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TrueType, PostScript Type 1, & OpenType:

What’s the Difference?

by omas W. Phinney
Version ., December , 

Copyright © – by omas Phinney, but permission is granted to duplicate and re-distribute this document, as long as
it is reproduced in full and unedited (including footnotes, copyright and trademark information). Please contact the author by
e-mail (, prior to any publication or redistribution, to ensure that the most
recent version is used. is document is only available in Acrobat  form. In the interests of full disclosure, note that the author
works in the type group and Adobe. However, every effort has been made to make this an impartial document. Special thanks to
David Lemon, Kathleen Tinkel, Jerry Hall, Tom Rickner, Chris Holm, Kaspar Brand and Vladimir Levantovsky (among others)
for their invaluable feedback; however, any errors are the author’s sole responsibility. See endnote for trademark information.

TrueType (TT), PostScript® Type  (Type ) and However, Type , TrueType and OpenType fonts
OpenType® are all multi-platform outline font stan- all have a means of dealing with these inconsis-
dards for which the technical specifications are tencies, called “hinting.” is consists of additional
openly available. “Multi-platform” means that both information encoded in the font to help prevent
font types are usable on multiple sorts of comput- these problems.
er systems. “Outline font” means that they describe
letter shapes (“glyphs”) by means of points, which Brief History
in turn define lines and curves. is representation PostScript and the Type  font format predate
is resolution independent, meaning that outlines, by TrueType by about six years (with OpenType being
their very nature, can be scaled to pretty much any a much later amalgamation of the two formats). First,
arbitrary size. Depending on the particular program we had many different formats for digital fonts, none
being used and the operating system it’s run under, of which were standardized. en Apple adopted the
there may be upper and lower limits to the size the Adobe® PostScript page description language (PDL)
font can be scaled to, but few users will ever encoun- for its Apple LaserWriter printer in . is, com-
ter these limits. bined with the introduction of PageMaker®, the first
An outline font must be represented by the dots desktop publishing soware, sparked a revolution in
of the output device, whether it’s screen pixels or the page layout technology.
dots of a laser, ink-jet or wire-pin printer. e pro- Soon the PostScript language was adopted for use
cess of converting the outline to a pattern of dots on in higher-end imagesetting devices, and became the
the grid of the device is called “rasterization.” native operating mode and language of many graph-
When there aren’t enough dots making up the ics programs as well. e command structure of the
glyph (such as at small sizes or low resolutions), PostScript language was publicly available, so it was
there can be inconsistencies in the representation possible for someone to build a PostScript interpret-
of certain letter features, at a single size, due to dif- er to compete with Adobe’s rasterizing soware. But
ferent rounding based on how the outline happens it wouldn’t be able to interpret the hints in Type 
to sit on the grid. A common form of this is that fonts. is was because the PostScript font specifi-
the widths of the letter stems can vary when they cation for Type  fonts, which included hinting, was
shouldn’t. Worse, key features of the glyphs can dis- not publicly available. Adobe had only released the
appear at small sizes. specifications for Type  fonts. Type  fonts were a
more general format, but Type  was smaller, faster,
and had a native hinting structure (of which see . Similarly, Type  rasterizing technology is incor-
more below). porated into Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Mac
It rapidly became obvious to the major system OS X, side-by-side with TrueType and both flavors
soware creators (Apple, Microso, and later IBM) of OpenType. Indeed, Apple’s new Japanese system
that it was important to have scaleable font technol- fonts provided with the OS are in OpenType form,
ogy supported at the level of the operating system albeit with some Mac-specific additions.
itself. is would allow much better screen display,
compared to pre-made bitmaps which would only Technical Differences
look good at a few sizes, and would be jagged at all e first difference between TrueType and PostScript
others. So in the late s, Apple developed its own fonts is their use of different sorts of mathematics
scaleable font technology, first code-named Royal, to describe their curves. OpenType fonts can have
and later introduced as TrueType. either kind of outlines, with their respective advan-
Apple traded the technology to Microso in tages and disadvantages.
exchange for the latter’s TrueImage PostScript clone Some articles have said that TrueType fonts
technology (which was buggy at the time, and never require more points than PostScript, or that they
used by Apple, although it has surfaced in various take longer to rasterize because the math is more
later incarnations). e TrueType specifications were complicated. In fact, the math is simpler (quadratics
made public, and TrueType was built into the next are simpler than cubics). Although a few shapes take
versions of the Mac and Windows® operating sys- fewer points in TrueType than in PostScript (a per-
tems, released in . fect circle takes twelve points in PostScript vs. eight
Adobe’s response started with the release of the in TrueType), in practice the shapes in real-world
long-protected specifications for the PostScript fonts all tend to take more points in TrueType, it’s
Type  font format in March . is was followed true that most fonts will end up using more points
by introduction of Adobe Type Manager® (ATM®) in TrueType, even if the kind of mathematics used
soware in mid-. ATM scales PostScript Type to describe the curves is simpler.
 fonts for screen display, and for imaging on non- e primary advantage of TrueType over Type 
PostScript printers. fonts is the fact that TrueType has the potential for
In early , TrueType for the Mac became avail- better hinting. Mind you, PostScript Type  hints
able, followed by the Windows . implementation handle a lot: vertical and horizontal features, over-
(the Windows scaler was and remains slightly more shoots, stem snaps, equal counters, and shallow
accurate/efficient than the Mac version, though it’s curves (“flex”). Several of these can have a thresh-
nothing a normal user is likely to notice). Now, with old pixel size at which they activate.
either TrueType or ATM, Mac users (and later Win- However, TrueType hints can do all that PostScript
dows and OS/ users) could actually see on-screen at can, and almost anything else, as defined by the very
any size what the font output would look like. flexible instructions of the TrueType language. is
So now there were two widely used outline font includes controlling diagonals, and moving specified
specifications, one (TrueType) built into the operat- points on the glyph outlines at specific arbitrary sizes
ing systems used by most desktop computers world- to improve legibility. is ability to move points at
wide, and the other (PostScript Type ) the de facto a specific point size allows font production staff to
standard for publishing and the graphic arts. hand-tune the bitmap pattern produced by the out-
But as time goes on, the practical differences begin line at any specified size. Or at least it used to; more
to blur. e new OpenType format (discussed later), recent divergences in TrueType rasterizing between
supports both TrueType and PostScript outlines. different players (including Apple and Microso)
Support for TrueType (via Apple’s TrueType ras- make this a little more uncertain.
terizer) is built in to virtually all implementations is difference in hinting philosophy is really
of PostScript Level , and is standard in PostScript symptomatic of a larger philosophical difference.

PostScript uses “dumber” fonts and a “smarter” inter- However, in Windows  and XP, and Mac OS
preter, while TrueType uses relatively smarter fonts X, the PostScript Type  and OpenType CFF support
and a dumber interpreter. is means that PostScript is built in, just like the TrueType support has long
hints tell the rasterizer what features ought to be been. So this former advantage is rapidly vanishing.
controlled, and the rasterizer interprets these using A smaller, but consistent, advantage of OpenType
its own “intelligence” to decide how to do it. ere- and TrueType has to do with the physical storage of
fore, when someone upgrades their PostScript inter- the fonts. OpenType and TrueType fonts have all the
preter, the rasterization can be improved. data in a single file. PostScript Type  fonts require
Contrariwise, TrueType puts all the hinting infor- two separate files: one contains the character out-
mation into the font to control exactly how it will lines, and the other contains metrics data (charac-
appear when rasterized. Some TT aficionados prefer ter widths and kern pairs). On the Macintosh, Mac
to call TrueType hints “instructions,” partly in ref- OS . and earlier requires Type 1 fonts to have not
erence to the full-featured nature of the TrueType only the outline font, but also a bit-mapped screen
programming language, but also to clarify the role font in at least one size, which contains the metrics
of this information. As Jelle Bosma of Agfa Mono- data. For Windows systems using PostScript, a “PFB”
type says, “I don’t hint at what I want to happen—I file contains the outlines, while a “PFM” file carries
tell the font what to do.” the metrics.
