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When Swiss type designer Max Miedinger created the Helvetica typeface in 1957, little did he know that it would go on to become one of the most used in the world.

Miedinger would also have been surprised to see the WhatTheFont app, which uses Artificial Intelligence to detect and recognize different fonts.

There are two ways to use the app, which is available on both Android and iOS platforms for free. Users can either upload a picture from their camera roll/gallery or click a picture using the app. Once you do that, the app detects the fonts in the picture. It could be that there are multiple fonts in one picture (for example, a picture of a newspaper clipping, which might have different fonts for the headline and body text) or just one font in a picture. You can also choose the “crop box" option to select a particular font.

Once that is done, the WhatTheFont app uses a deep-learning system to recognize the font in question. And this system is quite effective. It successfully detected the fonts ITC Machine Medium and Dutch 766 Std Italic from the cover of a sports magazine. We also tried the app on a visiting card, and it was able to recognize the font as Nimbus Sans Novus D Bold.

WhatTheFont is also available on the desktop at MyFonts.com.
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WhatTheFont is also available on the desktop at MyFonts.com.

WhatTheFont is also available on the desktop at MyFonts.com, but it can’t perform some of the functions that are exclusive to the app: identifying connected scripts and multiple fonts in the same image. The app shows you a list of other possible matches and also allows users to try out the fonts with their own text.

However, WhatTheFont is not without its flaws. Sometimes, the app’s camera button would become unresponsive, leaving us unable to click a picture. The app would crash while uploading a picture. This was a recurring problem. Then there are restrictions on how you click a picture. For best results, it is suggested, users should click or upload a picture in such a way that the text (font) is straight, not slanted. Given that the app uses a deep-learning system, it’s surprising that the images have to be clicked or uploaded in a certain manner.

All said, however, it’s a useful app for those who want the functions of websites like MyFonts.com on their smartphones.

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