50 Comments

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.

    Share
  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.

    Share
  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…

    Share
  4. It’s Helvetica in his screenshots too.

    Share
  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.

    Share
  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.

    Share
  7. It’s Helvetica? My bad.

    Share
  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.

    Share
    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.)

      Share
      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!

        Share
  9. I, for one, like Marker Felt.

    Share
  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.”

    Share
  11. I can do step #7-10 in two seconds. What’s your point?

    Share
  12. This work just fine for me even with a few distractions. Is there a way to increase the font size?

    Share
  13. Unfortunately, no.

    Share
  14. I thought I was the only one who was that anal about the font not being more readible:) Thank you for a nice solution!

    Share
  15. [...] – Learn how via The Apple Blog [...]

    Share
  16. There is a tool that can do all this without any configuration changes.

    Share
  17. Hmmm, tried to post a url and it discarded my comment. So you can go google digg iphone notes manager.

    Share
  18. thanks, josh! this was a big help!

    Share
  19. They should make it easier to change the fonts.using markerfelt for a default font for notes was stupid.

    Share
  20. Thanks a lot for the help!! I was completely annoyed with Marker Felt, and needed an easy way to change the font, because it was really horrible! So thanks and keep on doing stuff like this, cause it helps!

    Share
  21. Thank you!!!!!!!! You have really done a great service to humanity here.

    Share
  22. This doesn’t work for previously typed notes. However, Apple’s Notes can be created and edited in the Mail application. Notes are stored under the Reminders tab. Double click on one to edit it like any other text document.

    Underlining works, however bold and italicize do not. The displayable faces seem to be limited as well, but Hoefler Text 12 and American Typewriter 14 work well.

    Make sure that iTunes is set to replace Notes. Select your ipod, then the Info tab, scroll to the bottom and under Avanced, click on the Notes checkbox and Sync. You will have to perform this action everytime you sync; a safety feature as this will replace all of the Notes on your iPod with the Notes in Mail, so back them up first. I suggest emailing them to the account you use on Mail through Notes, then copy/paste into a new Note in Mail.

    One caveat, changing the font size, and in some cases the face, will not change the notepad lines; a minor annoyance.

    Share
  23. Thank you very much. Worked out very well…!

    Share
  24. Fantastic help, thanks. I hated the font too and a quick google search and here I am with a nice legible font.

    Personally I only ever use one note and add to it and delete things when I have done them so repeating the steps is not an issue.

    Share
  25. First of all, thank you Josh Pigford for posting this workaround. Second of all, some people on this page should chill and redirect their aggression towards Apple! Let’s look for a way to tell Apple to simply add a long-needed fix in their next OS release that places a Notes preference tab in Settings. Any ideas on how to get Apple’s ear – I mean, seriously get Apple’s ear?

    Share
  26. Thank you very much!! I use notes a lot but yes the font was awful, especially for non-alpha characters.

    As I was reading down your steps I must admit I was sceptical – Chinese input – but hey bingo worked a treat! Thanks Josh.

    Share
  27. Thanks for the workaround! I just got my iTouch and really didn’t care for the default font in Notes as I have started to use it extensively in my job as an RN. Did a Google search and found this page. One tip I discovered: if you have saved notes in the old font (Marker Felt), you can place the curser at the beginning of the note, go through the above process, and the entire note will instantly change to Helvitica. No need to re-type the entire note. Excellent tip. Again thx.

    Share
  28. Wow, this is pretty hilarious and involved. Good work. Now if only apple would use a nice grown-up font.

    Share
  29. I, too, was skeptical when I saw Chinese encoding was involved, but this is awesome.
    I HATE that crappy note font and am so glad to be rid of it.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

    Share
  30. Hey! Even though you have to do this steps every time I have to write a note, I don’t care! I prefer doing it, than having to see that awful font! What the heck Apple was thinking when they chose it for this app?

    And yes, i agree with Ulysses, come on! some one is sharing some very cool tips, so if you don’t need it, just don’t use it, but don’t complain about it.

    Anyway, i just have to say THANKS A LOT!!!

    Share
  31. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Share
  32. For what it’s worth I hate the default font too. Whoever came up with that font licked one too many frogs.

    BTW I only had to switch Pinyin to ON to get this to work.

    I do wish I could get Times Roman though.

    Thanks for the tip. Now I can read what’s there.

    Share
  33. Another thing is that changing the font should work with any non-Latin characters. I speak Arabic so I have that as a keyboard and it works the same way… Just thought you might want to add that to the tip…

    Share
  34. Thanks for posting this. While I would prefer to have Helvetica/Arial as my default Notes font instead of having to type a Chinese space character, it only takes a few seconds to do this.

    It’s quite clever that you were able to come up with this.

    Personally, I’m not a fan of jailbreaking, I tried it and didn’t like that I had to re-jailbreak it every time I turned off my iTouch.

    Share
  35. It’s perfect!
    I hated iPod font too. Many thanks. I do it in 1 second, and I am using notes again ;)

    Share
  36. Whoa, just what I was looking for. Rather ingenious Watson.

    Share
  37. Oh, by the way, Thanks!

    Share
  38. There’s a better way. Ditch this worthless note program pre-loaded into Iphone/Itouch. Get “NoteMaster”. It’s free and has several different fonts to choose from. A great tool. I use it extensively.

    Share
  39. Thanks for the helpful tip. The default “Marker Felt ” font really drives me mad.

    Share
  40. Peter Fargher Sunday, May 23, 2010

    You have to be kidding about Arial and/or Helvetica!
    I couldn’t imagine a more childish form of lettering than either.
    And I KNOW childish lettering.

    Share
  41. Thank you SO much. What a relief to know I’m not stuck with Marker Felt.

    Share
  42. I’m so glad I found this! I don’t care what font it is, I’m just happy I can read it much easier than the default. Thanks!

    Share
  43. Thanks for posting this. I agree, Market Felt makes me feel bleh.

    Share
  44. It’s insane that Apple makes you do all this just to change the font on the Notes Application.

    Share
  45. —UPDATE— On my iPod touch 4th genertion, on iOS version 4.1 my iPod is not even capable of switching to the Chinese keyboard layout, I also lost many other keyboard types that your iPod had. So, I guess I am not capable of changing this. That’s too bad.

    Share
  46. You can increase the font size this way:

    Settings > General > Accessibility > Large text. You are given many size options for Contacts, Mail, Messages and Notes.

    Share
  47. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have hated this terrible, terrible font for nearly two years. A slight difference on my iphone 3GS is that after Settings/Keyboard/International Keyboards I need to tap on Add New Keyboard and then I can pick any multi-byte character set. Also, it can be any multi-byte character that you add and then delete. It works on existing notes for me as well as new ones! Repeating steps 7-10 is a small price to pay to get rid of a font that is completely wrong for this size of display.

    Thanks once again

    Share
  48. You can actually change your font very easily.
    Go to
    ^Settings
    ^Notes
    ^There are three to chooose from.

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post