Arial, sometimes marketed or displayed in software as Arial MT, is a sans-serif typeface and set of computer fonts. Fonts from the Arial family are packaged with all versions of Microsoft Windows, some other Microsoft software applications, Apple Mac OS X and many PostScript 3 computer printers. The typeface was designed in 1982 by a 10-person team, led by Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders, for Monotype Typography.

A Wonderful Serenity

The Arial typeface comprises many styles: Regular, Italic, Medium, Medium Italic, Bold, Bold Italic, Black, Black Italic, Extra Bold, Extra Bold Italic, Light, Light Italic, Narrow, Narrow Italic, Narrow Bold, Narrow Bold Italic, Condensed, Light Condensed, Bold Condensed, and Extra Bold Condensed. The extended Arial type family includes even more styles: Rounded (Light, Regular, Bold, Extra Bold); Monospaced (Regular, Oblique, Bold, Bold Oblique). Many of these have been issued in multiple font configurations with different degrees of language support. The most widely used and bundled Arial fonts are Arial Regular, Italic, Bold, Bold Italic, along with the same styles of Arial Narrow, plus Arial Black. More recently Arial Rounded has also been widely bundled.

The Meridian Sun

IBM debuted two printers for the in-office publishing market in 1982: the 240-DPI 3800-3 laserxerographic printer, and the 600-DPI 4250 electro-erosion laminate typesetter. Monotype was under contract to supply bitmap fonts for both printers. The fonts for the 4250, delivered to IBM in 1983, included Helvetica, which Monotype sub-licensed from Linotype. For the 3800-3, Monotype substituted Helvetica with Arial. The hand-drawn Arial artwork was completed in 1982 at Monotype by a 10-person team led by Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders and was digitized by Monotype at 240 DPI expressly for the 3800-3.

Gallery Format

IBM named the font Sonoran Sans Serif due to licensing restrictions and the manufacturing facility's location (Tucson, Arizona, in the Sonoran Desert), and announced in early 1984 that the Sonoran Sans Serif family, "a functional equivalent of Monotype Arial," would be available for licensed use in the 3800-3 by the fourth quarter of 1984. There were initially 14 point sizes, ranging from 6 to 36, and four style/weight combinations (Roman medium, Roman bold, italic medium, and italic bold), for a total of 56 fonts in the family. Each contained 238 graphic characters, providing support for eleven national languages: Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish. Monotype and IBM later expanded the family to include 300-DPI bitmaps and characters for additional languages.

Gregor Samsa

Mac OS X was the first Mac OS version to include Arial. The operating system ships with Arial, Arial Black, Arial Narrow, and Arial Rounded MT. However, the default Mac OS X font for sans-serif/Swiss generic font family is Helvetica. The bundling of Arial with Windows and Mac OS has contributed to it being one of the most widely distributed and used typefaces in the world.

A Life In The Day

Arial Alternative Regular and Arial Alternative Symbol are standard fonts in Windows Me, and can also be found in Windows 95 and Windows XP's installation CD, or in Microsoft's site. Both fonts are Symbol-encoded. These fonts emulate the monospaced font used in Minitel/Prestel teletext systems, but vectorized with Arial styling. The fonts are used by HyperTerminal.