Bugs & Fixes: Font problems in Snow Leopard

Did the spacing between characters of certain fonts in at least some of your documents change after updating to Snow Leopard? If so, you’re not alone. A thread on this topic in Apple’s Discussions Boards currently has more than 8,000 views and 135 replies, all more or less confirming the problem. Other Apple Discussions threads report similar findings.

If this reflowing symptom happens in a precisely formatted document, such as a Keynote presentation, the new spacings will likely be most unwelcome. One application where this symptom has been especially common is QuarkXPress. Dan Logan, product manager for QuarkXPress, replied on this topic in a Quark Forums posting:

We believe it’s isolated to Type 1 fonts used in documents created on Tiger or Leopard, then opened in Snow Leopard. The root cause is in a Mac OS API that we use to read the font’s metrics. This issue is not new to QuarkXPress 8.1, it’s new to Mac OS 10.6 and also affects QuarkXPress 7. Apple is aware of it and we expect a fix is forthcoming.

Mr. Logan goes on to add:

A few of the issues may also have to do with a runaround problem we just discovered in QuarkXPress 8.1. When runaround is used in conjunction with tabs or lock to baseline, in some cases it can cause reflow in documents opened in 8.1. As a result we’re going to release an update to 8.1 shortly. Keep in mind this release won’t resolve the Snow Leopard issue, but will resolve similar issues for anyone who’s experiencing them on Tiger or Leopard.

The promised update, QuarkXpress 8.12, was indeed released on September 15.

The Snow Leopard problem apparently results from changes to how the new OS handles fonts. A Web page titled Font Management in OS X by Kurt Lang notes that Snow Leopard does not support PostScript Type 1 fonts, at least not where Apple supplies its own version of the font: “If you try to open a Type 1 PostScript or OpenType PostScript font, only these styles not already active in Apple’s versions will appear.”

On a possibly related note, Apple has largely done away with the .dfont format in Snow Leopard, replacing them with TrueType OpenType (.ttf or .ttc) fonts.

So far, Apple has been largely silent on this matter. However, one posting in the above-cited Apple Discussions thread includes a quote said to have come from Apple Engineering:

The types of fonts that are supported in 10.6 vs 10.5 have not changed. While the system that handles fonts was changed on the back end, the changes should not be visible to customers…It is possible that the fonts could have had some kind of issue that was not being detected in 10.5, but is now being caught in 10.6…If Quark believes they have found a bug in the way that 10.6 is handling some of their fonts, we should be recommending that they file a bug report directly to Apple.

Whew! Most Mac users, outside of the professional printing community, do not use any PostScript fonts, especially not the older Type 1 format. That’s why you may not be a victim of this “bug.” If so, consider yourself lucky. Because, if you have been hit by this problem, it may be a long while before it is all sorted out.

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