Free equivalents for standard proprietary fonts

Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Oct 16, 2014 GMT
Bruce Byfield

Like Linux desktops, free-licensed fonts started as imitations of proprietary equivalents. Today, original free fonts are becoming increasingly common, but the demand for free equivalents of proprietary fonts remains. This demand is unlikely to disapear because, although most professional designers think in terms of proprietary fonts, clients are often unwilling to pay for them. Moreover, free software advocates prefer free fonts to go along with their free applications.

Exact equivalents are rare because of fear of copyright restrictions. A match as high as 75% is rare. Some equivalents, such as the Liberation fonts, are only metrical – that is, they take up the same space as their proprietary equivalents, but the letters themselves are different. In other cases, the free fonts are inspired by their proprietary counterparts, but the designer never intended exact copies, and the most you can expect is a general resemblance. A few proprietary fonts, such as Optima, have no free equivalent at all, so far as I can see. For this reason, the listings in the table below are mostly the closest equivalents, and rarely exact replicas.

Most of these fonts can be found on Google Fonts. The list is as complete as I can make it If you have any other equivalents, let me know and I'll add them to the list.

Proprietary Font

Free Licensed Equivalent

Alternate Gothic #1

League Gothic

Arial

Liberation Sans,* Pt Sans, Open Sans Condensed, Lato

Arial Narrow

Liberation Sans Narrow*

Avenir

Mint Spirit No2, Nunito

Baskerville

Baskervald ADF Standard

Bembo

EB Garamond

Bodoni

Accanthis-Std, Oranienbaum

Caladea

Cambria*

Calibri

Carlito*

Centaur

Coelacanth

Century Gothic

Muli

Comic Sans

Comic Relief

Courier

Liberation Mono

Courier 10 Pitch

Courier Code*

Courier New

Cousine

Eurostile

Jura

Frutiger

Istok Normal 400

Futura

Mint Spirit No2, Nunito

Futura Light

Futura Renner Light

Garamond**

Crimson Text, EB Garamond

Georgia

Nimbus Roman No. 9

Gill Sans

Cabin, Gillius ADF, Hammersmith One, Railway Regular, Raleway

Goudy Old Style**

Goudy Bookletter 1911, Linden Hill, Sort Mills

Helvetica

Liberation Sans,* Pt Sans, Open Sans Condensed, Lato

Helvetica Narrow

Liberation Sans Narrow*

Joanna

Fanwood

Letter Gothic

Josefin Sans, Josefin Slab

Myriad

Junction, Pt. Sans

News Gothic

News Cycle

Stone Sans

Nunito

Stone Serif

Lustria

Tahoma

Lucida Sans, Nimbus Sans

Times New Roman

Liberation Serif,* Linux Libertine*

Trajan

Cinzel

Univers

Universalist-std

Verdana

DejaVu Sans

* Metrical equivalents

** "Garamond" amd "Goudy" are generic for fonts inspired by particular designers. The closeness of the equivalent depends on which font you trying to match.

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