Helvetica for Everyone! PDFS 4-EVA!
May 25, 2012 2:01 PM   Subscribe

Let's say I'm an in-house graphic designer working on a sale sign template for a company with several locations. I've got Helvetica. The various locations don't. I'd like to make a fancy template in InDesign, and then create a PDF form where employees can alter small portions of the text and then print the completed sale sign at their location, still using the Helvetica. Is this possible?

For instance, my template has foofy images and a lovely bit of lettering that says SALE, and then the employee comes along and adds beans and plates - 4 for $5 and prints it out. I've tried various ways of embedding fonts, but nothing seems to click. I've made other forms for clients in the past, but the user has always already had the font installed on their computer.

Possible relevant factor: The company also has an intranet; if the template was hosted on that site, would the font capabilities change?

After thinking this through, I wonder if the capability is lacking because I'm inadvertently trying to subvert copyright issues with fonts. If so, then I'm totally sorry, and I will continue to have everybody e-mail me their bits of text so I can print it out and interoffice mail the signs back to them.
posted by redsparkler to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've done something similar with a certificate that is awarded every year in different locations, and for the editable bit I had to restrict myself to fonts I knew they'd have installed on their machines (something from the Office suite). I don't think what you want to do is possible without giving them the font--which means either buying it for those sites or, yeah, stealing it.
posted by looli at 2:07 PM on May 25, 2012

Best answer: You hit it at the end: there is no legal way for you to do so without purchasing additional licenses for the font.
posted by thebestsophist at 2:11 PM on May 25, 2012

Well this wouldn't solve the font problem, but could you just email them their finished files?

I totally feel your pain, because I do something similar for work and it kills me that the end-users not only get to muck up grammar, spelling, spacing, etc, but they are forced to use whatever fonts their machine has (even worse if they try to get "creative" with fonts!).
posted by radioamy at 2:13 PM on May 25, 2012

Response by poster: These answers are making sense; does anyone have any input about hosting a version of the template on the company's internal website, either as a PDF or otherwise?
posted by redsparkler at 2:35 PM on May 25, 2012

I don't think it'll work if you're trying to embed the font into a template. However, you may be able to license Helvetica as a webfont through Fonts.com (you can find the different versions here) with a print stylesheet to do what you want.
posted by thebestsophist at 2:48 PM on May 25, 2012

Just use arial. It's obviously not ideal, but it's cheaper and simpler than any of the alternatives.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 2:53 PM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Don't PDF forms allow you to enter text and retain styling?
posted by wongcorgi at 3:26 PM on May 25, 2012

You could make the basic PDF, then turn that into a JPG, which will include your text in your font as a graphic. Bring that JPG into InDesign as the background graphic, and make your editable PDF form.
posted by caclwmr4 at 3:45 PM on May 25, 2012

PDF is tricky, because sometimes the text will be editable, and sometimes not. I constantly had this problem when trying to work in school, then at home, then in a lab, etc. The easiest way to do this would be to package the file. What this does is, it takes the document itself, and a copy of all other things along with it [including fonts, images, etc]. Here's Adobe's support on how to package things in inDesign.

You can try and do this with Helvetica, but I know for a fact it will give you an error message about licensing. Your best bet would be to go to Dafont.com and find a copyright free substitute. They have fonts separated by themes, try looking through the San Serif list. You can also substitute your own words, so the preview of the font comes in the text you want.

Fortunately, fonts aren't able to be trademarked, so anyone can make a font look like another font. Fonts like this usually have minor issues, with kerning or whatnot, but if you're just looking to use it for a couple lines you shouldn't run into problems.

Here's a font call Coolvetica, and it's free for commercial use, so you'll be able to package it in your document, and share it with everyone you damn well please.
posted by FirstMateKate at 4:09 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding, if you can't use Helvetica but want that look, try to find a decent free knock-off. Don't use Arial, it does not belong in a designer's output, and has poor and widespread associations. Unless for some reason (irony?) you wish to make a statement through using Arial that fits the subject matter, as e.g. this use of Times New Roman references that font's ubiquity and (Kafkaesque) conformity.
posted by iotic at 4:38 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you want to avoid Arial, there's also Liberation Sans, which is legit free software and is size-compatible with Arial and Helvetica.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:09 AM on May 26, 2012

My initial thought was to advise you to convert your text to outlines in Illustrator. Then, I found you can do the same thing with InDesign.
posted by phoebus at 8:12 AM on May 27, 2012

Response by poster: Yes, outlining the text works for my type. That's not the issue. I'd like people from different locations to be able to fill out a few simple words in Helvetica. Coolvetica is not really a professional-looking alternative for what we're looking for, unfortunately. Liberation Sans is a bit better, but there's 70+ computers throughout the company, and it seems overkill to demand they all load a font that isn't even what we're looking for.

Sorry I'm not very flexible here; Helvetica is a typeface we've used for a lot of our major branding, and we're trying to unify the appearance of the each individual store's signage
posted by redsparkler at 10:48 AM on May 27, 2012

Short of licensing the font on all the stores' machines or doing the custom text yourself, I just don't think there's a way. You are creating new text with the font, you need the font to do that.

Even if you are hosting it on your server somehow and they are then downloading and/or printing from there, legally speaking, the font needs to be licensed for all those users.
posted by looli at 1:37 PM on May 27, 2012

Maybe someone on the Typophile forums would have a solution for you?
posted by en forme de poire at 11:55 AM on May 28, 2012

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