Finding a Replacement for Terminus

Today I decided to seek out a new monospaced/fixed-width “programmer’s font” for my terminal emulation needs. Of course, this whole discussion is one of those “there are no right/wrong answers” type of things and I’m well aware that there is no “best choice” for everyone, but here are my findings. Also, I’m not going to visually list every font I’m talking about here, Luke already did that a while ago.

I’m in love with Terminus. It is extremely easy on the eyes, has all xterm pseudographic characters, includes probably every UTF-8 glyph ever and supports all languages in the entire universe. It is on every fresh Linux box literally the first thing I’ll install if it isn’t included in the Distro. I use it everywhere I can, for every terminal and editor and so on, but it is time for a change, because it has one fatal flaw. Terminus is a bitmap font, and those do not scale at all. Its non-aliased pixel-perfectness comes with a price: The sharp crispness gets completely fucked up by every font rendering system there is if it decides to randomly apply some resampling algorithms and ancient anti-blur filters. Madness!

So bitmap fonts like Terminus and the famous Proggy Fonts are nice and super crisp and all, but also pretty much useless in the age of high-ppi ‘Retina’ displays, so I went on a quest for an adequate replacement. My personal Best Programming Font Everâ„¢ should include:

  • a zero character (0) with a dash or at least a dot inside.
  • box-drawing characters, because I’m a shell guy.
  • easily distinguishable i, I, 1 and o, O, 0.
  • distinct backticks, single and double quotes.
  • preferrably a vertically centered Tilde. (~)
  • Oh and let’s not forget clear punctuation characters, especially braces, parenthesis and brackets.

And because I’m a lazy sob, I asked Twitter:

Monaco won, followed by Inconsolata and Consolas. Also mentioned were this nice looking derivate of Inconsolata and Inconsolata-dz called Inconsolata-g, this page which reviews 22 monospaced (but mostly bitmap) fonts, Ubuntu Mono (No.) and both Source Sans Pro and Source Code Pro, which are Adobe’s recently released Open Source Fonts.

All of the above are awesome and beautiful fonts (I’m quite fond of Inconsolata and Consolas, actually), but I felt something was still missing until I rediscovered Bitstream Vera Sans Mono, which is Gnome’s default editor font and can be downloaded for free. Bitstream Vera is also the basis for Apple’s Menlo-Regular, their default font for Terminal.app since Snow Leopard, though the improvements are marginal at best (comparison). And because that still wasn’t PERFECTâ„¢, someone did some modifications and put them on Github.

So for now (and until a scalable version of Terminus appears), I’m using Meslo.

Of course I forgot to mention Comic Sans, Anonymous Pro (nice), ProFont for Windows (awesome) and Droid Sans Mono (yawn). Oh yeah, this bitmap font called Tamsyn looks cool, too.