We’re putting together a year-end report for one of our big initiatives, the Elephant Crisis Fund. We’re using Apple’s Pages desktop publishing app. The appendices contain tables that include dollar amounts that were spent on each project. Using the standard digits in the font, the numbers don't line up since a 1 is much thinner than an 8 or 0. That’s because most fonts use proportional numbers. This makes numbers more readable when they appear inline with text, but it reduces readability when they appear in a table.
The fix for this is to use tabular figures (aka monospaced). Some fonts have this designed into the standard numbers, especially monospaced fonts like Andale, Courier and Consolas. Some other fonts have tabular numbers available, but getting to them isn’t easy or obvious. Keep in mind that it’s only available in some fonts. We’re using Candara, but any of the Microsoft “ClearType” fonts will work.
Pages supports the built-in system Fonts palette (Cmd T brings it up). First, select the column of numbers you want to switch to tabular figures. The font should already be selected (in this case, Candara). Next, click the gear icon button in the upper-left corner and choose Typography. That brings up another palette with more esoteric typographic settings. Click Number Spacing. Finally, click Monospaced Numbers.
The image to the right illustrates the difference. Notice how the comma in the Proportional column shifts around for each number.