The other day, while helping a friend set up his new computer, I came across a bizarre and irritating problem. I installed Google Chrome, and was on the internet, and noticed that everything was in italics. It was difficult on the eyes. I tried to change some settings in the Page Font menu in Chrome, but to no avail. I found other people had this problem, and after digging in the system’s Fonts folder, I found the issue.
Inside his font folder, I located the Arial category. In Windows 7 (and I might assume Vista, though I’m not sure), fonts are grouped by family. Sub-families, including the italic and bold versions of the fonts, are all grouped into a master family (ie, Arial). When I opened the Arial category, I found Arial Italic, Arial Semibold, Arial Bold, but nothing that would indicate standard, regular Arial.
At this point, I deduced that the Regular font had gone missing entirely! This was a completely new machine: all that had been done was the removal of bloatware and the installation of Awesome-wareTM. I can only guess one of two things happened: whoever made the Windows image at the company (this was an HP Pavilion Slim-line) managed to make an image missing a critical font, or the removal of bloatware caused Arial to be removed, perhaps the file was listed as a shared file and removed when the uninstaller of some program ran.
The repair was a moment of geek genius.
I first Remote Desktopped into my server, an XP machine. I then copied the Arial font file from my Fonts folder to my webserver. Then, on his machine (Windows 7), I downloaded the TTF (true-type font) file to his computer, and copied it to his font folder. Voilà! Everything back to normal, no more italics!
Being the pensive person I am, I thought about why everything would go in italics, rather than just cause the program the crash, display nothing, or use another font entirely. I noticed that, in the Arial family, there were the sub-families as mentioned above. In the font selection dialog box, Regular was the primary sub-family, followed by Italic. I imagine the coding of either the operating system or the web-browser had a method of dealing with missing fonts, by using the next font available, in sequence.
This truly does highlight the significance and scale of designing a commercial computer software. It also highlights how failures in other softwares (or in the production line) can trickle down to the consumer, and cause headaches and additional costs to those who aren’t familiar with troubleshooting PC issues.