Font Management

When the first Macs shipped back in the mid-1980s, they came with a range of fonts installed. All bore the names of cities -London, New York, Chicago -and all had one thing in common: they were in bitmap format, in which each character is defined as a unique set of pixels. To use them at different sizes, font designers had to manually craft a whole new set of character designs for each size at which the fonts were required. This was because simply enlarging a small font to a larger size looked horrendously blocky and ungainly.
Surprising as it may seem, at the time bitmap fonts were not so much restrictive as revolutionary. In a computing world used to the monospaced monotony of the single-font DOS display, the ability to use fonts that even vaguely resembled Times, Helvetica and the like was a huge leap forward. Font technology has improved vastly since those early days. Designers now have the option of using a range of font formats and types, as we'll see here.

Whether you are a graphic designer, typographer, or a publisher, you’ll benefit from better management of your fonts. Experimenting with fonts, downloading free fonts, and purchasing new fonts all contribute to a growing collection and, before you know it, you have more fonts than you know what to do with. Even without the potential for confusion, all of these fonts can drain your computer’s resources—in short, you need a solution to manage your collection.
Font management can be accomplished in a variety of ways. First, your operating system has some built-in font management capabilities. Next, free font management programs are available on the internet. And finally, commercial font management programs will offer professional functionality, but come at a cost.
Depending on the type of user you are, the features that you need will vary. Hobbyists will be satisfied with a font manager that allows them to perform basic management steps such as previewing fonts and installing and un-installing them with ease. Graphic designers will want greater control and features, such as detecting and repairing corrupt fonts, missing fonts, duplicate fonts, and PostScript errors. In addition, the ability to deactivate unneeded fonts will help your computer perform better if it has an extensive collection of fonts installed. Also, font managers with server-enabled versions are ideal for a networked environment. While free programs can provide the basic features of font management, heavy users such as graphic designers and typographers need higher-end tools with advanced features for managing their collections. There are several software programs designed for the professional market.

Type Formats

OpenType fonts will work in nearly any application on any modern operating system, but when you use a truly OpenType savvy application the format’s power is unlocked. Applications that support advanced OpenType features include Adobe InDesign CS, Illustrator CS, Photoshop CS, and Quark XPress 7. These apps provide easy access to typographic features, so you can convert figures and lowercase to true small caps, all without changing the font. OpenType® is a new cross-platform font file format developed jointly by Adobe and Microsoft. Adobe has converted the entire Adobe Type Library into this format and now offers thousands of OpenType fonts.
The two main benefits of the OpenType format are its cross-platform compatibility (the same font file works on Macintosh and Windows computers), and its ability to support widely expanded character sets and layout features, which provide richer linguistic support and advanced typographic control.
The OpenType format is an extension of the TrueType SFNT format that also can support Adobe® PostScript® font data and new typographic features. OpenType fonts containing PostScript data, such as those in the Adobe Type Library, have an .otf suffix in the font file name, while TrueType-based OpenType fonts have a .ttf file name suffix.
OpenType fonts can include an expanded character set and layout features, providing broader linguistic support and more precise typographic control. Feature-rich Adobe OpenType fonts can be distinguished by the word "Pro," which is part of the font name and appears in application font menus. OpenType fonts can be installed and used alongside PostScript Type 1 and TrueType fonts.


Postsript Type 1 While Apple was developing its first personal computers, Adobe was creating PostScript, a mathematically driven graphics description language. It created a font format known as Type 1 back in 1984, although at the time it was little known outside Adobe's labs. When Apple introduced its first laser printer in 1985, PostScript suddenly had a commercial purpose: designers could now use their fonts at any size, as the scalability of PostScript meant they were no longer bound to the restrictive sizes of bitmap-only fonts. However, to view the fonts on screen still meant having bitmap versions of these PostScript fonts installed at a range of pre-drawn sizes. To this day, PostScript fonts come as a bundle of at least two elements: a printer font and an accompanying screen font. Designers weren't able to see fonts at any size they chose on screen with any degree of accuracy until the appearance of Adobe Type Manager (ATM) in 1989. This revolutionary system add-on produced bitmap versions of fonts at any size, on the fly, for those who were willing to pay for it. The advent of Mac OS X, with its built-in font display technology, made ATM redundant.There are many other PostScript formats -from Type 3, which allows the use of colour and shading, all the way down to Type 42 ...,. but PostScript Type 1 remains the font format of choice for typographers and designers due both to its legacy and to its robustness.

TrueType format was developed by Apple and was released to the world with System 7 in 1991. It freed designers from the need to use ATM, providing simple, scalable fonts for all. However, the TrueType technology built into the operating system couldn't display Type 1 fonts properly. This led Adobe to release ATM Light, for free, as a way of protecting its huge investment in Type 1 fonts: The problem wasn't helped by the fact that when TrueType was incorporated into the release of Windows 3.1 in 1992, its implementation was erratic: fonts written for a 32-bit architecture would fail on the 16-bit Windows system, so many fonts had to be rewritten -and this meant simplifying complex glyphs (Ietterforms). Even then, some characters still failed to display.
Today, TrueType fonts have by far the biggest market share on both Mac and Windows platforms. However, many still regard them as second-class alternatives. In fact, a well designed TrueType font can be just as good as its PostScript equivalent, but the market is so flooded with amateur rush jobs that it can be difficult to distinguish the good from the bad.

Multiple Masters As part of its attempt to regain the font arena, Adobe introduced Multiple Master fonts in 1991. This was an extraordinary technology: for the first time, you could create instances of a select range of fonts at any weight and at any width, while maintaining typographic integrity.
It was an ingenious solution, but was just too complex a concept to win mass approval. Despite its clear advantages, Adobe ceased support for Multiple Masters in 1999 due to a lack of user interest. Although there are still several fonts available in a range of Multiple Master weights, we no longer have the technology to create new instances ourselves.


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