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Open Type Fonts

For years there were two types of fonts you had to concern yourself with if you were a graphic designer: PostScript and TrueType. Then along came Open Type.

Open Type fonts are the result of a collaboration between Adobe and Microsoft. Essentially, they took TrueType fonts and "opened" the format to include PostScript font data. An Open Type font can have only TrueType data, only PostScript data, or both font types in one font.

The specs for the Open Type format became public in 1997, and the first Open Type fonts were introduced in 2000.

What is the difference between TrueType, PostScript and OpenType?

Most customers who ask this question want to determine which format they should be purchasing. If this is your situation you should purchase the TrueType version (if it is available) as it is the easiest to work with and easiest to install on your computer and is well-supported by operating systems and programs.

The Benefits

Fonts are cross-platform (they work on both Mac & Pc - yeah!)

Fonts can contain large character sets of up to 65,000-plus glyphs

Fonts can be compressed efficiently

Fonts an contain a wide range of extended characters, including ligatures, fractions, old-style-numbers, titling caps, historical characters, and swash characters

Fonts use a single font file for all of its outline, metric, and bitmap data, making file management simpler

So what's the catch?

Unless you're looking at the Adobe fonts, it isn't all that easy to find Open Type fonts (with Linotype fonts being the exception). And it definitely isn't easy to find free fonts. Adobe In-Design 2 supports all the features of Open Type. Most other software doesn't. You may be able to use your Open Type fonts, but you won't be able to take advantage of the extended character set. 

Is Open Type the PNG of fonts?

If you've been designing for a while, you've probably invested a fair amount of money in good, quality fonts. I'm not about to reinvest that money in a font format that has yet to have wide support in the graphic design industry.

On the other hand, if you're a new designer, you should probably go ahead and invest in good, quality Open Type fonts. They will work with your service bureau and your printer, and you can't beat having fonts available to both Windows and Mac.

Will Open Type become the font of the future? It's difficult to say. It sure has a lot of promise, just like the PNG graphic format for the Web. But like PNG, it hasn't garnered a whole lot of software support despite being available for years.

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