Elaine Firestone writes:
> I'm editing a document that has a lot of description of software programs,
> files, and the way the programs work. It includes such things as the names
> of programs, status codes, names of buttons to press (or click), names of
> widgets and gui's, etc.
> Our standard for text is in Times Roman (TeX's version) in 10 pt type. All
> program names and files are set in a Courier font. Since this is the first
> time we've had a myriad of buttons described, I've typeset these in a small
> caps font.
> I guess my question is how to y'all handle these in typsetting? I still
> have names of widgets and gui's, and status codes to typeset, and I'm
> running out of nice looking ideas to use. Can anyone help me out?
For the HoTMetaL PRO manual, I persuaded our head of documentation to
go with a much sipler look. Previously, he'd used Helvetica for commands
and (veterans, please try to keep your lunch down) Avant Garde for menu
items, all inline in Palatino text, with keystrokes surrounded by little
He still wnated to use a sans serif face for headings, and our then head
of marketing had chosen Gill Sans and Sabon to be the Corporate Fonts.
Rodney came to me for advice, and I managed to persuade him to use Sabon
Italic for many things that had previously been different typefaces.
You will find that many readers don't notive a difference between Helvetica
and Times, or, if they do notice, think it's a printing error. Certainly
it's better to make the text clearer rather than relying on subtle
typographical distinctions like the difference between an Avant Garde `S'
and a Helvetica one...
For a book I'm working on typesetting, about SGML on the Web, I'm trying to
use Celestia, which has no bold weight at all -- just roman, italic,
roman small caps and ornaments. I'm using italic for quite a few things
inline, and also a small dagger for glossary terms and cross references.
Currently, I have Courier condensed to about 70% for monospaced text;
I might move to a different font. I wouldn't have used a monospaced
face at all, except that the author insists on lining things up in columns
in his SGML DTDs, and that's the traditional way to present that style
of DTD. Actually I'd rather like to use a typewwriter font such as
Trixie for the SGML code!
But it's hard to get people to go that far,
Christopher Fynn <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> You might want to look at the house styles of some of the
> larger publishers of computer manuals. Many use a
> Sans-Serif font for menu items and bold for dialog button names.
> Some publishers seem to set button names in bold sans-serif.
> Often a single letter in the name of a Menu command
> is underlined to indicate a shortcut key.
If you go for the pepper-salad sort of look, you might like to consider
using one of the Lucida faces for menu items, as that's what most
(non-Macintosh) computers use for menus.
Actually, if you used the Lucida family in general for a manual, you
could then use Lucida Sans or Lucida Sans Bold for the menu items, and
Lucida Sans Typewriter for the monsopaced stuff, and maybe it won't look
It would be good to use a semibold rather than a bold for inline things;
if I can't get Celestia accepted, I'll switch to Adobe Caslon, which has
a full Expert Set and semibold weights.
Many computer manuals use sans serif for heading text which Christopher
didn't mention in his summary. This is a good choice where you have
inexperienced designers, because it's easy to make sure the headings
work if there is strong typographical contrast. Don't overdo it, though --
I've seen a couple of books recently using Optima BoldItalic, which is
If you have promotional material that uses consistent design items such
as symbols or logos for each product or category, or particular typefaces
or typographical treatment, it can help users if you repeat that in the
manual; this helps to establish an `identity' for the product, and means
that the manual `goes with' the program. The closer the association, I
would imagine, the more likely that people will look at the documention,
other things being equal -- and this can save support costs.