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It seems that with Yosemite, Apple have decided to change the system font from Lucida Grande to Helvetica Neue.

Perhaps on retina screens it looks lovely, but on my 2009 MacBook Pro it’s a step backwards in terms of legibility. (For example, the ‘i’s and ‘l’s in “legibility” are a bit of a blur.

Alas, it seems you can’t revert to Lucida Grande. However, you can improve the appearance of text in applications that use the default system font. (For me, that’s primarily Firefox and Thunderbird.)

  • Download TinkerTool
  • In the Fonts section, change the Application font to Lucida Grande 12pt
  • Restart your applications (or your system)

This doesn’t seem to fix the Finder, but suddenly my Firefox tabs are a lot more readable.

Edit: I’ve since found https://github.com/jenskutilek/FiraSystemFontReplacement which lets you install a new font in such a way that it replaces Helvetica Neue as the system font. How does it work?

These Fira fonts have a special name table with names identical to those of the system fonts. Because the font folder /Library/Fonts takes precedence over the fonts which are in /System/Library/Fonts, these specially crafted fonts are used for the user interface instead of the real system fonts. The original system fonts are not deleted or modified in any way.

The font is rather pleasant too. Perhaps there’s a way to copy Lucida Grande and modify it to replace the system font in the same way?

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