Microsoft Office for Mac web site: uses a Windows-only font

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
February 10th, 2011 • 4:14 pm

I don’t know about other Mac users, but when I go to the Microsoft web pages for Office for Mac, I get headings that look like this:

MS Web site headings

And it does not get any better when I make things bigger:

MS Web site headings

Or even bigger:

MS Web site headings

For the record, this is in Safari, but it looks just as bad in Firefox.

Now, I’ve checked the page on my wife’s MacBook Pro, which runs a slightly older version of Mac OS X, and things look somewhat better — but still not great. If I blow things up, even on her laptop, it still looks pretty awful.

What is going here?

Well, as far as I can tell, the headings are formatted using a style in one of the page’s CSS style sheet, which in turn makes use of a font called “Segoe UI Light.”

And where does this font come from? Why, from Microsoft, of course. Here’s the page for the product. And here is what it says at the bottom:

Segoe font support

Now, since the font is a TrueType font, I suspect that it would work just fine under Mac OS X, in spite of what this page says. But first, you would have to obtain it. And guess what? It’s not a free font. You have to pay for it. (Maybe if you purchase Windows 7, you get it for free. But it’s not included with Microsoft Office 2011.)

So, in order to get legible headings on the web page for Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac OS X, you apparently need to be visiting the page with a PC running Windows 7 and with the font installed. Alternatively you can purchase the TrueType font from Microsoft just so that you can view their pages the way they are intended to be viewed.

Or can you? When I click on the link to purchase the font, I get this:

Can't purchase

So, to recap:

  1. The web pages for Microsoft Office for Mac OS X are designed using a font that is only officially supported in Windows 7.
  2. If you attempt to obtain the font, you are told that you need to purchase it.
  3. And if you try to purchase it, you are told that it’s not available for download at this time.

Makes perfect sense to me.

Of course, when a web page is formatted using a style that requires a font that is not available on your system, things are supposed to degrade gracefully. And the next font specified in the CSS style sheet mentioned above for this particular style is… Arial, which I most definitely have on my system.The second line in the heading captured above is most definitely in Arial (note the “a” in “Stay”), but the first line most definitely is not.

Why does it appear that things do not work properly and that, in the absence of Segoe UI Light, the font rendering does not degrade gracefully for this particular style? I have no idea. Microsoft will probably blame it on Apple.

But the question remains: Why does the web site promoting Microsoft Office for Mac OS X use, by default, a font that no Mac OS X user has on his or her system?

UPDATE: Reliably Broken notes that, even though the h2 style in Microsoft’s style sheet refers to the Segoe font family (and then to the Arial font family), the heading is actually rendered using client-side JavaScript library and the actual font. However, RB provides a screen shot that shows text rendered properly at bigger sizes and worse at smaller sizes. On my machine, the text looks awful at all sizes. On my wife’s machine, the text looks OK (not great) at smaller sizes, but awful at bigger sizes. Here’s a sample:

On MacBook Pro

Also, RB claims that the JavaScript-based solution preserves the selectability of the text, but that does not seem to be working too reliably either. Here’s what I get when I try to select such a heading in Safari on my machine:


To me, the whole thing looks like a technology not ready for prime-time, which, of course, is typical Microsoft.

One Response to “Microsoft Office for Mac web site: uses a Windows-only font”

  1. Reliably Broken » Microsoft isn’t totally evil says:

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