I’ve noticed the similarities between the Tahoma and Verdana typefaces all along. Despite knowing it’s usually a bad practice, I have never felt remorse in using both on a single piece of work.
Verdana is the wide font, Tahoma is the tight font. That’s how I distinguished them in my mind. It’s never a good idea to bump Tahoma’s tracking to something lower than the default, I’ve found through trial and error. Verdana has a bit of room to maneuver; it has always just felt wider.
I’ve long known the history of Verdana — commissioned by Microsoft, designed by Matthew Carter (formerly of BitStream) specifically for on–screen use, it is perhaps the most web–friendly font there is due to its strong design and high penetration of the market.
Tahoma was a different matter. I knew it was commonly distributed with Microsoft Office, so I assumed it was another Vincent Connare creation. Probably due to lack of trying, I never found a good answer to my curiosity.
Fast forward to today. I got curious enough to load up Photoshop and compare Verdana to Tahoma, side by side. The results? They’re almost the exact same font, distinguished just about solely by their hinting! The results didn’t surprise me in the least; the fact that this has gone completely unnoticed for so long by myself did.
In the image below, the two are presented with exactly the same options set: 30px text, a tracking value of 10, and anti–aliasing set to strong. Notice the individual character shapes, compare the stems and bowls, and it becomes pretty obvious the letter-spacing is the only differentiating feature between the two. Verdana is, in fact, slightly wider than Tahoma as well. I initially assumed this was solely due to the hinting, but upon closer inspection the individual letter–forms are a bit wider.
A quick Google search confirmed what my eyes were telling me — Verdana was created by modifying Tahoma. This may not be news to any of you, but it sure is to me.