Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 123 / NOVEMBER 1990 / PAGE M-6



When the Macintosh was introduced in 1984, the most revolutionary thing about it was the way it handled text. No longer were you limited to one style of white letters on a black background; the Mac screen resembled a white page of printed paper with different kinds of black letters that looked like traditional type.

This screen-as-page approach is what makes the Mac the perfect tool for desktop publishing. But it also demands that Mac users who care about the appearance of their documents know something about type and how it relates to the Mac.

You're probably familiar with the standard fonts (a set of related characters, also called typefaces) that are already installed in the Mac System. These system fonts are designed to be seen on the Mac screen and are built, like all other Mac screen graphics, of patterns of screen dots called bitmaps.

Screen fonts come in various sizes, which are measured in points. Each size of a screen font is actually a separate font file, with type designed to look best at that size. You can also alter a font to produce various styles—plain, bold, italic, outline, condensed, and so on.

With most Mac programs, you use the Font and Style menus to choose the particular screen font you need, as well as its size and style. The screen will then show the text just as you've specified it, and your printer will produce a close approximation of that screen image (that's WYSIWYG, or "What You See Is What You Get").

Sounds simple, right? It is if all you need to do is print out letters and memos with an Image Writer. Set your aim higher, however, and things get more complicated. Suppose you want a page that looks typeset—that is, with letters as smooth and well-formed as those in a book or magazine. Even at the 300 dots-per-inch (dpi) resolution of a LaserWriter, a screen font will come out looking just as blocky as it does when printed by an ImageWriter. For higher quality, you need printer fonts—also called scalable or outline fonts because they consist of mathematically described outlines rather than maps of pixels. With printer fonts, you can print a typeface at any size and it will still look smooth, even if it looks blocky on the screen.

Most Mac-compatible laser printers come with 35 or more PostScript printer fonts built in (PostScript is Adobe System's industry-standard page-description language). You can add additional PostScript printer fonts to your Mac, but they won't be resident in your printer. They have to be downloaded from your Mac's harddisk before you can print.

When you work with downloadable fonts, you still need to use the corresponding screen fonts. Since the Font/DA Mover can handle up to 500 screen fonts, this usually isn't a problem—unless you're investing in fonts in a big way. Keep in mind that each font size counts as a separate font to the System, and fonts might come in ten or more sizes each. The number of fonts in your System can multiply fast, as professional desktop publishers know.

To make matters even more complicated, screen and printer fonts that are supposedly identical may not be. A common example is an italic screen font and its italic printer font. On the screen, the Mac makes italics by simply skewing the standard (roman version) of the letters over to the right. A true italic font, however, is designed with proper spacing and letter forms, and is often sold separately from the roman version. Because they're slightly different, the screen italic and the printer italic don't always take up exactly the same amount of space on the line of type, so what you print may not be exactly what you see.

There are two kinds of utilities that can simplify working with fonts. One is a font-management DA, such as Suitcase II (Fifth Generation Systems, $79.00) or MasterJuggler (AL-Soft, $89.95). These let you use an essentially unlimited number of screen and printer fonts without your having to install them all in your System file—thus bypassing the upper limit on the number of fonts you can keep in your System. They also resolve internal font numbering and naming conflicts (a subject too confusing to go into here, but one that often fouls up an otherwise well-planned printing job).

The other indispensable aid for DTP-on-a-budget is Adobe Type Manager (Adobe Systems, $99.00). ATM improves the appearance of screen fonts, using hints to smooth edges so that letters look their best on your screen no matter which size you display. Though ATM works only with Type 1 printer fonts (some of which are included with the program) and can slow your Plus or SE to a crawl, hundreds of thousands of Mac users wouldn't want to work without it.

Down the road is Apple's True-Type for System 7.0, which Apple says will do everything that ATM does, but for any font in your Mac. With True-Type, you'll need to keep only one size of a screen font in your System. You'll be able to print to a compatible printer in any size you like with smooth results—no separate printer fonts required. That is, as long as you've got the minimum 2 megabytes of RAM that System 7.0 will require. It looks as though TrueType will make working with Mac type a whole lot easier.