us the TrueType font producer has the poten- e system-independent “AFM” metrics file can be
tial for very fine control over what happens when the converted to a Windows PFM file upon installation
font is rasterized under different conditions. Howev- by ATM, or can be used by a font editing program
er, it requires serious effort, expertise, and high-end along with the outline to create a screen font for the
tools for a font developer to actually take advantage Mac that includes any kerning pairs in the original.
of this greater hinting potential. Also, making major On the other hand, PostScript’s pair of files are
changes to the TrueType rasterizer while displaying oen smaller than TrueType’s single file. e size dif-
existing fonts at their best would seem to be diffi- ference ranges from only a  savings for an average
cult to manage. font, to as much as a doubling of size for TrueType
Until recently, the other advantage of TrueType fonts that actually have extensive “hinting” instruc-
was that it was the font format supported directly tions.
by the Mac and Windows operating systems, while Also, most high-end output devices use PostScript
Type  required an add-on. ese operating systems as their internal page description language. PostScript
will rasterize TrueType fonts for the screen, and send fonts can be sent directly to these devices. It used to
them to printers, whether as bitmaps or in some font be the case that TrueType fonts were either down-
format the printer understands. loaded as bitmaps or required that the TrueType
Scaling either PostScript fonts, or OpenType fonts rasterizer be downloaded as a PostScript program,
with PostScript outlines, on Mac OS 8/9 and Win- which slowed printing a bit.
dows 95/98/ME, requires the Adobe Type Manager More recently, many PostScript Level  printers,
(ATM) soware, which handles the rasterizing to the (and all PostScript  printers) have the TrueType
screen, and rasterizes or converts the fonts for non- rasterizer in ROM, built in. However, with some
PostScript printers. (Technically, Mac users don’t Windows printer drivers the user must change the
require ATM to use PostScript fonts on PostScript printer driver settings in soware to take advantage
printers, but ATM is required to display the font of this feature (downloading TrueType as “Type ,”
accurately on screen at arbitrary sizes.) ATM is freely which is basically a PostScript wrapper around the
available : the “Light” version is a free download from TrueType data).
Adobe’s Web site, and also comes with many Adobe

Further Practical Differences lution devices, or for screen display. e increasing,
Many of the theoretical advantages of TrueType are widespread use of  dpi and better laser printers
not actually realized in most commercially avail- makes this less critical for print work. On the other
able TrueType fonts. PostScript backers point to a hand, the increasing importance of screen displays
number of problems that still make PostScript fonts for so many purposes—including multimedia, the
a better solution for many users. Besides the above- Internet, and electronic books—makes hinting more
mentioned issue of the language of the output device, important.
there are four other practical issues that even the Fourth, PostScript has some advantages simply
score for PostScript: from being the longer-established standard, espe-
First, at present many of the commercially avail- cially for serious graphic arts work. Service bureaus
able TrueType fonts one sees at the soware mega- are standardized on, and have large investments
mart are of poor quality, coming in “zillion-fonts- in, PostScript fonts. Most of the fonts which have
for-a-buck” collections. Many of these fonts were “expert sets” of old style figures, extra ligatures, true
originally shareware or public domain PostScript small capitals and the like are in PostScript Type 
fonts, and were converted to TrueType using some format.
basic automatic utility. e outlines and hinting are Although most major vendors have TrueType
no better than they were in the PostScript versions, fonts, not all offer their entire libraries in both for-
and will suffer slightly in almost any automatic con- mats. Agfa Monotye and Bitstream have their entire
version. Usually in the case of extremely cheap col- libraries in both formats, while Adobe has but a
lections, they weren’t the best quality* PostScript handful of TrueType fonts. Given the current state
fonts even before conversion to TrueType. of the tools, although a simple conversion would be
Of course, TrueType backers point out that oen easy, it would take a concerted effort of many years to
these fonts were available before; it’s simply the convert all the major vendors’ font libraries to True-
availability of a universal font scaling technology Type if they also wished to enhance the quality.
that makes discount fonts for the masses practical,
and of course they are more likely to be released in
the most widely available format. Another oen-raised issue is the story that some
Second is the issue of easy-to-use tools. On the PostScript devices, particularly imagesetters, have
plus side, there is finally a retail font editor with problems either with TrueType fonts in general, or
native TrueType support (FontLab 3), as well as especially with mixing TrueType and PostScript on
Microso’s Visual TrueType (VTT) hinting tool. the same page or the same line. is is mostly an his-
However, regardless of the specific tools used, achiev- torical issue. Recent implementations of TrueType
ing first-class hinting in TrueType currently requires in operating systems, and newer Adobe PostScript
intensive manual coding on a glyph-by-glyph basis. interpreters, have resolved what few problems there
is requires substantial time and expertise on the were in the early s.
part of the person doing the hinting. According to Dov Isaacs, Adobe’s Manager of
As a result, high-quality TrueType fonts are cur- Quality Assurance, Printing & Systems Division in
rently only available from a handful of vendors, and the early to mid-s, “regardless of whether you are
only a minority of even those fonts really exploit the on a Mac or a PC running Windows . or above, you
potential of TrueType hinting. can mix TrueType and Type  with the caveat that
ird, TrueType’s hinting advantage only matters you should never have both TrueType and Type 
when hinting matters: when outputting to low-reso- fonts with the same exact names on the same system.”
Indeed, having any two fonts with identical menu
* What do I mean by poor quality? Incomplete character sets, inconsis- names or PostScript font names can confuse the
tent stem weights, improper outline construction, excess points, inad- operating system or your applications, with unpre-
equate or improper hinting, inconsistent spacing, poor or nonexistent
dictable results.
kerning, and many other factors.

Also, if using Windows, one may find that met- and if they warn of potential problems, test some-
rically-similar PostScript fonts get substituted for thing complex with a mix of font formats for future
the Windows TrueType system fonts at output time: reference.
Times New Roman® becomes Times® Roman, and
Arial® becomes Helvetica®. Getting the same font Converting TrueType & PostScript
on the actual output can be guaranteed by chang- Mathematically speaking the quadratic B-splines
ing printer settings in the printer control panel, to of TrueType are a subset of the cubic Bézier curves
ensure the TrueType system fonts get used. Hackers of PostScript, so it’s possible to convert TrueType
can also try editing the WIN.INI file on the computer to Type  without loss of accuracy. And if enough
that is doing the printing (whether to device or file). points are used, one can convert in the other direc-
Delete the relevant lines in the font substitution sec- tion with minimal loss.
tion, so that the TrueType font used on-screen is also But this is only true if the same design space is
sent to the output device, rather than a printer font used. Most TrueType fonts are designed on a -
being substituted. On Windows NT® or Win95, Reg- unit grid, while PostScript Type  fonts typically use
istry settings control the same behavior. Alternatively, a -unit grid. Although neither of these measure-
get a scalable version of the font used in the printer, ments is required, if the conversion does choose to
and use it instead of the system fonts. change the measurement basis (or “em-square” in
When dealing with fonts on the computer’s side, fontspeak), there will likely be changes in the out-
one needs to be careful about deliberately substitut- lines due to rounding.
ing Arial for Helvetica and Times New Roman for More importantly, hinting information does not
Times, or vice versa. Although the basic spacing of directly translate in either direction between the two
the substituted fonts is identical, their kerning pairs formats.
are not. is can cause text to reflow if one switches Within these limitations, a variety of retail tools
between two different-but-almost-the-same fonts on (both font editing programs and dedicated conver-
the computer doing the typesetting, if the program sion utilities) can convert between PostScript Type
supports kerning pairs (graphics and DTP programs,  and TrueType. For a casual user, the results are
and some better word processors). In situations in likely to be acceptable. As of this writing, there are
which exact line breaks are not critical, or applica- no shareware or freeware utilities that perform such
tions in question do not use kerning, problems are conversions.
One actual, but rare, source of problems is not Multiple Masters
inherent in TrueType, but a result of the fact that e PostScript Type  multiple master (MM) format
rasterizing TrueType can require a bit more RAM is an extension of the Adobe Type  PostScript font
in the raster image processor (RIP) than rasteriz- format. Essentially, it allows two design variations to
ing PostScript—primarily in much older PostScript be encoded as opposing ends of a single design axis.
