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Font, That Four-Letter Word

(May 2005) posted on Thu May 05, 2005

The greatest cause of printing-file disasters.

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By Stephen Beals

This is not unlike the situation that the poor developers of font management
utilities have to face. All of the players use different
rules, and the referee"?in our case, that poor font-management
utility"?needs to make everything make sense and keep the
game flowing. And, don't forget, in print production, there are literally
thousands of players, not just two teams of five.

Over the years, we have witnessed the creation of TrueType,
PostScript (and the various PS versions), and OpenType fonts"?
and we're not done yet. Apple, for instance, introduced dfonts
when it released OS X; these are essentially TrueType fonts that
have the binary code built in. If you recall Apple's System 9,
when you loaded a PostScript font you actually needed two
pieces"?one for the screen rendering and one for the printer. In
OS X, you don't need two pieces.

The great thing about the dfonts is that they are completely
cross-platform compatible, as are OpenType fonts. PostScript
fonts, however"?which are what most people in print production
actually use"?still utilize the old architecture. While OS X can
handle that problem seamlessly, there are still problems when
you try to use PC fonts (Mac PostScript and PC PostScript fonts
have a different file structure) and when you operate in Classic
mode. And when Quark 6.0 came out, there were some important
details of Apple's new font-handling scheme that Quark
didn't completely write into its code. After several false starts,
Quark 6.5 and Mac OS X 10.3.7 now combine to solve most of
those problems.

Easing your pain

A few utilities make handling fonts less painful: Extensis Suitcase,
Font Reserve, and FontAgent Pro, to name three. Font
Reserve and Suitcase have been mainstays in the prepress
front-end arsenal for Macs and PCs; for my money, the current
version of FontAgent Pro has the fewest problems, although this
is a Mac-only application. Adobe Type Manager is also a popular
type-management tool on the PC side, but Adobe chose not to
port the program to OS X"?possibly because Apple released its
own font-management utility called Font Book, even though this
isn't considered an industrial-strength solution.