Back in the 90s I spent some time working pre-press for a service bureau. It was a rough time to work pre-press because RIPs were horrifically slow, just starting to get full postscript level 2 compatibility, and more often than not, simply choked on a document with more than 4 or 5 fonts. Back then, I had to deal with TrueType, three different types of Postscript fonts, Apple’s GX fonts, and Multiple Master fonts. Each brought its own unique brand of hurt. By far, the most reliable was Postscript Type 1. Thankfully, type 2 and 3 never really caught on, nor did Multiple Master fonts. TrueType had a rocky start – most RIPs couldn’t handle the single font file format – but eventually the format received wide acceptance and compatibility. Salvation came in 1996… Microsoft and Adobe combined efforts to create OpenType fonts, a single-file format that is capable of containing not only the normal font characters, but supporting a wide range of glyphs – including multiple languages. OpenType offers many advantages over other font formats:
- One is better than two – a God-send for pre-press workers who don’t have to worry about missing Screen or Printer font files
- Take ’em anywhere – OpenType works on the Mac and Windows operating system
- All-in-one – OpenType fonts can contain fraction, swashes, ligatures, and other special characters, making for better looking typography
- Smarty-pants – these fonts are smarter than you are. They automatically alter the character’s appearance depending on where they appear in a word.
Today, most all professional-grade graphics applications can use OpenType fonts. Adobe’s Creative Suite applications, as well as Quark XPress, offer access to OpenType’s power through the Character palette. If you haven’t played around with OpenType fonts, and all the features it brings, I encourage you to play around with them a bit. If you have the choice when purchasing or downloading free fonts, always choose the OpenType version – you get more bang for the buck with them.