Last week a new set of tools was released by Apple to give registered developers a head start as the highly anticipated Apple Watch release approaches. The developer bundle, dubbed WatchKit, contains interface templates, icons, styling guides, specifications, and more. It also happens to have a new font called San Francisco. And that's apparently some really big news.
Love them or hate them, you've got to admit that Apple has style and this is echoed through their undeniable influence on culture over the past nearly 4 decades. I could go on for days about their positive and negative influences on technology, music, movies, pop culture and any number of other things. What it all boils down to is that during the early days of computing as we know it, when computers were dull and cold Steve Jobs was able to accentuate the personality of the machines he built with humble typography that reminded users of the clean and simple typefaces used in print for decades or even centuries... and it left a lasting impression.
The internet has unanimously accepted that this font was named as such as a throwback to the first batch when Jobs and his team decided on a naming convention that gave every Apple-born typeface the name of a world-class city; Chicago (Elefont), New York, Geneva, London, San Francisco (Ransom), Toronto, and Venice; some of which remain popular to this day. San Francisco is the first new font to leave Cupertino, the first new font Apple has developed in over 20 years (the last one released in 1993 was Espy Sans, made especially for the Newton).
Created specifically for the upcoming wearable and noted for it's near perfect viewability on small screen. Could this be a sign that Apple is doing everything they can to make the Apple Watch user experience absolutely unforgettable? For me this release seems like it's possibly channeling Jobs-ian times when perfect wasn't good enough and the only way to do it right was to do it themselves. I have to admit, while I'm sometimes drawn to a particular typeface I'm no font nerd. This font looks pretty good. Good enough for me to want the system default of Helvetica Neue to be replaced by San Francisco (or in this case a near match created by some guy on the Internet) on my OS X systems.
Github user wellsriley was able to throw together a couple tools from around the internet and create a script that automates the whole process in Yosemite. He also makes a font available that matches the look and feel of San Francisco so everyone can use it. To run the script you simply need to open up a Terminal window and enter:
ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.github.com/wellsriley/YosemiteSanFranciscoFont/master/install)"
You'll be prompted for your password (it runs under your user account and uses sudo to elevate privileges). Once it's all done you simply reboot and you've got a new, simple yet beautiful default font running on your system.
If you're not one to roll the dice and run random internet scripts on your machine or want a little more control over what's going on, he also has written up the manual process. Basically you can do what his script does the old fashioned way like this:
- Download the zipped font files.
- Copy the 5 font files to
/Library/Fontson your Mac. (protip: press
cmd+shift+gwhile in Finder to type the path directly.) Important note: this is the
sudo chown root:wheel /Library/Fonts/System\ San\ Francisco*to set the proper ownership of the font files.
sudo atsutil databases -removeto clear the OS X Font Cache
- Repair Disk Permissions
diskutil repairPermissions /(for good measure)
- Restart your computer so the changes can take effect.
If for some reason you aren't a fan or run into some issues after making the switch, open a Terminal window, navigate to
/Library/Fonts and make sure you have the right files. There should be 5 of them in there representing the various font weights all in the System San Francisco family.
# cd /Library/Fonts # ls | grep System\ San\ Francisco System San Francisco Display Bold.ttf System San Francisco Display Medium.ttf System San Francisco Display Regular.ttf System San Francisco Display Thin.ttf System San Francisco Display Ultralight.ttf
Now delete all the files starting with
System San Francisco and restart. If you don't trust me, go here to read his uninstall instructions.
To view all the code head over to wellsriley's
YosemiteSanFranciscoFont repository on github.