Menlo / Vera Sans Mono Comparison

As soon as I saw Menlo I knew it was going to be my new favorite programming font. Just a couple weeks ago I gave Bitstream’s Vera Sans Mono a try, and it didn’t work for me, so I wondered what the difference was. You’ve probably seen the high resolution comparison already. But I don’t code in size 64 font; I program I code in size 11 font. Here’s an animation of some real code switching between Menlo and Vera Sans Mono.

Menlo / Vera Sans Mono

Menlo is the one with the slash through the zero, while Vera Sans Mono has a dot in the zero. You can see that a lot of characters (“M”, “N”, “l”, “#”, and all the punctuation) look way too light and blurry in Vera Sans Mono, but look great in Menlo. The just look at how blurry that octothorp is in Vera Sans.


When Gruber asks, who can say no?

Here’s a comparison of Vera Sans Mon and Coda’s variant. Coda has the higher, longer underscores and the slightly lighter weight. I don’t really like how Coda is so thin that anti-aliasing kind of greys out the text. If you blow it up (or look at it with Digital Color Meter), then you’ll see that very few of the pixels are close to black.


And here is an image with all three. Vera Sans, Menlo, and Coda in that order. Menlo has the zero with the slash, so you can keep track of which is which. (I intentionally omitted a key from the image, because I wanted to focus on how the text changed without distraction.


You can download the gifs and open them in Preview if you want to page back and forth manually. It will give you each image as a separate page, and you can switch back and forth using the arrow keys. (This is also a great way to do an impromptu slideshow. Open a directory full of images, hit ⌘-A to select them all, and hit ⌘-O to open them in Preview.)

  • Ingo Hoffmann

    Have you tried Inconsolata?

    I just love it :)

  • Tom Morris

    Menlo looks very nice: I’ve recently switched to Inconsolata-DX as my main programming font – which is Inconsolata with straight single and double quotes (Inconsolata being a free monospaced font based on Microsoft’s Consolas). It looks really nice in MacVim and TextMate. I haven’t tried it in Eclipse yet. It’s living proof that monospaced doesn’t have to mean ugly.

    Menlo certainly will be a nice sight and a great default for (etc.) on Snow Leopard.

  • Jon Shea

    I moved from Monaco to Inconsolata a couple weeks ago. I was having eye-strain trouble and groping for something that might help. I tried all the popular, free, monospaced fonts and Inconsolata was my favorite. But when I started developing on Snow Leopard I fell instantly in love with Menlo.

  • Jeff Mancuso

    One thing I really prefer about Panic’s version is that the underscore is hinted such that it remains 1 pixel aligned to the pixel grid. Anti-aliased horizontal lines are ugly.

  • brian

    Another great way to do an impromptu slideshow is to open a directory full of images, hit command-A to select them all, then right-click or control-click and choose “Slideshow” :-) Includes onscreen controls and responds to keystrokes as well.

  • Scott Johnson

    I must say that I really like Menlo in these comparisons. I can’t wait to see it in action in Snow Leopard.

  • Richard C

    Menlo looks awesome, I can’t wait to start playing with it in Snow Leopard. The only part of Vera Sans I prefer is the smaller asterisk; the one in Menlo looks too big to my eyes. Every other change in Menlo looks like an improvement to me.

  • Skeuomorph

    This looks great, but at even smaller sizes (9pt, 6pt), “Andale Mono” seems to hold up very well by comparison, staying a bit lighter and more ‘open’ on the page where the Vera variants feel they’re starting to fill in too much (not to mention the smaller line height, allowing more lines on a page or more space between lines if you prefer). At 11 pt and up Andale Mono seems to feel more open and rounded as well.

  • DDA

    I’m with Richard C here; that asterisk seems kinda big and low.

  • Marco De Vitis

    Interesting comparison, thanks, but how is it that the Coda variant in your samples uses “standard” antialiasing, while the other two use subpixel hinting? This is clearly a disadvantage for Coda, makes its text look more blurry and greyed out.
    You can check it out by zooming hard on the animated GIFs.

