Which PowerPoint font should you use?

screen displaying various fonts

There are thousands of weird and wonderful fonts available, but when answering the question of which PowerPoint font should you use for your presentation it is vital that you take into consideration where it will be viewed. For example, if your audience is in-house only and all of your team/company have your house style fonts installed on their machines then there isn’t a problem with using them (just so long as everyone has them installed that is…). However, if your house style fonts are non-standard PowerPoint fonts and the presentation is going to be viewed externally or on any machine which does not have the font installed – that’s where you could have a nasty problem.

Why is this a problem?

If your chosen PowerPoint font is non-standard and the computer used to view the presentation doesn’t have this font installed, PowerPoint will automatically substitute in a standard font (e.g. Calibri) instead. This can make the presentation look very different (for example, text may wrap in odd places or fall off the slide altogether) and no one wants that.

What’s the solution?

Happily, you don’t need to be a font geek to fix this, there are a few simple ways to stop it from happening!

  • You could only use the PowerPoint on machines that have the correct font installed. But, this may not be possible if you are sending the presentation out to clients or if it is being used at a conference or other meeting where it will be loaded onto a non-company machine which does not have your font installed.
  • There is the option to embed a non-standard font into the PowerPoint itself. This option is limited though because it this only works for .TTF* fonts (not .OTF* fonts) and it doesn’t work at all when presentations are viewed on a Mac.
  • If you are 100% sure that your presentation is finalised you can save it as a PDF before distribution. But, again, there is a downside to this. Although fonts are embedded automatically in PDFs, suddenly your presentation will be a lot harder to edit and any nifty animations you have added will be lost.
  • You could replace the font with images of the text. Yes, this will look the same, but again you have now made your presentation a lot harder to edit in the future.
  • The most effective solution is to replace the font with a standard (safe) PowerPoint font (e.g. Arial, Century Gothic, Calibri) instead. You can choose the font which is the closest match in terms of your house style font for a similar look and feel. The downside to this is if your house style font is particularly quirky you may not be able to find a suitable equivalent. In this case you can refer to the above options.

What is a standard PowerPoint font?

We have already mentioned Arial, Century Gothic and Calibri – there are more to choose from. Other fonts that are safe to use cross-platform are Times New Roman, Times, Verdana, Courier and Courier New – to name just a few. You can find more listed here: http://presentit.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/fonts.html.  Something else you should bear in mind is that the safe fonts list also depends on which version of Windows is being used – make sure your font is safe in all versions if your presentation is going to be widely distributed.

*What are .TTF and .OTF fonts?

TrueType Fonts (.TTF) came first and were designed to work with on both PCs and Macs. OpenType Fonts (.OTF) were developed later to work in Adobe and Microsoft packages. The main difference between .OTF and .TTF is in the advanced typesetting features which .OTF offers. There are some extra frills such as ligatures and ‘alternate characters’ (also known as glyphs) available, that give designers more options to work with.

Further information

There are a number of webpages that will talk you through all of this in more detail:




With font selection it is better to go with a safe option.