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How to Find Free Helvetica Fonts

written by: Thursday Bram•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 1/30/2011

Helvetica is one of the best known typefaces. There's even been a documentary, named "Helvetica" made of its origins and uses. But if Helvetica didn't come with any of your desktop publishing software, it can cost a few dollars to pick up the font.

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    Helvetica is one of the more commonly used fonts, however it can be expensive to purchase if it didn't come with your desktop publishing software. There are a few copy catters out there you can obtain for free that closely mimic the Helvetica style.

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    Coolvetica is the best-known free Helvetica look alike. There are a few differences between Helvetica and Coolvetica, however. The most obvious are the lower case 'q' and 't' which just don't reflect the simplicity of the Helvetica typeface. The changes were made because making an exact replica of Helvetica and giving it away would violate copyright laws. But most viewers who look at Coolvetica will notice something is a little different than usual — even if they can't put their finger on specific typographic details.

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    If you use Windows on your computer, you probably have Arial already installed. Arial is virtually identical to Helvetica — unless you are a typographer ready to examine details like the tail of the lower case 'a.' Depending on your desktop publishing project, Arial may provide an easy solution to your Helvetica needs. It was actually designed as a Helvetica replacement for Microsoft, and looks great in any document from business flyers to family newsletters.

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    Sans Serif Fonts

    Many sans serif fonts are labeled as similar to Helvetica. But even the fonts that are fairly similar to Helvetica have some significant difference, especially if they are available for free. That is, in part, to prevent the creators of those copy-cat fonts from copyright questions. Depending on the style of your project, looking through a database of sans serif fonts may provide you with an ideal match. You can look for certain key words that tell you a designer was thinking of a Helvetica design, such as Swiss or Helv. The names can be particularly subtle: Geneva has been used in the past to reference Helvetica's Swiss origins.