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Summary:

I really, really detest the Market Felt typeface used in the Notes application in the iPod touch and iPhone. It is hard to read, hard to edit points into, and looks plain childish. Fortunately, I stumbled upon a way to easily have your notes displayed with […]

I really, really detest the Market Felt typeface used in the Notes application in the iPod touch and iPhone. It is hard to read, hard to edit points into, and looks plain childish.

Fortunately, I stumbled upon a way to easily have your notes displayed with Arial Helvetica. And, no, you do not need FontSwap, jailbreaking or any complicated deep system maneuvering. All you need is right there in the iPhone OS.

For this walkthrough I am using a second-generation iPod touch with firmware version 2.1.1 loaded. This also works with the iPhone.

  1. In the Home Screen, tap on Settings.
  2. Tap on General, followed by Keyboard (it is near the bottom of the page).
     

  3. Tap on International Keyboards.
  4. Scroll down to the end of the page and tap on Chinese (Simplified).
  5. In the page that comes up, you will see two settings, Handwriting and Pinyin. Turn both settings on.
  6. Go back to the Notes application. Create a new note or tap on an existing note to open it. If you are creating a new note, write a word or two so that you can easily verify that the typeface changes.
  7. Tap in the note area to bring up the on-screen keyboard. Tap on the button to the left of the space bar, the one with an icon of a globe. The keyboard layout will change to one meant for Chinese handwriting recognition input. Don’t worry; just pay attention to the next step.
    8647_IMG_0008.PNG
  8. On the left of the input area, you will see four rows of buttons. The first button at the top is the Backspace. The second button below it is what we are interested in. For those of you who do not understand Chinese, the button says ‘Space’.
    8647_IMG_0009.PNG
  9. Tap on this button. The typeface of your note will change from Marker Felt to Arial Helvetica! But do read on! The next step is very important.
    8647_IMG_0010.PNG
  10. Tap the globe button twice, or if you have many input languages set up, tap it till the space bar flashes the words ‘English (US)’ (or the name of your native language). Your input language is now back to default, and you can continue to edit your note. Even if you close your note, the typeface will remain as Arial. That’s it!

Unfortunately, you will have to repeat the last few steps (7-10) for each new note you create, but this method does keep you from having to modify core iPhone files.

Care to know what just happened?

There are two ways to input Chinese characters on a computer, either by handwriting recognition or by a method known as Pinyin, in which a user spells out the phonetic pronunciation of Chinese words with the Latin alphabet on a standard keyboard. Each resulting Chinese character is then encoded—popularly with an encoding method called Unicode—into a document. This goes for the input of any other non-Western language as well.

Encoding non-Latin characters into a document requires a compatible font. Luckily for us, Market Felt is not a Unicode font. So, by picking a non-Latin input method, we are forcing the input engine to switch to a Unicode font such as Arial Helvetica so that it can display both Latin and non-Latin characters correctly. If you would like to know more about the magic that goes on in the background regarding character encoding, Wikipedia has an entry on the topic.

Note: This article has been corrected since publication.

  1. My text converted to Helvetica, not Arial.

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  2. I didn’t get the same font as displayed in your screenshots also, but thankfully it is still more legible than the standard Notes font. It’s just a shame we can’t pick it specifically, because repeating those steps each time is a pain. At least it’s easy to convert any note after the fact using this method, so you don’t have to retype it.

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  3. It’s Helvetica for me too (maybe because on my iPod touch the language is set to French?).
    Thank you for this handy tip. Marker Felt is very bad indeed, even Comis Sans would be better ;-). Let’s hope that we’ll be able to choose a better font in a next version of the iPhone OS…

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  4. It’s Helvetica in his screenshots too.

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  5. For the love of god, there’s no Arial on the iPhone, it’s Helvetica. Macs always come with Helvetica and not Arial, why wouldn’t the iPhone be the same?

    Edmund.

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  6. What is so bad about Helvetica? Personally, I’m more of a fan of Comic Sans to be honest. But seriosuly, I’m just going to buy the new touch Blackberry.

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  7. It’s Helvetica? My bad.

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  8. For the love of god, there’s no Arial on the iPhone, it’s Helvetica. Macs always come with Helvetica and not Arial, why wouldn’t the iPhone be the same?

    Edmund.

    Unfortunately, Macs come with Arial now, as do iPhones. But Apple do not use Arial anywhere in the iPhone interface, it’s just used when requested in Safari, although some developers seem to be using it in their applications.

    Personally, I’m more of a fan of Comic Sans to be honest.

    Please tell me you’re joking.

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    1. Matt J: So that’s why they included Arial on the iPhone/Touch, I thought it was odd. I think they’re being way too accommodating of web developers’ often silly choices. I’ve disabled Verdana on my Mac because so many sites insist on it. I got really fed up looking at it. (I’m tempted to do likewise on my Windows box but I don’t use that so much for browsing.)

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      1. Helmut von Lichtenstein Tuesday, July 13, 2010

        You get verdana more and more thanks to Macromedia Dreamweaver (back in the DW4 days I believe) when stylesheets were brand spanking new, the default font sets was Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif for the declaration. So it goes through the list in order. Since DW is a windows program, it lists windows fonts first. Since now Apple includes those rubbish microsoft fonts, mac users get screwed!

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  9. I, for one, like Marker Felt.

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  10. “Unfortunately, you will have to repeat the last few steps (7-10) for each new note you create…” So, what is the point of this “tip”, then? All that work to change the font in one short note! And then it’s back to the default Market Felt when you decide to write the next note. This is a supreme example of the kind of nonsense one can come up with if there’s nothing better to do. But most of us do not have the time to take “the last few steps (7-10)” to see one note in Helvetica! We’d rather pour another glass of wine and chill to “My Back Pages” being sung by Bob Dylan: “A self-ordained professor’s tongue / Too serious to fool / Spouted out that liberty / Is just equality in school / ‘Equality,’ I spoke the word / As if a wedding vow. / Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

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