Why does eFile use Courier?

Why does eFile use Courier?
Why does eFile use Courier as its font on filings?

In a recent conversation about eFile with one of our partner agencies, one filing officer remarked:

"Is it possible to change the font on the filings?"

Our answer: "Of course, but ..."  This blog post is about the "but".

eFile uses the classic typewriter font "Courier" on the PDF renditions of all filings. While we're technically able and happy to change the filing font for an agency, there are (at least) two good reasons why Courier is a good choice for filings.

Top Part of a Form 700 Cover Page

Reason 1: Courier is a Monospace Font

A monospace font's characters all occupy the same amount of horizontal space. This means, when using a monospace font of a given font size, it's exactly possible to determine how many characters will fit into a form field. Other fonts, e.g., Arial or Palatino are variable-space fonts. Different characters take up different amounts of space, making it much more difficult to determine if text will fit a form field.

Using Courier, eFile compares the width of the text to the form field it needs to fit (e.g., the "Your Position" field on the above Form 700 cover page). If it doesn't fit, eFile first tries with a small font size. Once the minimum font size is reached and the text still doesn't fit, it tries other strategies, e.g., stacking text into two lines (if there is space) or creating an attachment page where text can fit comfortably.

While its monospace nature is a huge argument for Courier, there are other, perhaps nicer looking monospace fonts out there. Also, modern PDF-generation software will actually be able to calculate the final width of a given text based on its Font (monospaced or non-monospaced) and the detailed list of characters it contains. So there are workarounds. At least in principle.

Reason 2: Courier is Everwhere!

The second reason is actually much more important than the first. Since Courier is a standard font (and one of the original 14 PDF fonts included by Adobe in the PDF standard), it is available everywhere – on your laptop, your desktop computer, and even on your phone.

This is a huge advantage: since Courier is available everywhere, it does not need to be embedded into PDF filings, resulting in smaller files that can downloaded faster even on slow connections and that reduce storage costs.

This is also the primary argument against other, perhaps "nicer" looking monospace fonts. Since such a font naturally will be much less common on computers, it always must be included in filing PDF files, increasing their size substantially (by sometimes 30% or more, depending on the size of the filing).

In summary: eFile uses Courier because it's a monospace font and avaialable everywhere, reducing the size of filing PDFs. We will always try to keep file sizes to a minimum to keep even many-page filings easily accessible for the public. That said, we may consider switching to a very common non-monospace font (e.g., Arial) and use more advanced processing logic to make sure text fits and is rendered within the boundaries of form fields.