Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Why Use OpenType Fonts?

One of the oldest myths in desktop publishing is “never use TrueType fonts for professional publishing.” Perhaps that was true in the early 90’s, but there’s no reason to avoid them now. However, there’s an even better type of font format you should be using: OpenType. OpenType fonts are great for a number of reasons:

  • They have just one file per font, eliminating the need to manage separate screen and printer font files.
  • They’re cross-platform — you can use the same font on both Mac and PC.
  • They can contain thousands of characters, so you no longer need separate expert fonts.
  • They can contain intelligent characters, such as automatic fractions, special characters, and character pairs that change depending on where they appear in a word (such as a swash character).
  • They allow OpenType-aware applications to follow special instructions inside the font called glyph variants and automatically swap out characters when relevant. For example, in a script typeface, the application would be smart enough to use one kind of “t” when it appears at the beginning of a word and a different version when it’s in the middle of a word (so that it smoothly attaches to the letters around it). Applications that are not OpenType-aware — such as older versions of QuarkXPress or PageMaker — will still work with OpenType fonts, but without the advanced glyph features and intelligence.
Open Type

In an OpenType-aware application, the characters you see in this font (Adobe Bickham Script Pro) change depending on context. Here the “t” and “h” characters change form depending on whether they’re at the beginning, middle, or end of a word.

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