When building websites, it's important to make sure that they work in as many different operating systems and browsers as possible. In this article we'll be explaining a bit about the differences.
Before you start, do you know which browser and operating system you're using? If not, have a look at BrowserHawk, which gives you all the information you'll ever need about your browser!
Different operating systems can make a real difference to the way your website looks. A Windows PC comes with a different set of fonts to a Mac, and Linux will have a different set again. Windows Vista and Mac OS X both use font-smoothing to make the text more readable, which can have a dramatic effect on the typeface too. For example, Georgia is readable at small text sizes on Windows Vista, but is quite hard to read on Windows XP.
A safe font list across all operating systems usually includes:
Compare this list above with these two screengrabs below - one from Windows Vista (left) and one from Windows XP (right, without font smoothing enabled).
If you wish to use other typefaces on your website, we recommend using a technology called sIFR which uses Adobe Flash to display fonts on the page. This site uses sIFR extensively in the page titles (such as the one above that says Operating Systems).
There are dozens of different web browsers (the application you're using right now to view this page). The two most common are Internet Explorer and Firefox, with Safari and Chrome coming in behind. Each browser has quirks that means it will display the same web page in different ways, and it is often a design compromise to ensure that a page looks similar in the most popular browsers. As of December 2010, the most popular browsers are: