TrueType and beyond. (computer fonts)
by Clifton Karnes
Before discussing TrueType, we need to run through a little of the vocabulary we'll be using when we talk about fonts.
First, in traditional typesetting lingo, a typeface is a collection of fonts that share a common design. Times Roman and Helvetica are both typefaces, for example.
In this same traditional lingo, a font is a single collection of characters (usually upper- and lowercase alphabets plus some symbols) in one point size and style. Thus, 12-point Times Roman italic is a font. It's one of the fonts that make up the Times Roman typeface.
In modern terminology, font and typeface are used as synonyms, and they share both of the above definitions. I'll follow the modern terminology.
Style, which I just mentioned, is another attribute of a font. Style can be roman (also called normal), bold, italic, bold italic, or underlined, to name the most popular.
Fonts can be categorized in various ways, but the most usual way is to separate fonts into serif and sans-serif groups. Serifs are the finishing strokes on fonts, and fonts that lack these strokes are called sans-serif. Serif fonts are generally easier to read in small point sizes. Sans-serif fonts are bold and simple and are often used for display type (subheads, headlines, and titles).
We're not out of the word woods yet. Points are normally used to measure the height (and sometimes the width) of a font. One point is approximately 1/72 of an inch. Thus, a 72-point font is one inch tall. It's worth noting that the size is measured from the top of the tallest letter in the font to the bottom of the lowest.
With Windows 3.1, Microsoft introduced TrueType and revolutionized the font business. TrueType is an outline technology, which means that each font is stored as an outline rather than a bitmap (screen fonts, we learned in last month's column, are bitmaps).
Windows takes these outlines and scales them to produce type of any size, so one TrueType font can be used to produce a huge range of point sizes. Better still, the same TrueType font is used for both screen and printer, so what you see on your screen is very close to what you'll see in print. What you see on screen isn't exactly like what you'll see in print because your screen is a 96-dot-per-inch (dpi) device and most printers are 300 dpi or higher. But the correspondence is still very close.
Windows comes with several TypeType fonts: Ariel (roman, bold, italic, and bold italic), Times New Roman, (roman, bold, italic, and bold italic), Courier New (roman, bold, italic, and bold italic), and Symbol (roman).
Ariel is a sans-serif font very similar to Helvetica, Times New Roman is a serif font similar to Times, and Courier New bears a striking resemblance to Courier. It's worth mentioning here that in the U.S., fonts themselves can't be copyrighted. But the font names can. So if someone owns the name Helvetica, no one else can use it unless they license it from the owner. That's why we see so many different names for what appears to be the same font.
Should you use TrueType? There are other programs available that do basically the same thing as TrueType, the best known being Adobe Type Manager (ATM) and Bitstream's Facelift, but although these are excellent products, TrueType has much to recommend it.
First, it's free. It's part of Windows 3.1 and ready to run when Windows is. Second, because of the way TrueType downloads characters, it's faster than ATM. Last, although all of these outline technologies give you WYSIWYG display, TrueType is more accurate.
The big exception to this advice that you use TrueType comes if you're doing desktop publishing and working with a service bureau that must have Postscript. If that's the case, then you'll need to use ATM, which supports Post-Script fonts.
To run TrueType, the only thing you need besides Windows 3.1 is a dot-matrix, inkjet, or laser printer. TrueType is built into Windows, so to access TrueType fonts, you simply need to turn TrueType on. To do that, run Control Panel and double-click on Fonts. Next, click on the TrueType button and in the dialog box that follows, click on Enable TrueType Fonts, That's all there is to it.
Now your TrueType fonts will be available in all your Windows applications that use fonts, so fire up Write and take TrueType for a test drive.