Pro File: Type Setters

Adobe announced last spring that it had converted more than 650 Adobe Type Library fonts into the OpenType format. While the news didn't produce banner headlines--not surprising since the announcement came the same day Apple unveiled the eMac and Macromedia revealed its Dreamweaver MX update--for designers, the move to a simple, single-file cross-platform format is revolutionary. OpenType, which contains all outline, metric, and bitmap data, promises to bring ease of use and a unified font format to layout and design. Macworld talked to Harold Grey, Adobe's group product manager for type, about the reasons behind the move and what it will mean for designers.

Q: You're converting the complete Adobe library to OpenType format, but will PostScript and TrueType font versions remain available?

A: We will continue to make PostScript Type versions of the fonts available via our Web site, but at some time in the future we'll probably stop selling the Type 1 versions. We'll continue to support the Type 1 versions in our applications and our technologies, but we want to migrate customers to the OpenType format.

Q: Why?

A: Type 1 served us really well for 15 years, and was the foot soldier in the desktop-publishing revolution. But it was a little limiting, because the format was somewhat static. It didn't take into account the need to extend the capabilities of the font format. Because of the extensible nature of OpenType, we can add additional tables to the font files [as needed]. That wasn't possible with Type 1 fonts. For example, with embedding permissions, we have permission within the font. With Type 1 fonts, that concept wasn't even fully realized.

Q: What does "embedding permissions" mean?

A: Font foundries can set a level of embedding that they want to allow for their fonts--no embedding; allow preview and print embedding; editable embedding, which embeds the font in the file and lets the end user who receives the file modify the content and structure of the document; or installable embedding.

Q: So if I buy a font, what do I get?

A: Most get preview and print embedding rights. But Adobe is setting a bunch of our fonts, including our Adobe Originals line, to editable embedding. It allows you to modify the content of a PDF. So if you have a PDF with an editable font embedded, you can actually edit the text in the document. And then you can save the changes right to the PDF.

Q: So when you're embedding in that fashion, you're no longer subsetting the font.

A: Most likely when you have a font that's set to editable, and you want to provide that capability, you might elect not to subset, since you won't know what people are going to be adding, what additional glyphs people are going to need. So the majority of fonts in the converted OpenType library will be set for preview and print, but there will be a whole range of fonts, including Adobe Originals and some fonts from other third-party foundries that will be set to editable embedding. This embedding permission is just an example of a change and additional information that needed to be added to the font, that we couldn't do with Type 1 fonts.

Q: That's quite a leap forward, then isn't it?

A: Yes. And it gives font foundries more control over how they want their fonts to be used.

Q: When foundries are building their fonts, they're using some readily available software.

A: Usually FontLab. Or maybe Fontographer.

Q: This is a very new form, though.

A: We first signed the OpenType agreement with Microsoft back in the end of '96, early '97. And in the intervening years, we've been working on the infrastructure to support OpenType. So we've been updating our printer drivers, ATM Light, ATM Deluxe font management, updating our internal core technologies for OpenType, making sure Acrobat can embed OpenType. So there was a lot of groundwork to lay to make sure that the infrastructure was there to support the format. In June 1999, we released our last Type 1 font. And that was called Bruno. Then in August 2000, we actually released our first OpenType fonts.

Q: And which was that?

A: That included Warnock Pro, Myriad Pro, and Minion Pro. So these were our first OpenType font releases. And these Pro fonts, standing for Professional, are fonts that used to be in the Adobe type library in a plain or standard form, but we actually added glyphs, added Greek and Cyrillic and Central European and other stylistic graphic advances.

Q: So each of these Pro fonts has the whole extended family in it to start with?

A: Right. The complete character sets. We wanted to release these Pro fonts first to showcase the power of the new format. And since August 2000, we've released more Pro fonts, and now what we've done is say, "OK, now that we've released this whole wave of Pro fonts, we want to go back and convert the rest of the library." So the announcement [in April] said, "we've just released the first third of the back library. And we'll continue to release the rest of it." So we now have a distinction between OpenType Pro fonts and OpenType Standard fonts. OpenType Standard fonts are pretty analogous to the old Type 1 fonts, except they have some additional characters added, such as the Euro symbol, Liter symbol, estimated symbol, which is used in product packaging in Europe, and some additional math symbols, too. So that's a Standard font. There are some Standard fonts where we've taken supplemental fonts, like Small Caps and Old Style figures, and merged them into the base font. We still call that font a Standard font, and the Pro Font will have more than that. It will have all that, and also additional language support, such as Central European support for Polish and Czech and other languages. Some of the Pro fonts have Greek and Cyrillic. But not all of the Pro fonts. And these Pro fonts also have more typographic, stylistic alternate characters. Like swashes, larger fraction sets, beginning and ending forms, a larger set of ornaments, titling capitals.

