Microsoft is replacing its default Calibri font with Aptos, a new sans-serif typeface inspired by mid-20th century Swiss typography. Microsoft, formerly Bierstadt, has been searching for a new Aptos default font for the past two years. The software giant has commissioned five new custom fonts for Office in 2021, and the Aptos font has been chosen as the default after years of feedback.
“Today we begin the final phase of this major change as Aptos will begin to appear as the new default font across Word, Outlook, PowerPoint and Excel for hundreds of millions of users,” explains Si Daniels, Principal Program Manager at Microsoft. design blog post today. “And over the next few months, it will be rolled out as the default option for all of our customers.”
Aptos was created by Steve Matteson, one of the leading designers. Matteson previously created Segoe, which has been licensed by Microsoft for use as the default font for Windows. Microsoft first started using the Segoe UI subset of fonts in Windows Vista, and they are still used in Windows 11 today. Matteson also developed the original Windows TrueType core fonts. Bierstadt was renamed Aptos after the favored unincorporated town of Matteson in Santa Cruz, California.
The ends of the Aptos stroke are clearly cut off, but there is some subtle easing to avoid the solid grid-based typography you’d usually find in a font like this. Helvetica is the most famous example of this type of “grotesque san-serif” font, and Matteson has compared Microsoft’s Arial font here as well.
While Aptos will replace Calibri as the default, Calibri will still be pre-installed at the top of the list of new fonts (only available on the web at first) along with its predecessors, Times New Roman and Arial.
Calibri has been the default Office font since the release of Office 2007, replacing Times New Roman at the time. Calibri is used so widely that it even became a key piece of evidence in a corruption investigation into the Pakistani prime minister in 2017. However, not everyone has used Calibri for years.
Only the US State Department directed its staff to use Calibri for notes earlier this year. The State Department has been using Times New Roman instead since 2004. Since it took a full 16 years to switch to Calibri, they’ll likely wait another decade or more to finally switch to Aptos.
The other four fonts that aren’t selected as default fonts—Grandview, Seaford, Skeena, and Tenorite—will still be available in Office, and Microsoft keeps the Bierstadt font name in the drop-down picker for those who already know it.
“Aptos is part of a broader wave of features coming to Microsoft 365. We’re pushing to make the program more expressive and inclusive,” explains Daniels. There’s a newly designed font picker experience, along with new themes, colors, and backgrounds.
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