Sunday, June 27, 2010

Setting High-Quality Fractions

When was the last time you saw a cookbook specify .125 teaspoons of salt? No, in virtually all non-metric publications, this would be written 1/8 tsp. That’s not so bad on a web page, but in print, regular-sized numbers separated by a slash looks clunky and unprofessional. Instead, you should use true fractions, such as ½ and ¼. But how do you get these special characters?
Most fonts contain two or three few special fraction characters, and both InDesign and QuarkXPress 7 offer a Glyph palette that lets you find them by searching through all the characters in the font. You can also use the hidden Character Palette to find these characters in other programs.
But the easiest and best way to get professional-looking fractions is to use OpenType fonts that enable intelligent fractions. When you’re using this kind of font, and you’re using an OpenType-aware application (such as Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress 7) you can select a regular fraction in your text and choose Fractions from the OpenType menu. (In InDesign, this menu is in the Control panel or Character panel flyout menu. In QuarkXPress, it’s in the Character Attributes tab of the Measurements palette.)
In general, it’s not a good idea to turn on Fractions for a large range of text—you should only apply it to true fractions. The reason: Turning this on can occasionally cause other numbers and some punctuation in your text to shift from its baseline.
Screen Shot
Converting a regular fraction is as easy as choosing from a menu, as long as you have an OpenType font that supports this kind of substitution. Note that the regular slash is also automatically converted to a fraction virgule.