[Edu-sig] IDLE fonts

David MacQuigg macquigg at ece.arizona.edu
Sun Jul 13 00:29:16 CEST 2008

At 04:59 PM 7/11/2008 -0700, kirby urner wrote:

>When I move around from one computer to another, helping students with
>bugs, I'm often confronted with an assortment of different typefaces.
>I'm thinking next time to go in the other direction and encourage
>experimenting with some truly different looking fonts -- but not so
>different that the code becomes unreadable (not ding bats).
>I think we're all somewhat attuned to the psychological attributes of
>different fonts, e.g. Comic Sans has a different "atmosphere" than New
>York Times or Courier New.
>Before I show off what I consider to be a fun and useful IDLE font,
>suitable for future classes, I'd like to poll other subscribers as to
>whether they do anything unusual in the fonts department, either for
>the benefit of new students, or for themselves.

I have tried a few of the dozens of fonts in IDLE, but found none better than the default Fixedsys.  This must be the one they optimized for IDLE.  In other tools, like TextPad, I prefer Courier New, but it is surprisingly BAD in IDLE!  I guess there really is no standard line weight, or whatever, for "Courier New".  It all depends on how it is tweaked for a particular program.

As for offering students dozens of fonts, I say too many fonts are at best a distraction, at worst a source of ambiguity as to what symbol is actually intended.  Find a font that will clearly distinguish the characters O0l1Z2S5, and stick with it.  We are teaching programming, not website design.  Fixed width is the most readable, and essential for tables and indented code, but a compact (proportional-spaced) font like Arial, can add 50% more text on a page.  The gain for code is much less, because most lines are shorter than the page width.

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