Q: Do they have distinct extension names?

A: The Standard fonts have an "std," and the Pro have "pro" in their names.

Q: What about the cost? For instance, I've collected fonts over the past 15 years, or more. What is my alternative to upgrade into this new technology?

A: We looked closely at that. Customers are going to want to use these fonts for their cross-platform capabilities, the Euro currency symbol. And we had a little bit of an issue, because people have been buying fonts for 15 years, but people don't always register fonts. They say, "I don't really need tech support. There's no user guide, and you don't need much install instructions, or a serial number." So they've tended not to register their fonts over the years. We didn't have a good database of who is a registered font owner, so we elected to have an introductory price that applies to everybody. You may already have the fonts, or you may be a new customer. The regular price for standard OpenType fonts is $29, but our introductory price, which lasts for 90 days after the introduction of each wave of the converted library, will be $19 per weight. That's a pretty significant discount off the original price.

Q: So $29 will get me Standard font. What is the Pro price?

A: A Pro font will cost $35 per weight.

Q: Per weight. So you will bundle them in families, and such, as you have in the past?

A: Right. And the pricing is online at the site, at So that's how we elected to handle the migration. Now, the old format isn't going away. It will still work. Some customers will want to migrate up for cross-platform uses.

Q: What if I have legacy printers, PostScript 2 printer? Will these work without a problem?

A: They will work just fine. Essentially, at the core, the font file has PostScript font data, so the printer will know what to do with it.

Q: But it's only one file, and it's cross platform. So I could, for instance, e-mail a font from my Mac to a client's PC.

A: Well, that would violate the user agreement. But, the fonts are not protected in any way. You could take this font file and e-mail it to your friend. The embedding permission that we discussed earlier comes into play when you've embedded it into a document like a PDF. And people who have invested in the font library, like Font Folio, we plan an upgrade to Font Folio later this year. This will have the entire library in OpenType format. And we will have a reasonable upgrade path at that time for customers who've made the large investment.

Q: So if I'm soft-proofing, where I send a PDF to a client and they find that the copy is wrong somewhere, they can actually get in and change the content?

A: If they have the font on the receiving end and they can use the touch up tool to make changes in the PDF file.

Q: They can be on PC, and since the font is the same, they can make those changes without too many problems. Now what about the naming of fonts? PC font names have always been kind of funky.

A: The old font names were very cryptic. You had printer font files with a different name on the Mac, and on the PC you had some god-awful three-character extension. And there was no way of knowing what the file was. Now with the OpenType format, you have this more human friendly readable font name. So it's like "Minion-bold.otf".

Q: So dot O-T-F is the extension for the files, on both PC and Mac?

A: Right. It makes it much easier.

Q: Many people might not realize the importance of the files. It's the underpinning of all desktop publishing.

A: It's one of the most important little pieces of software, but it's absolutely crucial to everybody in this age.

Q: Does this work in OS 9, and Classic as well? And if so, do you still need ATM?

A: Yes, it will work in the OS 9 Classic. But for anything older than the OS X, you will need ATM Light, which is free and downloadable from Adobe's Web site.

Q: But it needs this to get the outline of the font?

A: Any script-based font benefits from ATM Light, pre-OS X.

Q: But TrueType didn't need ATM.

A: Because TrueType is supported natively in the operating system. Now for OS X, there is native support for Type 1 or OpenType formats. You don't need ATM in OS X.

Q: That's because of the Quartz layer in OS X.

A: Right. PostScript font rendering is built in to OS X.

Q: Do most design and layout applications support OpenType fonts?

