FAQ: TrueType and PostScript Fonts

andreas.com FAQ: Fonts

Dear Andreas, Everytime I add a new font to the Windows font directory it never works. All the fonts that come with Windows 95 are working fine, but if I add a font, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.–Perplexed in Wichita.

Fonts are a bit complex. There are TrueType, Type 1, and OpenType fonts. Each of these is different.

A font is made up of a series of fonts called “a font family.” Forexample, Garamond Light, Garamond Bold, Garamond Italic, etc., are all part of the Garamond font family. Since it can be a bit confusing to see the individual members of a family, you can use View | Hide Variations to hide all the members. When looking at the windowsfonts folder, just double-click any font to see it. A preview pane will show the font. You can also click the Print button to print out an example.


TrueType fonts (made by Microsoft) live in your windowsfonts folder. To “install” or remove a TrueType, just drag it into or out of the windowsfonts folder. You could create a second folder (somewhere else, not in the fonts folder) called UnusedFonts (or similar) and store the unused fonts there.

TrueType fonts are designed to print at up to 600 dpi, namely, an office laser printer. They look fine on these. But if you’re going to produce a document to be printed at a printing company, they normally use 1200 or 2400 dpi. The TrueType font will look a bit fuzzy.

Type 1, or PostScript Fonts

The complete name for these is “Adobe Type 1 PostScript fonts.” People say “Adobe fonts,” “Type 1 fonts,” “PostScript fonts,” or a combination of these. They are all the same.

To install or remove Type 1 fonts, one uses the Adobe Type Manager (ATM) (aprogram from Adobe.) Double-click this and a two-pane dialog box appears.Poor ATM is not easy to use. At the left is what is installed; at the rightis what you can choose. Adobe fonts can live in any folder.

There’s a big problem with Adobe products: they each use a different folder for their fonts. If you have PhotoShop, FrameMaker, and Acrobat, each will have a separate folder. This means that you’ll have to install the font into all three folders. Otherwise, you’ll get font substitution problems.

Create a folder called “Unused Fonts” and move all of the Adobe fonts into it. Now use ATM to install the fonts again. Just select the target folder (Program FilesAdobeFonts) in the left pane and the source folder (Unused Fonts) in the right pane and then click install.

Type 1 fonts are designed to print at 2400 dpi, namely, an large printing press. They look fine on laser printers as well. The only reason not to use PostScript fonts is that it’s rather cumbersome to install these and it’s difficult to share them.

What’s the difference between TrueType and Type 1?

TrueType are designed for output devices that can display up to 600-dpi (such as laser printers). Monitors are output devices at 72-dpi, so they can show TrueType fonts.

TrueType fonts however don’t work well at high resolution outputs such as 2400 dpi (used to print books.) (Most books are at 1200 dpi, but some are at 2400. The glossy magazines such as Architectural Digest and Graphis are at much higher dpi outputs.) The fonts don’t contain information for high resolutions, so the font output becomes fuzzy.

Lithographers (printing companies) use ONLY PostScript fonts. They strongly discourage TrueType, since these cause quality problems. Thus if you’re outputting to professional print, you use Type 1 PostScript fonts.

Even if you’re not going to print at a printing company, you should use Adobe fonts. They’re more expensive (between $25 and $200), but they are much better designed fonts.

How Many Fonts May One Install?

It’s like “how many different colors may you wear at the same time?” If you use more than three or four fonts in a document, you’re going to look a bit crazy. Fonts are part of the design: use one font for headers and another font for body. If you use too many fonts, then fonts don’t mean anything and the reader gets confused.

TrueType fonts are loaded into memory only if you use them. So you may easily have a thousand fonts in your fonts folder, but if you want to pick a font, you’ll have to wade through a long list. So the best thing is to copy the unused ones into an unused fonts folder.

Why Doesn’t a Font Work?

Maybe you’ve got bad fonts. There are CDs with 2,000 fonts for only $5. Sure, and ketchup is a vegetable. Many of these are cheap fonts. Stick to Microsoft TrueType or Adobe fonts.

You can buy Adobe fonts at www.adobe.com/type.