* The highlighted fonts will come up by default when you start typing:
***"Proportional" vs. "monospaced" refers only to the Western characters and spaces included in these fonts. More about this below.
† Apparently what Microsoft means when they say these fonts are "supported" by the PRC IME is not full support but display support. Even if you set the PRC IME to traditional character mode, if you try to type in these fonts you'll be bumped back into the default font (usually SimSun). So, you can really only select these fonts after you've typed the characters by going back to highlight them and choosing the font you want. Two more tips for you: in many applications you can make other "PRC" fonts your default font instead of SimSun, but you cannot do that with these traditional fonts, and also when using these fonts with the PRC IME if you copy your text into other applications or send to other people there may be some problems so please experiment a little first before relying on them.
In your font menu you should also find Chinese minority language fonts for Yi (Yi Baiti), Tibetan (Microsoft Himalaya), Uighur (Microsoft Uighur) and Mongolian (Mongolian Baiti). I am not planning to cover these in detail here.
The newest Chinese fonts in Vista are "Microsoft JhengHei" and "Microsoft YaHei", developed by Hong Kong's Dynacomware and the PRC's Founder respectively. These take advantage of the latest ClearType display technology. Although the low-resolution reproductions above may not do them justice, they both look great on paper. The other fonts, even if they are new to Vista, have been available separately in one form or another for quite some time. Some are TrueType; most are bitmapped.
There are also a vast number of free and inexpensive third-party fonts you can add to your system - and some very expensive fonts as well. If you are working in education, I highly recommend the North American font set produced by DynaComWare, which includes Pinyin and Zhuyin ruby fonts. Stay away from MS Word's "Phonetic Guide" ruby feature unless you really really like being frustrated. I have more info on those DynaComWare ruby fonts and also on Word's Phonetic Guide here.
I will do periodic surveys of free and commercial third-party fonts and other software as time allows. Also, if you just want to display Pinyin with tone marks, I have an MS Word Pinyin macro for you.
About Those Default Font Names...
Back to the table above: Vista's default Chinese fonts are still the Song fonts listed above, SimSum and PMingLiU. Songti is the standard Chinese printing typeface, named after the Song dynasty when it may have originated. The names of these particular fonts are confusing because Microsoft bought the simplified and traditional fonts from two different vendors. "Xin"/"New" is proportional in one set but monospaced in the other. For most purposes you will want to use the default proportional Song fonts, SimSun and PMingLiU.
Proportional vs. Monospaced
Confused about "proportional" vs. "monospaced"? This refers only to the Western characters and Western spaces contained in each font, and does not affect the Chinese characters themselves. Examples of proportional English fonts you may be familiar with are Times and Arial. A monospaced, or non-proportional font, would be old versions of Courier, in which every letter takes up the same amount of space from side-to-side just like the output of a typewriter.
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