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How safe is it as a web designer to assume that msttcorefonts would have beeb installed on a client machine viewing my website? If not what sans serif fonts should I use then? (for body)

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Safe to assume Microsoft core fonts would be installed on client Linux?

No, Microsoft's core fonts are typically not included with Gnome or KDE installations.

You can use font-family:sans-serif to specify the default sans-serif font on any client machine (i.e. font-family:Arial,sans-serif)

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Consider font embedding:
http://jumpingfishes.com/font/

If you don't like that option, I agree with danlefree's suggestion of using font-family: sans-serif; to get the default sans-serif font.

2

Alternatively, I just use similar fonts (in shape, etc) that are told to be common in most distributions, and of course, they come in font-family tag after Arial or verdana or whichever I want windows users to see , so linux users will see the alternative ones instead.

For a clue, I (I use mostly san serif fonts, similar to arial, verdana, etc) tend to set these : Nimbus Sans L, FreeSans, Bitstream Vera Sans, Liberation Sans, Dejavu.

Anyway, I set always first those fitting better my design, as many linux do have those as well (often Arial, verdana, etc)

You have here a relation of most common fonts in linuxes, udpated last february.

Last note: You might be interested in having an vmware virtual machine in Windows for trial and error in using these alternative fonts. I do this quite often myself. (we at Bitnami have VMWare virtual machines with Drupal or other CMSs already all set and configured)

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