A: Applications like QuarkXPress using ATM Light can read OpenType fonts. But the one thing they won't have access to is the additional glyphs in the OpenType Professional fonts; the application will need to add OpenType support. You do see this support in InDesign 2.0, where there is a pop-out menu under the Character palette. The Character palette has an OpenType menu where you can turn on these features with glyph variants. It lets you use, for instance, Old Style figures that are embedded in the font.

Q: This reminds me of the QuickDraw GX engine, which was a little confusing. But Apple built this QuickDraw GX engine where you could access or unlock all the ligatures and special characters.

A: You're right. But if you remember, the big problem with GX was that they built this great technology--and I was working at [International Typeface Corporation] in Manhattan at the time--and we built all these GX fonts, but there was no application to support them. Looking at the advantages of this new font format--its extensibility, cross platform--but another big feature is its use of Unicode in these fonts. It used to be that even in Type 1 fonts, we had platform-specific encoding. In other words, the range of characters was different on the different platforms. And this made setting documents, or exporting text, or searching text really difficult. If you've ever used ligature in a document, and then did a spell check, it would always hiccup on the ligature, because it didn't know ligatures. And if you tried to export the text, you'd get all these black dots across the page. It wouldn't know about ligatures or Old Style figures. But the great thing about OpenType is that it uses Unicode at its core. So you can use all these advanced typographic niceties, and it retains the connection to the core text. So you can set up a piece of text using ligatures--or small caps or swashes--and do a search and replace, or a spell check. And it knows that that swash, for instance is just an "S." This is really important for network publishing and XML workflows. Because you want to do a fine print-setting job, but more and more, you want to take that content from that financial report or magazine, and you want to display it on the Web. Well, you don't want to do this fine print-setting job and have to fix or correct the text for the Web. You want to be able to export the text from the document, and just throw it into a content management system, or repurpose it in some way without having to modify the text. And you can now do that with the OpenType format. And that should be a big thing when we talk about network publishing, content repositories, and text repositories. You will be able to take the text from a typeset document, put it through a Unicode processing application, and export it out.

Q: Is there an application now available that understands Unicode?

A: Yes. Microsoft Word understands Unicode. GoLive understands Unicode. You could then take this Unicode text and put it right into GoLive, for instance, and all the characters will be represented correctly. Granted, this might apply only to a small group of users right now, but in the next few years, it will become more and more important.

Q: And this will save a lot of time.

A: Before, if you wanted to repurpose text, you really had to do a lot of correcting and fixing. But OpenType does not expand design beyond what Cascading Style Sheets do. In other words, the fonts on the browser are still the same. But the characters will work through Unicode. The underlying text can be displayed on the Web page. Even if it has Cyrillic or Polish in it. It should still display properly in a Web browser. Not necessarily the form, but the text.

Q: These releases are slated for North America?

A: They're available now in North America, and we hope to have them available within 30 days for Europe. We'll be staggering them, so that each release in North America will have a 30-day lag before the European release. And the fonts are available via the Adobe download center. That's our Web site that services e-commerce in Europe. That lag time is really just to get the sites updated in Europe. The fonts aren't localized, but the Web sites are. And it will be a big benefit for European users, because of the Euro currency symbol, which is absolutely crucial, and the enhanced language support.

Q: What is the situation with third-party font developers in terms of OpenType?

A: Within the Adobe type library, we have a number of different suppliers. So Adobe makes some of its own fonts, and we use fonts from ITC, Agfa, Monotype, Linotype, and there are other, smaller third parties. Many of the agreements are different, but most grant us the rights to produce the fonts in OpenType format. Some of them we had to say, "We're doing this, are you on board?" and they said, "Sounds great." Others, we didn't have to ask, but we told them, and they said, "Fine."

Q: How much more work is it to design a font in OpenType, from the font designer's perspective?

A: It depends on how many different or additional glyphs you want to add to the font. If you want to do just a basic character set, like out standard fonts, it's no more work. If you want to design a whole range of stylistic alternates, like swash capitals, you can put in more effort.

Q: What about the actual encoding?

A: Right now, the commercial tool available to do this is FontLab 4 from Pyrus. It outputs OpenType fonts. And we've been talking to the Macromedia people about Fontographer, which seems to be in mothballs.

Q: But this actually simplifies what Adobe has to produce as well.

A: Yes. It used to be we had to have four different files: two for the Mac, two for Windows. Now we have one file for cross-platform testing. And it will make document portability so much more reliable.

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