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Making the Move to OpenType Fonts

(August 2007) posted on Mon Aug 06, 2007

The cure to a painful fact of prepress life.

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By Stephen Beals

The second font problem: Adobe Multiple Master fonts. From Adobe’s website: "Adobe stopped making new MM and Type 1 fonts in 1999, and there is no equivalent to MM in the newer OpenType format. From late 2002 to mid 2003, Adobe phased out sales of multiple master fonts." There’s a reason for that. Don’t use them. In fact, Adobe will give you half off if you convert your old Multiple Master Fonts to an OpenType version (

The OpenType solution
OpenType fonts, however, eliminate every single font issue I've just noted. Absolutely identical on Macs and PCs, no matter which operating system is being used, OpenType fonts comprise a single file, including the screen and printer font, plus room for those wonderful ligatures and special characters the font designer wants to include (that is, there is more room for the data within the structure of the font itself).

Developed by Microsoft and Adobe, OpenType fonts first appeared on the scene in the late 1990s. Today, the major font producers have developed or are developing OpenType fonts. There’s no doubt OpenType fonts make the life of anyone involved in file output in any print environment significantly easier.

I suggest that print providers make a point of advocating the use of the OpenType format. It doesn’t have to be Adobe, although they certainly have the largest library out there, and their fonts are by far the most widely used. As indicated earlier, many other manufacturers have adopted the OpenType format. It’s still probably a good idea to stick with the most reputable type libraries, keeping in mind that there are a lot of very reputable independents out there.

It’s doubtful most shops can "require" OpenType fonts, even if it might be a good idea. But it might be possible to write into your basic contract a clause that relieves you of responsibility for type problems if font types other than OpenType are used.

I know the industry is not likely moving to OpenType overnight. In fact, I’m sure Cornell University will have some stragglers turning in files with PostScript and TrueType-and even an occasional dFont for some time to come. But, to me, the sooner we get to fully OpenType workflows, the better for everyone concerned.

Stephen Beals, in prepress production for more than 30 years, is the digital prepress production manager with Finger Lakes Press in Auburn, NY.