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General font Information about fonts

Both PostScript Type 1 and TrueType fonts are vector outline fonts. This means that they contain instructions for building outlines from lines and curves which are filled to create the solid shapes of letters and other glyphs. The benefit of representing shapes this way is that they can be scaled to virtually any size and still retain smooth edges (unlike bitmap fonts which exhibit jagged edges when enlarged).

Using TrueType Fonts

The TrueType font format is supported internally on current versions of both Mac and Windows operating systems. No external software is required. TrueType fonts are made up of separate blocks of information called tables. Every different type of data has its own table. Each TrueType font file contains all metric information for the font - kerning, widths, etc. It also can contain information specific to each platform it supports - encoding tables, names (in different languages), etc.

Windows requires only one file for each TrueType font. The file has a TTF extension. The Mac also requires only one file for each TrueType font, but it is a resource file. Each resource file can contain many resources. A Mac TrueType font file must have a FOND resource along with the TrueType data resource. The FOND is used by the Mac font rendering mechanism.

Using PostScript Type 1 Fonts

Type1 fonts are the native font format for the PostScript page description language. Type 1 fonts have been supported on the Mac OS starting with OS X and in Windows since Win2000. For older versions, Adobe makes software to support this format on both operating systems. It is called Adobe Type Manager (ATM). Type 1 font files don't contain as much information as TrueType fonts do. Kerning is stored separate from the font drawing information, so more than one file is required to use them on either machine.

ATM requires two files to use a Type 1 font under Windows. The PFB file contains the actual font outline data. The PFM file contains metric data including kerning. ATM requires two files to use a Type 1 font on the Mac. Both are resource files. The font outline data is stored in a file with type LWFN and is analogous to the PFB file on a PC. A separate file with both a FOND resource and bitmap font is also required.


There are several different types of fonts.

TrueType - Font format that contains scalable characters. All required font information is stored in a single file. Some RIPs can process TrueType fonts if they are encapsulated in a Type 42 font format. PostScript Level 3 Rips and PDF RIPs are required to handle Type 42 fonts in PostScript files and TrueType fonts in PDF.

These types of fonts are special Microsoft Windows fonts and are variable size fonts. That means that once the font is installed, a point size can be selected without having to change the font name. True Type fonts are shown with the "TT" letters in front of the font name and the file has the .TTF extension.

Type 1 - Scaleable font format whose characters are based on limited set PostScript commands. They can be processed directly by RIPs

Type 3 - A special type of PostScript font, which allows all PostScript commands. Does not use any encryption. The main disadvantage of Type 3 fonts is that hinting information is not available. Also often Type 3 fonts contain bitmap-based characters.

Type 42 - A special packaging of a TrueType font, basically the wrapping of a TrueType Font in PostScript.

Postscript Fonts - These fonts are used by Adobe programs and are used for printing to Postscript type printers

Multiple Master (MM) - Extension of Type 1 fonts that allow transitions between different typefaces within only one font file. They are only contained in a PostScript file, never in a PDF file.

CID Font - 2-byte Unicode compliant PostScript font to display fonts consisting of several thousand characters. CID fonts can be compressed when used in PDF and usually have smaller files sizes than traditional PostScript fonts when they contain the same informations.

Bitmap - Font in which each character is described with a bitmap. Results in low quality when scaling.

OpenType - A cross-platform font file format developed jointly by Adobe and Microsoft. They can be either PostScript or TrueType based. They contain expanded character sets and layout features. OpenType fonts cannot exist in PDF or PostScript, they are used to store fonts for the Operating system. They are automatically converted to either Type 1 or TrueType fonts when PDFs or PostScript is created.

Printer fonts - These type of fonts are "fixed length" and are normally installed along with the drivers when a new printer is installed. In order to select a different point size you need to change the font. As an example the font name for 10 and 12 point courier fonts would be "10-point courier" and "12-point courier" respectively. In other words you can NOT select a point size with fixed point fonts, you can only select a different font name if one exists. Unfortunately, fixed fonts come in very limited sizes.

Glossary of Terms

AFM (Adobe Font Metric): File name extension for a text file containing font metrics (character widths, dimentions, kerning, etc) for a PostScript Type 1 font. This file is not used much on the Mac.

ATM (Adobe Type Manager): Software for the Mac and PC that interprets Type 1 PostScript fonts and displays them on the screen instead of the system bitmap fonts. Unlike bitmap fonts, ATM font characters are vector based so they are smooth at any size.

BinHex: A type of file encoding that puts the Mac resource and data fork together in one file. It was originally used to telecommunicate files since both forks had to be transferred over a single ASCII text data stream. The Mac specific file type, creator and other information is also saved.

Bitmap Font: A font whos characters are stored as bitmaps or rendered images. The characters are meant to be viewed unscaled. Scaling the characters give a blocky appearance.

Encoding: A fonts encoding is a table associating a glyph with an index number. Changing the encoding changes which glyph is displayed for a particular key on the keyboard.

FAT: File system used in DOS, and Windows.

FOND: A Mac FOND resource associates several fonts into a font family. It contains the menu name, metric information (widths, kerning, etc.), and a list of the associated fonts.

Font Family: A collection of several styles (regular, bold, italic, etc.) of a particular font. Usually the font menu of an application will display only a font family name, then the user can select each style from a separate style menu.

