Windows 10 and 11 will soon get two new monospace system fonts. System fonts are the default installed fonts that are available to use in any apps and website. This is the first time since Windows Vista that Microsoft is adding new system fonts to Windows.
Consolas has been the modern monospace font of choice in Windows since Windows Vista. Web browsers and the Command Prompt still defaults to the much older Courier New for legacy compatibility reasons. Consolas has been the default font in Visual Studio (VS) and VS Code for years already.
However, there’s a new monospace font landing soon in Windows 10 and 11: meet Cascadia Code and Cascadia Mono. Microsoft has already made it the new default font in VS and VS Code, and the Windows Terminal app. A version of the Cascadia font family is bundled with the apps, and gets installed alongside them.
—and it’s this font bundling that means the font will become available by default on Windows going forward. You can install the Windows Terminal app from the Microsoft Store today. However, Windows Terminal will be installed by default in Windows 11. The app won’t install alongside Windows, but it gets installed from the Microsoft Store soon after the computer goes online. Future versions of Windows 10 are also expected to install Windows Terminal by default. It’s already in testing in the Windows 10 Insider program.
Unlike Microsoft’s previous fonts (including the Microsoft Web Core fonts, and the Vista ClearType fonts), Cascadia is an open-source project. You can freely use, download, redistribute, sell, and even modify it (assuming you give your version a different name). You can grab the font’s source code or download a release copy today from Cascadia’s repository on GitHub.
Cascadia Code is a monospace/fixed-width font where all the characters and punctuation mark has the same width. This is useful for tabulating data, source code, and terminals. Cascadia Code also features optional programming ligatures; a feature that combines character sequences common in programming into symbols. It’s the first font from Microsoft to feature programming ligatures. (Cascadia contains some common typographic ligatures, but that doesn’t count.)
Cascadia Mono isn’t really a different font from Cascadia Code. It’s a version of Cascadia Code without the programming ligatures. Mono was given a unique name as a convenience to users who’re unfamiliar with how to turn on or off font features such as ligatures. It’s also useful when used with programs that don’t offer users direct control over font features.
So, why is this a big deal? It’s a fairly rare occasion that anything gets added to the default system-installed font set. It’s been 14 years since the release of Windows Vista; which was the last time Microsoft added any new fonts to its operating system. Apple adds new fonts to MacOS on average every four years.
Web fonts enable websites to choose whatever font they can afford for their designs. However, many fonts can be expensive to license, and web fonts take extra time and resources to render. They’re not great for users on low-end devices, or slow or expensive network connections. Web designers can reduce page load times by sticking to the true and trusted default system fonts. Getting a new font in the world’s most popular operating system is pretty exciting.
Cascadia Mono isn’t metrically-compatible with either Consolas and Courier New. Here’s a font specimen of the three fonts at different point sizes. Cascadia isn’t a drop-in replacement for any of the earlier fonts.
There are even more new fonts on the horizon. Windows 11’s default user interface font is a refreshed version of the current Segoe UI font called Segoe UI Variable. The refreshed font may also get added to Windows 10 in time. There may be at least five more new fonts coming to Windows 11, but that’s just speculation at this time.