Level  rasterizers when the TrueType rasterizing Aerwards, any in-between state (an “instance” in
program must be downloaded. If the RIP has barely MM-speak) may be generated by the user on need.
enough RAM, it’s possible that this could push it us, an MM font could have a “weight” axis which
over the edge. has an ultra-light master and an extra-black master,
A more common source of problems is that some allowing any conceivable variation in between. And
non-Adobe “PostScript-compatible” imagesetters do this is only one possibility; almost any two design
not support TrueType properly. extremes could theoretically be put on a multiple
Service bureaus and printers are notoriously con- master, as long as their Bézier control points can be
servative about these sorts of thing (understandably, matched up to allow interpolation.
since any delays or problems can cost them and their Multiple axes are also possible, but (in all imple-
clients money); your best bet is to consult with them, mentations, though not technically required by the

format) each additional axis doubles the number of Because with most applications it is inconvenient,
master fonts that must be created, because each pos- and because many users are unfamiliar with MM
sible extreme must be designed separately. Imagine technology, it oen makes more economic and mar-
a dimensional space, with each corner requiring a keting sense to release a font set as multiple separate
master. us a three-axis MM (a cube) must have fonts, even if it was designed using multiple master-
eight master fonts; a four-axis font (the practical style interpolation. Examples of this trend include-
maximum) would need sixteen master fonts, which Jonathan Hoefler’s reworking of Didot, and most of
is one reason nobody has released one yet. the first OpenType fonts released by Adobe.
e primary uses to which MM technology has Fewer than  MM fonts have been released by
been put are: weight (light to bold); width (con- major font vendors—and more than half by Adobe.
densed to extended); and optical size (text to dis- Using multiple masters also requires that the user
play). A few MM fonts experiment with other forms, have Adobe Type Manager (even in Windows 
such as the existence or type of serifs. All of these and XP), but this is a near-necessity for PostScript
adjustments can be done by cruder means, by creat- fonts in many environments, anyway.
ing separate fonts, or even just ignored; but multiple In October , Adobe announced that it was
master fonts allow typographically aware users to ceasing development of new multiple master fonts,
create the precise, desired typeface in a more refined citing the lack of application support, and Adobe’s
fashion. desire to concentrate its resources on OpenType.
Multiple master fonts come with a variety of pre- In , Adobe began to phase out sale of multi-
defined font instances, which meet many users’ needs, ple master fonts as equivalent OpenType versions
and make it unnecessary for some users to create became available. However, as of this writing, Adobe
further instances. continues to support multiple master fonts.
Unfortunately, it can be inconvenient to get to MM
instances other than the predefined ones. Most of Unicode
the time, the user must use ATM to instantiate each In discussing other extensions to TrueType and
additional font variant in order to make it available PostScript, it is helpful to first discuss Unicode,
to the system. ere are a few exceptions: Micro- since several of them support Unicode. Unicode is
so Word  and higher, and QuarkXPress .x and an international standard for representing a broad-
up, support direct creation of MM instances on the er character set using multi-byte encoding for each
fly by typing the exact name of the instance (easy, letter. is allows the encoding of thousands of char-
but hardly obvious). PageMaker  and better also acters instead of : essentially all the characters for
has integrated support for creating and using MM every language in the world, each with a unique ID.
instances, as does QuarkXPress .x, via an included However, the Unicode specification only covers
extension. Only Adobe Illustrator®  and higher have differences that have a linguistic impact, such as
gone so far as to allow direct manipulation of MM accented characters. It does not deal with typo-
axis sliders “live” on text. Adobe InDesign® doesn’t graphic niceties such as unusual ligatures, old style
have this, but does automatically use the correct opti- numbers, or small caps. To paraphrase Chuck Big-
cal size instance elow, it may seem like a metaphysical distinction, but
ere are a few older devices with implemen- Unicode is a character encoding, rather than a glyph
tations of PostScript level  that can’t handle MM encoding. e result is that simply adding Unicode
fonts, notably Apple’s Personal LaserWriter NT, the capability is very useful for non-English or multi-lin-
HP LaserJet IIID, the PostScript cartridge for the HP gual typography. However, it does not, in and of itself,
LaserJet IIP, and the TI microLaser PostScript series. aid in dealing with the typographic issues addressed
Additionally, some older PostScript clones may have by, say, GX/AAT or OpenType (discussed below).
problems with multiple master fonts. ere are alternatives to Unicode, such as Apple’s
initial GX solution of multiple single-byte encod-

ings per font, and Adobe’s CID technology. Howev- OpenType
er, most such alternatives are stopgaps; both Apple is  Adobe/Microso initiative surprised
and Adobe have added Unicode support to their industry analysts. OpenType puts either PostScript
technologies (Apple Advanced Typography replac- or TrueType outlines in a font, with tables including
ing GX, and OpenType with CID replacing Type  the current TrueType tables and additional tables
with CID). for advanced typographic features. Non-technical
Unicode character encoding is directly support- people might think of it as a common “wrapper”
ed by Windows NT,  and XP. e Mac OS had based on the existing TrueType structure. Applica-
the beginnings of Unicode support as far back as tions—and most operating system functions outside
OS ., and significant support in Mac OS X, but at of font rasterizing—will no longer care which type of
this time few significant Mac applications rely on the font is in this “wrapper.” In some senses, the Open-
OS-level support. (Adobe’s InDesign and Photoshop Type approach to putting TrueType and PostScript in
make use of Unicode, but independently of the OS.) a common wrapper is very much like how PostScript
Additionally, OpenType (see below) is directly based Type  is supported in a GX/AAT environment.
on Unicode, and thus operating systems and applica- As part of the deal, Microso and Adobe licensed
tions that support OpenType may support Unicode the TrueType and PostScript font technologies to
in the process. each other, and pledged an end to the “font wars”—
the longstanding debate over which format was
National Language Support &  better.
Windows / and ME do not fully support Uni- e representation of Type  font soware in an
code, but have a less universal approach called OpenType font uses Adobe’s Compact Font Format
National Language Support. NLS is accessible in for- (CFF) with Type  charstrings. is is a dramati-
eign-language versions of Windows x, or if a user cally more compact representation of the same
installs Multi-Language Support. One can then make information as Type . Indeed, Adobe says a Type
use of TrueType fonts with more than the usual   font converted directly to OpenType CFF, without
glyphs of Windows (or Macintosh) extended . added glyphs and features, is  smaller on aver-
For convenience, and to help preserve compatibility age. (Adobe had started work on CFF in late ,
with older programs, the user’s selected language set- initially for use in PostScript  printer ROMs, but it
ting determines which two-hundred-odd glyphs are has found much wider use in Adobe Acrobat and in
accessible from the keyboard (the correct ones for OpenType fonts.)
the chosen language, assuming they’re in the font). e OpenType format supports features equiva-
e Windows Glyph List 4 (WGL4) character set lent to most of the advanced features of existing
is a specific NLS set of some  characters, which TrueType and PostScript formats, such as Adobe’s
include all the characters for every European lan- CID technology for Asian fonts, and extended mul-
guage. is means all the usual regular and accented tilingual character sets. However, multiple master
Latin characters, more accented Latin characters for fonts are not part of the OpenType specification.
central Europe and the Baltic countries, plus Greek, OpenType fonts allow extended character sets
Cyrillic, Turkish, a host of accented characters, and beyond the usual  allowed by standard PostScript
IBM Linedraw thrown in for good measure. e Type  fonts. ese can be alternate letterforms, or
basic Windows system fonts (Arial, Courier, Times those characters formerly included in “expert sets,”
New Roman) have all been upgraded to WGL-4 (or additional languages, or whatever the designer
more). Only a few other TrueType fonts have this desires.
character set, such as Microso’s Verdana, Georgia, e key additional typographic layout features
Tahoma, Trebuchet, and the Microso version of in OpenType are supported by means of addition-
Franklin Gothic. al “tables” of information in the fonts, which specify
how the glyphs are modified by application of fea-

tures. For example, real (specifically designed instead but several are shipping OpenType fonts (includ-
of simply scaled) small caps can be built into the font, ing Emigre and House Industries), while the larg-
and feature tables could define the relationship of est foundries (Agfa Monotype and Linotype) have
these small caps to both regular caps and lowercase made public statements about their support for
letters. Similarly, feature tables can define such things OpenType.
as ligatures, swash characters, alternates, etc. Among publishing applications, so far Adobe
ese tables are the basis of automatic glyph sub- InDesign® and Photoshop®  and  support Open-
stitution. Substitution need not be one for one; one Type layout features. InDesign ./. and Photoshop
glyph can be substituted for several (such as the f-f-  only support a small (but important) subset, while
i ligature, or many Arabic characters), or multiple InDesign . supports a wide range of layout fea-
glyphs can be substituted for a single one. Glyph sub- tures.
stitution can be context sensitive, and/or activated by Initial Microso feature support across the Micro-
explicit user activity. so Office applications has been solely for those fea-
ere are several advantages of this over the cur- tures which are necessary for language support, such
rently available “expert sets” and “alternates.” First, as contextual substitutions for Arabic—and only in
the user’s font menu isn’t cluttered with supple- the languages which require them (although Word
mental fonts. Second, there can be kerning between 2000 will do contextual substitutions for Arabic, it
glyphs that might otherwise have been in separate won’t do them for English).
fonts. Finally, with an appropriately savvy applica-
tion, the user can turn on ligatures, small caps, or old- GX & AAT Fonts
style figures, much like bold or italic styling, without Another attempt to enhance these typographic nice-
switching fonts. ties has been Apple’s GX/AAT fonts. is font tech-
Although Seybold analysts initially reported on nology, born in , was first part of the Quick-
OpenType as a victory for Microso and TrueType Draw GX printing/graphics technology, which was
(by them getting legitimacy in publishing), that’s later abandoned by Apple. However, the font part of
a pretty narrow view. In the broad view, every- GX has renewed life as “Apple Advanced Typography”
body wins. Microso may indeed finally get great- or AAT in . AAT is in turn an element of “Apple
er TrueType acceptance in the high-end publishing Type Services for Unicode Imaging” or . Both
market. Adobe gets PostScript font outline support AAT and , at least in basic form, are part of Mac
at the system level in Windows, potentially making OS . and higher, including Mac OS X.
the Adobe type library more accessible to a broader How do AAT fonts work? AAT supports TrueType
range of potential buyers. But best of all, end users fonts, and other outline formats that use the True-
win by getting a single standard for advanced fea- Type table structure. Like OpenType, AAT fonts also
tures and cross-platform fonts, eliminating one of allow extended character sets beyond the usual 
the largest remaining hassles for document transfer allowed by standard PostScript Type  fonts. ey
between Macintosh and Windows computers. are referenced by tables, like OpenType approach,
Although Apple ships Japanese system fonts for although the AAT tables function a little differently,
Mac OS X in OpenType format (with PostScript being “state tables” rather than simple lookups.
outlines, and some added AAT tables), OS X does e GX/AAT Line Layout Manager is a bit of
not have native support for any OpenType features system soware that interprets and manages all this
beyond imaging the fonts, and (new in .) kern- additional information encoded in the font’s tables
ing for basic western characters. Meanwhile, Adobe to do useful things, such as accessing the small caps
shipped its last new Type  font in , and has mentioned above, automatic intelligent ligature sub-
converted almost the entire Adobe Type Library stitution, or optically aligning the edges of text based
to OpenType (over  OpenType fonts). Other on the actual shapes of the letterforms rather than
foundries have been slower to move to OpenType, the outside of the character bounding box.

