might just be available after all — maybe I’ll give Andale Mono a try sometime.