While similar to Verdana, Tahoma has a narrower body, less generous counters, much tighter letter spacing, and a more complete Unicode character set. Tahoma was first designed as a bitmap font, and TrueType outlines were "carefully wrapped" around those bitmaps. The bold weight was based upon a double pixel width, rendering it closer to a heavy or black weight. It has a distinct advantage over such fonts as Arial for use with technical material in that uppercase "I" (eye) is distinguished from lowercase "l" (ell). Since 2010, Italic and small caps versions are available from Ascender Corporation.
Tahoma is often compared to the humanist sans-serif typeface Frutiger. In an interview with Daniel Will-Harris, Matthew Carter acknowledges some similarities with his earlier typeface Bell Centennial.
The Tahoma typeface family was named after the Native American name for the stratovolcano Mount Rainier (Mount Tahoma) which is a prominent feature of the southern landscape around the Seattle metropolitan area.
Tahoma was the default screen font used by Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 (replacing MS Sans Serif) and was also used for Sega's Dreamcast and Skype. Bundled in the font library of Windows, the typeface was widely used as an alternative to Arial.
In 2007, Apple announced that Tahoma would be bundled with the next version of Mac OS X v10.5 ("Leopard"). Leopard also shipped with several other previously Microsoft-only fonts, including Microsoft Sans Serif, Arial Unicode, and Wingdings.
The Wine project includes the free and open-source fonts Wine Tahoma Regular and Wine Tahoma Bold released under GNU Lesser General Public License designed to have identical metrics to the Tahoma font. This was done because Tahoma is available by default on Windows, and many applications expect the font to be available. Before Wine included a Tahoma replacement font, some applications, such as Steam, would not display any text at all, rendering them nearly unusable.
- Daniel Will-Harris."Georgia & Verdana: Typefaces designed for the screen (finally)" TypoFiles, retrieved January 16, 2007.
- Maxa, Rudy. "Northwest to the Max" documentary series. Seattle episode. 2006. American Public Television, in association with KCTS 9 Seattle. Distributed by Questar Entertainment.
- "Fonts that are installed with Office" Microsoft, retrieved April 24, 2011.
- Dan Kegel. "winhelp, Vector NTI, molecular biologists" WineHQ.org, September 4, 2007. Retrieved April 24, 2011.
- As of Wine version 0.9.47 Version 0.9.47 release announcement WineHQ.org, retrieved May 22, 2009.