Helvetica Neue Typeface

One of the most striking changes that you will notice when you first fire up OS X Yosemite is the system-wide font change. Apple’s previous desktop operating system releases, since 1999, used Lucida Grande as the system font.

Lucida Grande worked well on lower resolution screens, but as high resolution Retina Displays become more common, it’s starting to look out of place. To address the issue, Apple decided to adopt iOS’ system font of choice—Helvetica Neue—and make it the system font for OS X Yosemite.

Long time Mac users will see it as a striking change, but I believe it’s a change for the better. It looks much cleaner as a system font on Retina displays, which are slowly but surely displacing lower resolution displays. As a bonus, it provides more consistency between Apple’s mobile and desktop offerings.

What do you think about the striking typeface change? Do you like it, or do you wish Apple would have stuck with Lucida Grande?

This post is an excerpt from iDB’s Yosemite Interactive Starter Guide. To learn about some of OS X Yosemite’s most outstanding new features, and to support iDB, you can download it on the iBooks Store for $0.99.

View all of the OS X Yosemite Interactive Stater Guide topics:

  • Domodo

    Does anyone else here use Hear by Prosoft…? I noticed it no longer works as good as it did before

    • Ryan Patrick McAvoy

      It looks ugly/fuzzy on a retina display, but other than that, the application works fine for me on Yosemite. Running version 1.1.6 of Hear. I’m not sure what you mean by “as good,” however.

  • John Wickham

    I’m so glad — Helvetica is gorgeous and really legible, especially on retina displays.

    • Me too. Lucida Grande was very bleh on Retina displays.

    • CS

      But on non-retina or standard definition screens it’s almost impossible to read.

  • Quang

    I like Helvetica Neue Light. It’s the font i use for all documents 🙂

  • sriram varadarajulu

    On a completely unrelated note… Does the final Version of Yosemite still allow you to use dark mode feature like the beta version did?

    • Niclas


      • diggitydang

        Dark mode? Can you describe how to put it in dark mode? Sounds awesome!

      • If I remember correctly Preferences –> General

      • Carlos Gomes

        It’s been activated here since it became available and I like it a lot too.
        There are some bugs, though. Like the volume feedback thingy.

      • diggitydang

        Cool… thanks! Yeah, I like it, but too buggy for me!

  • XZavier

    Are there any apps that go into the system files like dockmod or flavours to edit the system font? Like with docked you can edit the dock, with flavours you can edit the system ui, but is there any to change the system font?

  • Really hard to read on my MBP 17” from mid 2010… Also very jagged looking. It’s just too darn thin, but the screenshot in the article looks fine. I changedi t back to Lucida Grande using Tinkertools and it’s just great now…

  • TheShade247

    I think apple should give us choice to change fonts

  • bryhudso

    Can’t imagine Steve Jobs would have approved of using Helvetica/Arial. Of course Helvetica a serviceable font. It’s a no-brainer font for non-designers. Can’t understand why Apple would use it. They could have designed or commissioned a unique font.
    Now my web browser text, email text, printed reports off my laser printer, user manuals, basic PDF’s, and basic documents all have the SAME FONT as the menu bar and system.
    From an affordance and usability perspective, the system font should be distinctive. I sure hope someone develops a hack to change this boring system font! I would pay real money for it.

  • d18kv178

    Horrible font. Letters stick together. Lowercase e looks like o. Hard to read.

    I conducted a little experiment: showed two screenshots side by side – one of a Mavericks menu, and same menu on Yosemite. Just showed it to some friends to see which fonts they’d prefer. All of them chose Lucida Grande.

    It was on 27″ iMac.