Font formats

The OpenType font format has taken the lead in modern typography. But there are more font formats available out there, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

OpenType

OpenType is a cross-platform (the same font file works on Macintosh and Windows computers) font format created by the combined efforts of Adobe and Microsoft. It has the ability to support widely extended character sets and layout features, which provide extended multilingual- and advanced typographic features.

OpenType (Pro) fonts only fully work when you use an application which supports OpenType Features (aka 'OpenType savvy'), like InDesign CS, Illustrator CS or Photoshop CS. Only with OpenType savvy applications you will provide access to these advanced layout features like ligatures, small caps, different kind of numbers and so on.
Three different levels of support for OpenType fonts can be named.

  • Basic Roman support: The application can display texts written using Roman script (English and other Western languages), but there is no support for other languages or advanced typography.
  • Multilingual support: The application supports Unicode or its subsets and can display texts written using Roman script as well as other scripts (Cyrillic, Greek, Japanese etc.). In some cases, the multilingual support is limited and there is only partial support for right-to-left scripts or complex scripts such as Arabic, Hebrew or Devanagari.
  • Advanced features support: Application supports Unicode and allows the user to access advanced typographic features such as ligatures, small caps or alternates.
The OpenType format is an extension of the TrueType SFNT format that also can support Adobe PostScript font data and new typographic features. There are two types ofso-called OpenType flavors:
  • .OTF: Containing PostScript data
  • .TTF: Containing TrueType data
OpenType TT fonts are internally practically the same format as Windows TrueType fonts, so there are no problems getting such fonts to work in Windows. They will even be displayed on Windows 3.1.

For more information about the OpenType font format, please visit Adobe’s introduction to OpenType.


PostScript

The PostScript page description language, and PostScript fonts, were developed by Adobe Systems.
PostScript Type 1 and Type 3 fonts were introduced by Adobe in 1984 as part of the PostScript page description language. It hit the market on a large scal in March 1985, when the first laser printer to use the PostScript language, the Apple LaserWriter, was introduced.

 

PostScript Type 1 is considered a legacy font format. It's not cross-platform compatible (the same font file works on Macintosh and Windows computers) and Unicode is not supported.

 

TrueType

TrueType fonts are the basic for the OpenType font format. It's an outline font standard originally developed by Apple Computer in the late 1980s as a competitor to PostScript Type 1 fonts. TrueType fast became the most common format for fonts on both the Mac OS and Microsoft Windows operating systems.

The primary strength of TrueType was originally that it offered font developers a high degree of control over precisely how their fonts are displayed, right down to particular pixels, at various font sizes. With widely varying rendering technologies in use today, pixel-level control is no longer certain in a TrueType font.

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