Which font format?
June 26, 2008 11:19 AM   Subscribe

Which font format should I buy? MyFonts.com's FAQ suggests that OpenType is the wave of the future and the first truly cross-platform format. But I want to be sure that what I get will work with all my older software, older Mac OS (as well as my main Win XP machine), and wherever I get things printed.

I'm about to purchase one font, but I buy fonts occasionally and would like a general rule of thumb. Different formats are available for the same price, but I must choose one and only one format for this font (the lovely "Sky Serif"). I also wonder if the format used affects embedding in PDF.

software: I've got good old Photoshop 5.5 (running on Win XP), an older Mac we have (OSX 10.early), and Kinko's should I send something there. I also use a Windows program called "PDF995" to print to PDF sometimes.

I also use a freeware program called "FontLister" which I *know* won't support OpenType, but I'm thinking of replacing that anyway. Still, it's another nudge toward buying TTF instead of OpenType.

The Mac compatibility isn't that crucial, since we're probably getting a new Mac soon.

Maybe I'm worried over nothing; do all these Windows programs jsut use font "services" provided by the OS? I just wonder whether Photoshop loads the fonts itself -- I know it will do so if fonts are in its own directory.

TTF is attractive as a fallback, but apparently there are sometimes "extra features" in OpenType fonts -- and TTF may not be truly cross-platform.

I know I can convert fonts to different formats -- I just Googled and found several options -- but I've done this before and it's not always smooth/easy. And it's a pain anyway.

Mainly I'm wondering if anyone has had problems using an OpenType font in a specific situation. Any reason not to get OpenType?
posted by amtho to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
TrueType and Postscript fonts are fine and will be supported for years to come, so I wouldn't worry about it too much.

I buy OT fonts for the crossplatform goodness, but earlier programs can't use the format. Also, Mac OS X can use Windows fonts, at least in later versions, so if forced, I'll get Windows fonts, knowing I can use them on machine.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:29 AM on June 26, 2008

OpenType is fully supported in Windows XP and all versions of Mac OS X. The PDF format supports the two font outline formats in OpenType (TrueType and CFF), and the backend behind PDF995, Ghostscript, supports OpenType as well.
posted by zsazsa at 11:31 AM on June 26, 2008

I don't have a direct answer for you, but I would consider purchasing TransType. I use it to convert font formats for lasering all the time.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:37 AM on June 26, 2008

Thanks for the answers!

I just found some additional information myself:

A Googling for [photoshop 5.5 opentype] linked me to a compatibility page by Adobe that indicated that Photoshop 5.5 and higher will indeed work with OpenType (5.0 and below won't), but that Illustrator 9.0 or above is required to work with OpenType. I'm still using 8.0. I know, I know, but I hardly every use Illustrator - though I might well use it for this particular font-centered project.

So, it's TrueType for me. For now.
posted by amtho at 11:53 AM on June 26, 2008

There also exist Free Software alternatives for conversion between truetype and opentype. One is called ttx.
posted by jepler at 12:32 PM on June 26, 2008

Oh man. This is a great question, and reminds me of a related question I've had that might be relevant here as you try to decide: Are TrueType fonts and OpenType fonts portable between Macs and PCs? That is, if you had a set of TrueType fonts on a Mac, could you copy those to a jump drive and then throw them on a PC and use them? Or vice versa? Some sites seem to suggest there's a Mac-specific form of TrueType. How can one tell whether a TrueType file is Mac-specific, and if it is Mac-specific, is there any way to convert it?
posted by limeonaire at 3:31 PM on June 26, 2008

@ limeonaire: Although Macs can utilize Windows TrueType fonts, the reverse isn't true—Mac TrueType fonts have to be converted with a converter such as CrossFont (for Windows) before they can work in Windows. OpenType fonts work cross-platform, as have been mentioned earlier. PostScript Type 1 fonts are locked into their respective platforms, and need to undergo a conversion to the other platform's format in order to be used properly.

Oh, there's also the Mac's (new) .dfont format, which is a data-fork TrueType format. In theory, that sounds exactly like a Windows TrueType font (there are no forks in the Windows file system, so therefore any data in a Windows TT font would be in the data fork by default), so you would think you could just rename a .dfont to .ttf and have it show up in Windows. But, no, you can't—it has to be converted, too. (Something about .dfonts being a variant on a TrueType suitcase, which sounds very OS 9-speak.)

I have read—somewhere—that it is possible to have Adobe apps on the Mac recognize Windows Type 1 fonts, presumably by placing the .PFB and .PFM files in some Adobe applications folder on the Mac. But I haven't been able to confirm that in a recent Google search, so that could just be an urban legend.

Note that on Windows, Type 1 font support is native in Windows 2000 through Windows Vista. However, new applications for Vista and XP made using the Windows Presentation Foundation programming libraries do not support Type 1 fonts—only TrueType and OpenType. And there are some Windows applications that have been written using older Microsoft programming libraries that also don't recognize Type 1 fonts, or else have crippled support (I'm looking at you, CD-DVD printer software that came with my Primera CD thermal printer—damn thing won't allow me to change the point size on Type 1 fonts, but it will with TrueType! Go figure...)
posted by kentk at 5:55 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oo, kentk, good answer. Thanks for that.
posted by limeonaire at 8:58 PM on June 26, 2008

Sounds like Windows TrueType is the best choice here. That's what I'll get as a general rule until OpenType becomes more ubiquitous.

Thanks, kentk!
posted by amtho at 6:37 PM on June 27, 2008

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