WhatFont, or How to Be A Type Nut on the Web

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If you’re like me, fonts can drive you bananas on the internet. Not in a “oh look how bad that font is” way, but in a “what a nice font, I wonder what it is” way. Sure, bad type happens. But when you see that great font being used, the inability to identify it can feel so close yet so far.

Thankfully, I’ve come across a solution. It comes in the form of a Google Chrome extension called WhatFont. If you aren’t familiar with Chrome extensions, that’s okay – many aren’t. Like your iPhone or Android device, the Chrome browser has a marketplace for third-party software that runs inside Chrome. Games and apps, of course, are there. But extensions are small functions that you add to the browser; oftentimes in the form of a button that goes up near your bookmarks.

So what does WhatFont do? Exactly what you’d hope. If you’ve arrived at a webpage containing interesting type, click the WhatFont button in the corner of your browser. This freezes the page and enters a sort of typographical X-Ray mode. Dragging your cursor over type will pop up a small box that identifies the typeface. If you’re interested, click on the type and more details emerge – font size, family, line height, and even what service is hosting the typeface. Pretty nifty.

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Of course, WhatFont can’t always work perfectly. It analyzes the back-end CSS to determine what font is being hosted. So an image, Flash, etc. can’t submit the necessary information. But given the prevalence of HTML 5 in modern web design, nine times out of ten WhatFont will be able to recognize it. Also, Chrome extensions only work on Chrome.. as you might assume. So if you’re a Safari user, you’ll have to do some browser-juggling.

It may sound like it scratches a small itch; but WhatFont has really become integral to my browsing experience. It’s a good idea to pay attention to type, but it’s a really good idea to keep track of what you like. You never know when that perfect typeface could be used in the future.

September 17, 2013 / By