Last week John August introduced a new font called Courier Prime. The advertising states, “It’s Courier, just better.” But is it? And are there any problems using it?
Not all Couriers are the same. Especially when it comes to the world of screenwriting. While most computers come preloaded with the monospaced font Courier, screenwriting programs like Movie Magic Screenwriter and Final Draft come loaded with their own variation on the font; Courier Movie Magic and Courier Final Draft respectively. The variations are slight but noticeable.
The creation of their individual variations are based on how each program accounts for pagination. This includes how many words fit on each line, how many lines fit on each page, and the rules to how/when a line can or should break at a page break.
If you were to swap the fonts between the programs you would find yourself left with different page counts. Something amateur screenwriters and studios both fear.
You don’t want your 110 page screenplay to open for someone else at 130 pages. You need to ensure proper and consistent pagination whether you’re reading your script from on a Mac, Windows computer, PDF, a mobile device, or a printed copy.
Courier Prime Testing
I took courier prime for a test drive using Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter on both Mac and Windows, using several different computers varying resolution displays—including a brand new retina display Mac.
Why was it created?
According to John August’s website Courier Prime was created because “Courier can look blobby, particularly at higher resolutions.” I’ve never noticed this problem before. It’s never stopped me from writing or reading a screenplay. But perhaps I’m missing something with my lasiked farm boy eyes. Below is an image from John’s website showing the difference between the “blobby” Courier Mac and Courier Final Draft and his brand new Courier Prime.
Does it look different?
Yes. Barely. Courier Prime looks a hair darker than Courier Final Draft and Courier. However to be clear it’s not actually darker, it’s thicker; making it appear as if it were darker.
I didn’t notice a significant difference when bold was applied.
Italics look better in Courier Prime. A style choice was made in Courier Prime to create a True Italic. True italics are meant to look more like calligraphy. Certain serifs are rounded or removed to give a more handwriting-like effect. This is not the case in most Couriers and is a unique add to Courier Prime. Most courier fonts simply slant the font. Which is called Oblique. But it’s common for it to be called Italic, even though it isn’t. That’s why I say a True Italic. This is a common practice these days, especially with a monospaced font like Courier. Probably because it’s easy to apply a slanting property to your font as a whole. Italics requires a style choice made to the glyphs themselves and that can be more time consuming. Plus to be fair, if you go too far in your alteration of the glyph at some point it ceases to be Courier and could be perceived as a whole different font.
Is it clearer?
If it is I can’t see it. I tried multiple monitors at varying resolutions, both Mac and Windows, and I couldn’t see a difference between any of the fonts in terms of clarity, crispness, or blobbiness. I thought maybe a nice big brand new retina display Macbook would show me what I’ve been missing. But it didn’t.
If there’s a way to distinguish just how much clearer one is from the other, the naked eye cannot see it.
I then printed from a professional grade laser printer. Courier Final Draft printed the lightest (thinnest), followed by Courier, and then Courier Prime as the darkest (thickest). Still the difference was minimal. As Courier Prime is the darkest of the three it could be viewed as clearest—it does pop off white paper the best—but there is no difference in terms of clarity between the fonts. More likely your eye sees the darker Courier as clearer due to the slightly increased contrast between white and black.
Does it affect my page count?
On Mac I did not see any page count difference when switching from Courier Final Draft to Courier Prime.
On Windows the page count shifted dramatically. A 111 page screenplay suddenly shifted to 149 pages in Final Draft when I changed the font to Courier Prime. John August’s website states,
“Final Draft for Windows uses a special version of their house font with a different line height. So while you can absolutely use Courier Prime, your page breaks might change if you swap back and forth between Courier Final Draft and Courier Prime. Likewise, if your writing partner is using Courier Prime on Final Draft for the Mac, and you open that file on Windows, page breaks might be off.
It’s a Final Draft problem, not a font problem, so it’s out of our control.”
John also stated in his podcast,
“If you’re installing it on Windows, it works great. … If you’re using it with Windows Final Draft, there are some special warnings because Final Draft does crazy things because Final Draft has to do crazy things.”
I wanted to see what kind of crazy things those Final Draft people were up to so I loaded Courier Prime in Final Draft and found that my page count was drastically altered. I could immediately tell why, the line spacing was suddenly increased. But was this Final Draft doing “crazy things” or was this a fault of the Courier Prime font?
To test I launched Notepad. Your basic preloaded Windows program. I grabbed a chunk of text and applied Courier, Courier Prime, and Courier Final Draft to it.
As the pictures below show Courier Prime shows the same improper line spacing in Notepad. Courier and Courier Final Draft do not. This line spacing error is what balloons your script’s page count on Windows.
It is not “a Final Draft problem”. It is unfortunately a Courier Prime on Windows problem.
Below you can see the line spacing of Courier Prime in Final Draft on Windows, it matches the same error found on Notepad.
I don’t much care that there’s an issue with the font. Anything new is going to have a bug or two. But the blame shifting worries me because it seems like he’s unwilling to own his mistake. Which worries me that it won’t be fixed. Surely Windows users can get some love too.
What about the ipad?
It doesn’t seem quite fair to talk about the ipad right now. Currently Courier Prime does not work on it because it doesn’t come loaded with the iOS or any screenwriting app. This means opening your script in a screenwriting app on ipad will force it to replace Courier Prime with something the device or program recognizes. So once again your page count will not be what you intended.
Courier Prime is a slightly thicker Courier than Courier Final Draft. Use Courier Prime, don’t use Courier Prime. No one will notice. It won’t make you more professional. It won’t make your life easier. It won’t increase your chances of selling a script or even writing a better one. It’s a font.
Will I use it? No. Not until that whole Windows line spacing issue and ipad compatibility are figured out. I care more about my pages than the curve of my Courier’s shaft.
A year after this font was released I decided to create my own alternative. Check out Courier For The People and Courier Little Foot. A pair of free fonts designed for screenplays, and no pagination errors.