Why Wait for OS X 10.11? How to Use the San Francisco System Font on OS X Yosemite Now

OS X 10.11? How to Use the San Francisco System Font on OS X Yosemite Now

OS X 10.11? How to Use the San Francisco System Font on OS X Yosemite Now

Apple is apparently planning on replacing Helvetica Neue, the current default system font in iOS and OS X, with the ‘San Francisco’ font used on Apple Watch, according to a new report from the well sourced 9to5mac. The font change to “San Francisco” will apparently arrive to OS X 10.11 and iOS 9, but if you don’t want to wait for the next version of Mac OS, you can modify your OS X Yosemite system font now to replace Helvetica Neue with San Francisco, and it looks a whole lot better than Comic Sans. Comic Sans joking aside, the San Francisco font actually looks pretty great, so if you’re up for a change or want an idea of what the next version of OS X may bring to the UI, here’s how you can get a sneak peak yourself.

Replacing the Helvetica Neue OS X Yosemite font with San Francisco is super easy to do and undo. You should probably backup your Mac before doing this, though it’s unlikely anything would go wrong in the process, it’s just good practice. Once you’re backed up, here are the simple steps to change the font on the Mac to San Francisco:

    1. Download the SanFrancisco font pack from github (direct link here) and extract the zip file
    2. From the OS X Finder, hit Command+Shift+G to bring about Go To Folder, and enter the following path:


  1. Drop the downloaded font files into ~/Library/Fonts/, then reboot the Mac for changes to take effect (you can also try to just log out and back in, but sometimes fonts will render weird gibberish if you don’t reboot)

When the Mac logs back in you’ll find the new San Francisco font from Apple Watch to be the default system-wide in OS X. Here’s a screenshot of what this looks like, via 9to5mac, click to enlarge:


Uninstalling the fonts is as simple as navigating back to ~/Library/Fonts/ and moving all the font files into a new folder, or moving them out of the ~/Library/Fonts/ folder in general, then rebooting again.

The thin Helvetica Neue font currently used in OS X and iOS has been somewhat controversial, some users find the font to be difficult to read, particularly on non-retina displays. Apple later added a ‘bold fonts’ option to iOS which improved readability for those users, but such a feature remains missing in OS X Accessibility options.

Prior to OS X Yosemite, OS X used Lucida Grande as the system font, which can also be used to replace the Helvetica Neue system font in Yosemite if desired (changing to Lucida Grande is my personal preference for system font on the Mac).

For those on the iOS side of things, you’ll have to wait until iOS 9 comes out to use the San Francisco font, as there is no way to change system fonts on iPhone or iPad. Here’s a sneak peak of what that could look like on iPhone, courtesy of 9to5mac:

It’s worth pointing out that 9to5mac mentions the system font change to ‘San Francisco’ face in OS X 10.11 and iOS 9 could always be canceled or pushed back, so you may want to hang onto these alternate font files just in case you want to use them again in the future.