How do I transfer these fonts?
August 18, 2009 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Fonts, fonts, fonts. I'm trying to move some fonts between platforms for a client and it is an absolute nightmare. I need some help understanding OS X font "suitcases" and what do with them!

So, where I work, I've got two people collaborating on an InDesign project. One person is on a Mac. The other is on a PC.

Mac person is trying to send her work to PC person. She uses the "Package" function of InDesign to create a nice little bundle of work and all the necessary fonts and whiz-bang. I don't use InDesign, or have access to it, but I'm familiar in principle with what's happening at this stage.

I've got a copy of the fonts right here in front of me that she's trying to package up.

Several of them are "Postscript Type 1" fonts, and while I had some issues with resource forks and such, I managed to get these copied over onto a test Windows XP box without much trouble. I found a program called "MacDisk" that dispatched all the forking issues and gave me nice usable fonts I could directly import into Windows.

The trouble comes with the rest of the fonts, which are "Font Suitcase" bundles. Windows obviously has no idea what to do with these things. A lot of Googling introduced me to an app called fondu, which I ran on these suitcases and which promised to extract the font files.

On a couple of the suitcase packages, I got lovely True Type font files on the other side, and that's great and I am happy. However, for many of the suitcase files fondu simply produced dozens of BDF files.

I understand BDF files are "Glyph Bitmap Distribution Format", and Windows should be able to install them (according to the internets). However, when I attempt to drag these BDF files into the WINDOWS\FONTS directory, I get the message that Windows is "unable to install the font. The file is either invalid or damaged!"

Well, shit.

So, I guess what I'm asking, knowing relatively little about fonts, is how would one go about getting a "Font Suitcase" package from an OS X environment onto a Windows environment?

posted by kbanas to Technology (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Transferring Postscript fonts between Macs and PCs IS a nightmare and really shouldn't be attempted. Your Mac designer should seriously be using either TrueType or OpenType fonts. These can be traded across platforms rather easily. It's been a long time...Does Windows still not do Postscript (fonts, printing) natively? I know there used to be utilities that would make a Windows machine Postscript-savvy. ATM, maybe?

The following is my very rusty and faded remembrance of how Postscript fonts work. Others with better memory, please feel free to correct me.

The suitcases are part of the Postscript font family. The "suitcases" are, basically, the bitmap representations of the font family. These are used primarily for screen viewing. The other files in the family are the actual Postscript outline description files.

Helvetica - The overall "font suitcase" family file.
Helve - Individual postscript description and hints for Helvetica Medium
HelveBol - Individual postscript description and hints for Helvetica Bold
HelveObl - Individual postscript description and hints for Helvetica Oblique
HelveBolObl - Individual postscript description and hints for Helvetica Bold Oblique

You need all of these for proper Postscript output. If you send a print job to a professional print shop with just the suitcase file, you will get an angry phone call from the printer.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:18 PM on August 18, 2009

I hope I'm explaining this right.

Before OpenType and True Type, fonts were a collection of two (or two sets) of files: display and print. The print, or post script font files are the "real" vector letter forms. Display fonts are raster, just for computer screen layouts. They're an aproximation of what the "real" font looks like and is interpreted by your post script printer or professional press software.

Kicking around in old font directories (pre 1999) are likely to be orphaned display fonts which are basically useless, with out a print font. This may be the case, and InDesign will alert you to this when packaging fonts. Ask your mac person if any errors like this came up.
posted by fontophilic at 3:25 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

InDesign will alert you to this when packaging fonts. Ask your mac person if any errors like this came up.

If I'm reading the OP correctly, it sounds like the PS1 fonts all collected correctly and completely. I think the issue is that the Windows machine just doesn't know what to do with all the parts of a Postscript font.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:42 PM on August 18, 2009

I have a question regarding the corrupted fonts. How are you transferring them from computer A to computer B? If they're being transferred via email or FTP, are they being sent compressed in any way? If they're being sent uncompressed, then I can almost 100% guarantee you that's part of the problem.

Rule #1 of working with fonts: Always compress before sending.
Rule #2 is get and use font management software rather than schlepping about in your fonts directories. This isn't something you asked about, but I really can't stress enough how much pain and aggravation this will save you.
posted by lekvar at 3:51 PM on August 18, 2009

The short answer is, you can't, if what you're trying to do is take Type 1 Mac fonts and make them usable on Windows. Now, there are utility programs out there (CrossFont is one that I know of) that can take Mac PostScript Type 1 fonts and convert them into Windows PostScript Type 1 fonts.

See, on Windows, Type 1 fonts consist of .PFB and .PFM files. So, for instance, GALCI.PFB contains the outline printer font info for (ITC) Garamond Light Condensed Italic, and GALCI.PFM contains the font metrics (spacing, kerning, etc.) for the same font. Two font files for the same font are required in Windows.

On the Mac, by contrast, you need both the font suitcase (containing the font metrics and I believe the old bitmapped screen fonts, too, from pre-ATM days, though I'm not sure about that) and the printer font file. There is usually one suitcase file for multiple printer fonts, and it's not always clear which suitcase file maps with which printer fonts (at least to my formerly Windows-centric mind, LOL).

Alas, there's no way to utilize Mac-formatted Type 1 (or TrueType) fonts natively on Windows. You need a font converter, such as CrossFont (or maybe TransType, if that's still around?) to convert the Mac files into Windows equivalents. You've already made sure that your Windows installation can see the resource forks of the Mac fonts, so you've done your homework, there. :-)

There is a neat trick with regards to Mac versions of the Adobe Creative Suite, though—they can utilize Windows Type 1 fonts, even though Mac OS X can't deal with them natively. On a Mac, just copy the .PFB and .PFM files of Windows Type 1 fonts to the Library/Application Support/Adobe/Fonts folder, and they'll show up in all Adobe CSx applications. Pretty cool, eh?

(I just tried this in reverse by trying to copy Mac Type 1 fonts to the Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Fonts folder in Windows, and, well... no go. Didn't work. :-( Oh well.)

I second Thorzdad's recommendation to stick with OpenType fonts, these days. They're cross-platform, and besides alleviating those moving-between-platform headaches, also allow for richer typographical support in applications such as InDesign (where, if the font contains them, you can access small caps, oldstyle numbers, fractions, swashes, contextual alternates, and much larger character sets than Type 1 could have ever contained).
posted by kentk at 4:06 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great information, everybody.

It sounds like bottom line I need our Mac user to get with the program. Some of these fonts are from 1990!
posted by kbanas at 4:50 PM on August 18, 2009

I've never tried to do what you're talking about, so definitely defer to the experienced others in this thread, but a thought that occurred to me is I wonder if FontForge could convert them to OpenType. It seems like a versatile and well-designed program (once you get it running ;^)
posted by XMLicious at 5:27 PM on August 18, 2009

Getting fonts away from a designer is like trying to take a gun from Charlton Heston. This said, TrueType or OpenType fonts as Thorzdad suggested are all someone should be using at this point. I am guessing those font suitcases are in a "Classic" environment.

She can also create PDFs with outlined fonts to give to the other person, but these are essentially flat files at this point. You also don't mention where the final output is destined, but I wouldn't expect service bureaus to even be able to handle such old fonts.

Yep, time for her to upgrade. Adobe has a great font collection.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:16 PM on August 18, 2009

I would like to point out that, generally, Opentype fonts are more expensive than Postscript fonts, and sometimes, "thrifty" (tightwad) business owners don't want to spend more money on something they don't understand. Sometimes it can't be helped.

In these situations, "create outlines" can be very helpful.
posted by kpmcguire at 8:52 AM on August 19, 2009

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