  • matt

    If you’re coding Objective-C then the new asterisk will clinch the deal. Otherwise, it’s still a great new version of Deja Vu Sans Mono (my coding favourite up to now)

  • CSchwang

    Over here Panic Sans looks almost identical to Bitstream’s Vera Sans Mono. The main difference appears to be the underscore.

    See for yourself:

  • Andrew

    I’ve tried them all:

    Andale Mono
    Anonymous Pro
    Courier New
    Deja Vu Sans Mono
    Droid Sans Mono Custom
    Bitstream Vera Sans Mono

    Some of them are nice enough when antialiased, but I find the fuzziness fatiguing after about ten minutes, so I leave antialiasing off. I use 10pt typically, but might switch to 11pt if I could find a clean choice (the fonts that have bitmaps included for small sizes often skip 11pt).

    I keep coming back to Monaco, but I have my fingers crossed for Menlo — hopefully the 11pt bitmaps are great, or the antialiasing isn’t super aggressive.

  • Bart

    Is there a way for people without Snow Leopard to get Menlo? If it’s based on Bitstream Vera, isn’t it free for distribution?

  • Jon Shea

    CSchwang: I like your screenshot a lot more than mine. I took mine actually in Font Book in the preview window, on [not Leopard]. Are you on Leopard? Maybe Apple changed the antialiasing. Marco (above) suggests that for some reason Coda isn’t using sub-pixel antialiasing.

    Asterisk haters: I’m having trouble sympathizing with you. I actually think the Vera Sans splat looks a little too high, almost like it’s superscripted. That doesn’t sit right with me. I like that it’s more grounded in Menlo.

    Andrew: I tried them all too, and almost always went back to Monaco. I had the same “fuzziness” complaint you have with almost all of them. Monaco looks good and sharp both with antialiasing on and off. I only had a brief fling with Anonymous when my eyes were hurting. Menlo doesn’t look that different from Monaco, especially at smaller sizes. It’s a bit shorter and more compact. And as you can see, it’s a good bit less fuzzy than Vera Sans.

    Bart: Menlo is Snow Leopard only for now (I might be in a grey area for even talking about it).

  • Ollivier Robert

    After trying many of these (incl. the new Anonymous Pro recently released)and after using DejaVu Sans Mono for quite some time, I can’t get out of Droid Sans Mono. It just feels right. I’ll have a look at Menlo hwen I switch to SL but I do not expect to change :)

  • CSchwang

    Yes, I’m on Leopard,

    I made the screenshot in TextEdit, but I can’t see any difference in Font Book.
    Maybe Apple changed something about Sub-Pixel AA in [redacted]. They canceled the light and strong smoothing styles for example. Don’t know if this is the reason though, because your other screenshots clearly show Sub-Pixel AA at similar font size.

  • Jesse Burgheimer

    Hi, I’m the guy who created the illustration on Typophile that was linked by Ars.Technica and John Gruber.

    Once I discovered that Menlo was another fork of Bitstream Vera Sans Mono, I had to find what kind of I just overlapped two screen caps from Font Book to quickly present the minor but noticable differences between DejaVu Sans Mono and Menlo– this is a far better representation, in my opinion!

    I love Menlo, but my only gripe (and this goes across all variants of the Vera-based fonts) is that the leading (line-height) is just a bit too short and ought to be raised a little bit for further ease of reading.

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  • Mecki

    Menlo has a very big drawback compared to Bitstream Vera Sans Mono and Panic Sans. Try the following expression in all three and then tell me what is more readable: i–; I can hardly recognize the minus signs as being two in Menlo. The space between them is way too small. In Bitstream the minus sign is almost too small (could be a wide “dot”, too). Panic is the only font with a decent minus sign. Similar issues are observed for underscore. Try this ___test_____ in all three and ask people how many underscores are before and after test. With Bitstream, easy to tell. With Panic almost impossible. With Menlo definitely impossible!

  • Mecki

    Sorry for making two posts, but there is no edit function ;-) Important: The “i” in my post above should have two minus signs after it. Somehow your web page swallowed one of these.