Fork: A fork is a stream of data associated with a file name in a file system. Macintosh HFS files have two forks. PC FAT and FAT32 files have one fork. NTFS files can have many forks.

Glyph: The image of a character in a font.

HFS (Hierarchical File System): A standard file system format used in the Macintosh.

HFS+: The latest file system for the Macintosh. Also called Extended file system. It can be larger and store files more efficiently than regular HFS.

HQX: File name extension for a BinHex encoded file.

INF: File name extension for a text file containing individual platform, application and other metric information for PostScript Type 1 fonts.

Kerning: Distance values used to adjust the space between characters that look too far apart or too close together. Kerning can make text easier to read by giving it a more uniform appearance.

Mac Creator: The creator is a unique four character signature identifying a program on the Mac. Each file associated with a program contains the programs signature which allows the Mac OS to launch it when those files are clicked.

Mac Type: The type field of a Mac file is a four character signature that identifies what type of information the file contains. It allows programs to show only files of a certain type in their open dialog boxes. It can also associate an icon for the file if none exist in its resource fork.

MacBinary: A type of file encoding that puts the Mac resource and data fork together in one file. It was originally used to telecommunicate files since both forks had to be transferred over a single data stream. The file type, creator and other information are also saved.

Multiple Master Font: An Adobe format. Multiple Master fonts can create many  font variations from a single base design.

PFA (Printer Font ASCII): File name extension for a PC Type 1 font file (PFB) in ASCII text readable format.

PFB (Printer Font Binary): File name extension for a PostScript Type 1 font file. It contains font outline data in binary format. The PFB and an associated PFM file are used by ATM on a PC.

PFM (Printer Font Metric): File name extension for a Printer Font Metric. Includes much of the same information as the AFM file, only in binary format. ATM and Windows use this information for placing characters properly.

PostScript: A page description language (programming language for placing text and graphics on a page). Type 1 fonts are the native font format for PostScript.

Resource Fork: The PC and Mac differ in the way they store files. On a Mac each file can have two parts called forks. The data fork holds data (text, images, etc.). The resource fork holds resources (icons, fonts, menus, sounds, etc.). There are actually two files linked to one name in the file system. PCs only have one file linked to each name.

TrueType Font: This is a vector font format natively supported by both Macintosh and Windows operating systems.

TTF: File name extension for a TrueType font. This is a file containing font outline data in TrueType format.

Type 1 Font: This is a vector font format natively supported by PostScript.

Type 3 Font: These are actually PostScript programs which require a PostScript interpreter to display them. They are not compatible with ATM.

Vector Font: Fonts that contain instructions for building outlines from lines and curves which are filled to create the solid shapes of letters and other glyphs. The benefit of representing shapes this way is that they can be scaled to virtually any size and still retain smooth edges (unlike bitmap fonts which exhibit jagged edges when enlarged). Vector formats include TrueType and PostScript Type1 fonts.



The PostScript or �Type 1� font format was developed by Adobe in the 1980s, several years before the release of TrueType. The format is based on Adobe�s PostScript printing technology ? a programming language that allows for high-resolution output of resizable graphics. PostScript has long been viewed as a reliable choice, particularly for professional designers, publishers and printers.

PostScript fonts consist of two parts, which are both necessary for the font to be properly printed and displayed on screen. With most operating systems, PostScript fonts can be installed simply by being placed in the system�s font folder. However, PC users working on operating systems that predate Windows 2000, need to install the free ATM (Adobe Type Manager) utility in order to use PostScript fonts.


The TrueType format was jointly developed by Apple and Microsoft in the late 80s, several years after the release of the PostScript font format. Many of the fonts included with both the Macintosh and Windows operating systems are TrueType. TrueType fonts contain both the screen and printer font data in a single component, making the fonts easier to install. For this reason, TrueType is a good choice for those who have limited experience working with and installing fonts.

The TrueType format, also allows for �hinting,� a process that improves the on-screen legibility of a font. Fonts that have been hinted are marked as �ESQ� (Enhanced Screen Quality). ESQ fonts are excellent choices for electronic documents and other settings where lengthy blocks of text will be displayed on screen.

For more information you can log onto this website for all the details about TrueType.


OpenType, a joint effort from Adobe and Microsoft, is the latest font format to be introduced. Like TrueType, OpenType fonts contain both the screen and printer font data in a single component. However, the OpenType format has several exclusive capabilities including support for multiple platforms and expanded character sets. OpenType fonts can be used on either Macintosh or Windows operating systems. Additionally, the OpenType format permits the storage of up to 65,000 characters. This additional space provides type designers with the freedom to include add-ons such as small caps, old style figures, alternate characters and other extras that previously needed to be distributed as separate fonts.

However, not all OpenType fonts contain additional characters. Many fonts have been converted from either PostScript or TrueType formats without expanded character sets to take advantage of the cross-platform functionality benefits of OpenType. Unless clearly stated otherwise, assume that the OpenType font you are purchasing features the traditional character set found in PostScript and TrueType fonts. OpenType fonts that do contain expanded character sets are referred to informally as �OpenType Pro� fonts. Support for OpenType Pro fonts is increasing, yet the format is yet to fully catch on. Currently, InDesign 2.0 and Adobe Photoshop 7.0 can make use of the expanded character sets. Quark and Microsoft product users, may have to wait for future releases to fully take advantage of this feature.

Click here to learn how to install OpenType fonts.


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