TrueType GX/AAT fonts can also be designed as withdrew them from circulation, or failed to release
“variation fonts,” similar to multiple master fonts with the announced fonts.
design axes. However, TrueType AAT also has greater In Apple’s current operating system strategy, GX
flexibility in the use of these axes. proper is dead, but GX typography as AAT is still
Unfortunately, the GX/AAT font specification has being pushed. Apple’s support of Unicode in AAT
not met with wide acceptance as of this writing. One and integration of AAT into the Mac OS may have
reason is that it is only available for the Macintosh, the effect of increasing its support.
and most major layout soware is actively seeking
cross-platform compatibility; therefore the vendors What Does the Future Hold?
are loathe to adopt a “standard” that doesn’t have a One thing that drives acceptance of some Unicode-
counterpart for Windows (or any other systems they based solution, is the needs of international markets.
may support). As mentioned earlier, Unicode is a broader and more
Further, GX/AAT is a model which has histori- complete basis than any other for multi-lingual com-
cally tried to take over line layout, an area in which puting. is is important to both operating system
high-end layout applications have put consider- companies such as Apple and Microso, and to ven-
able effort into adding features and value for the dors (such as Adobe) of printing systems, applica-
end user. e makers of such applications would be tions and fonts for international markets.
understandably reluctant to abandon their previous Windows , Windows XP and Mac OS X have
hyphenation and justification capabilities (for exam- built-in support for all three font formats. Adobe
ple) in favor of AAT capabilities which are delivered has shipped over  OpenType fonts so far, and
“free” to the lowliest word processor which chooses two of Adobe’s flagship applications, InDesign and
to support AAT. Photoshop, both support some OpenType layout fea-
is barrier may be going away, however. Apple tures and use Unicode under the hood.
says it is moving towards making AAT functions OpenType may be a savior in the font wars, thanks
accessible to applications without requiring them to to its combination of features, cross-platform func-
give up all line layout. tionality, and the companies backing it—but applica-
Another barrier was removed by Apple back in tions must be updated to take advantage of its more
, in separating out the GX imaging/graphics whizzy features. Although existing font libraries can
model. Users can now use AAT-savvy applications easily be converted without added features, it is only
without installing system soware which is incom- by the merging of supplemental fonts and the labori-
patible with other major graphics applications. ous addition of new features, as Adobe has done, that
However, none of the biggest soware vendors the greatest value can be added to a converted library.
have released any applications which are AAT-savvy. Although there are many OpenType fonts now avail-
ere have been about a dozen programs that offered able, there will still be occasions when users have to
some degree of support for AAT in its former GX choose between PostScript and TrueType.
guise, including two page layout programs, Uniqorn As we have seen, there are definitely situations in
and Ready-Set-Go  GX, and LightningDraw, a draw- which one format or another may be desirable, such
ing package. ese applications would need rewrit- as when particular expert sets are needed (more
ing to work in current Mac OS versions (with AAT commonly available in PostScript fonts, or integrat-
but without GX). e most prominent GX applica- ed in OpenType), when TrueType doesn’t work on a
tion was Multi-Ad Creator , but the most recent ver- particular older imagesetter, when maximum legibil-
sions are no longer based on GX. ity is needed for screen display (the best TrueType
Font foundries support for GX/AAT has been and TrueType-flavored OpenType fonts), when easy
similarly irregular. Some type foundries that origi- access to advanced typographic features is needed
nally released or planned to release GX fonts either (from full-featured OpenType fonts), or cross-plat-
form font files are needed (OpenType again).

Despite these distinctions, the relative advantages mats, and mix them, without worrying a great deal
of each format are oen exaggerated by their boost- about the differences—and said differences, except
ers. OpenType has new capabilities; but most of these for enhanced OpenType features, are usually trans-
are not yet widely supported in applications. In prac- parent to the end user.
tice, most users can usually use any of the three for-

T N: Adobe, ATM, Adobe Type Manager, Illustrator, InDesign, PageMaker, PostScript and Photoshop are either registered trademarks
or trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries. Microso, OpenType, Windows and Windows NT are either
registered trademarks or trademarks of Microso Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. Apple, LaserWriter, Macintosh, Mac and
TrueType are trademarks of Apple Computer, Inc., registered in the United States and other countries. Arial and Times New Roman are trademarks of
e Monotype Corporation registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and may be registered in certain other jurisdictions. Times and Helvetica
are registered trademarks of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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