Font Formats Demystified
By Pamela Stevens
The most important aspect of choosing the right font for a project is the format. Most font providers offer several formats including TrueType, OpenType, PostScript and their variations.
Well-known software developers created three of the most popular fonts formats for their software. As technology evolved, worldwide use influenced the change to compatibility between font formats and software, printers, browsers and operating systems. Global use has also required that fonts include character sets for non-Latin or non-Roman type languages, including Arabic, CE fonts, Western Roman or Baltic as well as those that read right to left.
Briefly outlined below are the most common font formats, including the entity that developed the font, the advantages and limitations as well as a few of their variations.
Apple computer originally designed TrueType, now used by both Apple and Microsoft.
This font format often is the easiest to use for inexperienced designers who do not need special characters (such as those used in non-Latin languages). This font is also compatible with the software developed by Macintosh and Microsoft. TrueType fonts include screen and printer font data in a single component.
Although the quality of TrueType fonts are usually competitive, an ESQ font may be a better choice for a project that requires above standard on-screen clarity. This font format is not as capable as OpenType when it comes to expanded character sets.
• TrueType GX: Originally developed with QuickDraw GX for the MacOS.
• Enhanced Screen Quality (ESQ): Developed specifically to appear clearly on a computer monitor while maintaining the typeface’s original design.
Adobe and Microsoft designed OpenType. This font format supports the storage of up to 65,000 characters to include expanded character sets.
This font format is cross-platform compatible with Windows 2000 or higher and Macintosh OSX or higher and supports international character sets. Newly developed OpenType fonts often include special glyphs such as ligatures, titling or swash characters, old style figures, small caps, fractions and historic glyphs.
Since this is one of the newest font formats, they are not compatible with some of the older applications. In addition, some fonts are simply converted TrueType fonts and do not include the expanded character sets. However, Adobe InDesign 2.0, Illustrator, Photoshop 7.0, Quark Xpress 7.0 and the newest version of Microsoft Word are among the programs that work with this new font format.
• Unicode: Currently the best choice for non-Latin language character sets. This variation of OpenType can contain more than 65,000 glyphs making it useful for many world language sets. This font format can accommodate Central and Eastern European languages, Cyrillic, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Hebrew and Arabic. Please note that fonts for languages written from right to left may benefit from special applications and/or system support to function to its fullest.
• OpenType CFF (OpenType PostScript Flavored): Character sets are compatible with many platforms and support over 45 different roman type languages.
• OpenType Pr A common term used for the OpenType fonts that do not contain the expanded character sets.
Adobe originally constructed postscript to communicate graphic print instructions to printers.
Since Adobe developed this font, it is the best choice for those who use Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Secondly, given that this font format was developed with printers in mind it may be a good choice for those that have a printing project.
Operating systems that predate Windows 2000 must also have an Adobe Type Manager to utilize these fonts.
• Adobe® PostScript® 3™ (U.S.): The formalized, legal name of the Adobe owned font format.
• PostScript Type 1: Adobe PostScript Type 1 is the standard for digital type fonts (International Standards Organization outline font standard, ISO 9541).
Although all of these formats are widely used, some have obvious advantages over others. In the near future, it is likely that OpenType, in its Unicode form, will emerge as the globally compatible font format leader because of its ability to support any language.
Halley, A.ESQ fonts.
Linotype. What is Opentype?.
What is Truetype?.
Fonts.com. Which fonts should I order?