Holy cow, I wrote a book!
In Windows 95, we experimented with other fonts for the console window,
and it was a disaster.
In order to be a usable font for the console window,
the font needs to be more than merely monospace.
It also needs to support all the characters in the OEM code page.
Testing this is easy for SBCS code pages, since they
have only 256 characters.
But for DBCS code pages, testing all the characters means testing
tens of thousands of code points.
The OEM code page test already rules out a lot of fonts,
because the 437 code page (default in the United States)
contains oddball characters like the box-drawing characters
and a few astronomical symbols
which most Windows fonts don't bother to include.
But checking whether the font supports all the necessary characters
is a red herring.
The most common reason why a font ends up unsuitable for use in
a console window is that the font contains characters with negative
A- or C-widths.
These A- and C-width values come from the
ABC structure and represent the amount of under-
and overhang a character consumes.
Consider, for example, the capital letter W.
In many fonts, this character contains both under- and overhang:
Notice how the left and right stems "stick out" beyond the
putative cell boundaries.
I wrote code in Windows 95 to allow any monospace
font to be used in console windows, and the
ink was hardly even dry on the CD before the bugs started
"When I choose Courier New as my font, my console
window looks like a Jackson Pollock painting with splotches of pixels
everywhere, and parts of other characters get cut off."
(Except that they didn't use words as nice as "splotches of pixels".)
The reason is those overhang pixels.
The console rendering model assumes each character fits neatly inside
its fixed-sized cell.
When a new character is written to a cell, the old cell is
overprinted with the new character, but if the old character
has overhang or underhang, those extra pixels are left behind
since they "spilled over" the required cell and infected neighbor cells.
Similarly, if a neighboring character "spilled over",
those "spillover pixels" would get erased.
The set of fonts that could be used in the console window
was trimmed to the fonts that were tested and known to work
acceptably in console windows.
For English systems, this brought us down to Lucida Console
"Why isn't there an interface for choosing a replacement font,
with a big annoying message box warning you that 'Choosing
a font not on the list above may result in really ugly results.
Don't blame me!'?"
First of all, because we know that nobody reads those warnings
Second, because a poor choice of font results in the console
window looking so ugly that everybody would rightly claim that
it was a bug.
"No, it's not a bug. You brought this upon yourself by choosing
a font that results in painting artifacts when used in a console
"Well, that's stupid. You should've stopped me from choosing
a font that so clearly results in nonsense."
And that's what we did.
Of course, if you're a super-geek and are willing to shoulder
the blame if the font you pick happens not to be suitable for
use in a console window,
you can follow the instructions in this Knowledge Base article
to add your font to the list.
But if you end up creating a work of modern art,
well, you asked for it.
In the title of this entry, s/console windows/Windows console windows/†
†s/Windows console windows/Windows console windows when displayed
inside a GUI window, as opposed to consoles that have gone to
hardware fullscreen, which is another matter entirely/.