Brittle, anemic Helvetica is simply not a good choice as a default display font for Apple's operating system. That's why I'm pretty excited about this little trick to replace Helvetica Neue (the standard font that comes with Yosemite) with San Francisco, Apple's new typeface designed in-house for the Apple Watch.
As you'll remember, we first laid eyes on San Francisco when the Apple Watch was unveiled, although we didn't know its name yet. All we knew is that it was efficient and effortlessly readable at tiny sizes. Apple claimed they'd developed the typeface in-house, but didn't reveal more about the typeface itself until a few months later.
Now, San Francisco, as it's called, is available for Apple Watch developers, so Github user Wells Riley put together an easy way to install San Francisco as the default display typeface on your Yosemite-running Mac.
Helvetica was designed decades before the computer and its thin, willowy letterforms were never the right choice for someone squinting at a screen all day. San Francisco was not only developed explicitly for a screen but also for a very, very small one, meaning that it reads even better at the slightly larger size you'll see on your monitor.
I made the swap and here's what I see. Before, with Helvetica Neue all over the place (hit expand to see at full size):
And after, with San Francisco:
And an additional side-by-side comparison. Before:
And in animated form:
I can tell you as someone who has done my fair share of screen-squinting that this upgrade is absolutely welcome. Something about the slightly elongated letters and a little extra internal space makes all the difference (and the @ sign is just lovely—a revelation). Now I'd like the same fix for my iPhone. Maybe Apple will roll out a version of San Francisco optimized for the next OS? Change can't come soon enough. [GitHub, h/t to Nate Schulman]