A client asked:

I’m aware that there are only certain fonts that appear as themselves all of the time regardless of device. What fonts should I use in documents?

These are what used to be called “web safe” fonts – a very limited set of fonts which are supposed to be available in all web browsers. This used to be the only safe way to use fonts on the web and in documents. Arial, Verdana, Tahoma & Trebuchet are the sans-serif web safe fonts.

There are other ’system fonts’ which are provided with Windows / MacOS / Android / iOS, but the lists vary a lot between systems and over time. 20-30 years ago when everything was a similar version of Windows these would have been safe, but not now.

So, what do you use?

PDFs are almost always fine. The fonts you use are normally embedded into the file for display/print, and in many cases even with proprietary licensed fonts this is fine (though do check specific licences).

Fonts in logos and other graphical elements are fine because they won’t actually be fonts in the logo files, just the shapes of the letters.

For word documents, you can also embed fonts, provided their licence permits it.
Proprietary licensed fonts won’t, but OFL licensed fonts will. If we’ve done branding for you, we will have included an OFL licensed font for general use.

Microsoft have a walk through on how to embed fonts in different Office apps & versions.

I’d highly recommend doing this for files sent to clients – for Word docs, you probably want to embed the whole font (it’ll make the file a bit larger, but means that if your recipient edits the file, they’ve got all the letters available to use!). For PPTs, you can just embed the characters in use, which will keep the file size down.

The one place where “web safe” fonts are still relevant is emails. For example, you might be using Calibri for your emails, which comes with Office. This will be fine on laptops which have Office installed, but on phones, Calibri isn’t usually available, so they’ll substitute an alternative font. You might want to consider switching to a web safe font in emails.