About font formats

Different font formats offer advantages and disadvantages.

Frequently we get questions about the differences between font formats. What is a TrueType font? What is OpenType? Is that better than Postscript Type 1?

One of the keys to a problem-free workflow in creative production is having a working knowledge of font formats.

PostScript Type 1 Fonts

PostScript Type 1 fonts are high quality fonts that use the Postscript language to draw characters. This is significant because it allows the font to be scaled to virtually any size without loss of quality. Type 1 fonts have been the publishing industry standard for many years. The downside to these fonts are that they come in a 2-file format: a screen font and a printer font. These 2 files must always be together in the same folder. If the two files ever get separated then the font breaks and will not work. Also, Type 1 fonts on the Mac exists in a uniquely Mac format and therefore cannot be used in Windows, and vice-versa.

TrueType Fonts (.ttf)

TrueType fonts were created by Apple in an effort to solve some of the problems related scaling fonts. TrueType uses it’s own system to draw fonts at any size. TrueType fonts exist as a single file (not the 2-file system used by PostScript Type 1 fonts). The downside is that TrueType fonts do not implement the PostScript language as fully as PostScript Type 1 fonts – and that tends to create output problems for PostScript output devices.

TrueType Collection (.ttc)

The TrueType collection file is a container file that holds many TrueType fonts, usually related by font family.

OpenType Fonts (.otf)

OpenType is the up and coming standard in font formats. There are several significant advantages to the OpenType format. First, as with TrueType, the entire font is housed in a single file. Second, this file is cross platform – the same file can be used on a Mac or Windows platform with consistent results. Third, an OpenType font can contain either PostScript or TrueType outline data, so professional creative, print and publishing environments can continue to use PostScript fonts. Fourth, OpenType can support Unicode information which can contain thousands of characters including high quality ligatures, swash glyphs, and other advanced typographical features. This is a significant benefit over PostScript Type 1, which is limited to 256 characters. Mac OS X and Windows support OpenType fonts and Unicode information, making OpenType an excellent choice of font format.

Datafork Fonts (.dfont)

The dfont (Data Fork TrueType Font) is essentially a TrueType font repackaged in a data fork file. These were created by Apple to hold their own System fonts and are not typically supported on any other platform or font foundry.

Multiple Master Fonts

This special PostScript font allows modifications of one or more font parameters to create variations of the original font. While Multiple Master fonts are supported by Mac OS X, they have been falling “out of favor” and are no longer being actively developed by Adobe (the original creators of Multiple Master fonts).

FontXChange for Macintosh converts fonts between font formats, which allows you to have the font format that works best for your work flow environment.


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