As we install fonts on our systems, we’re tempted to include them all, figuring that we’ll just choose the right fonts for each project later.

Despite the urge to include every tasty-looking font we have in our collections, being choosy up front is a better path that can avoid a lot of pain later. After selecting the font families we want, we must next choose which file formats to install.

Let’s look at the factors we should consider as we evaluate which font formats to let into our inner circle.

The Evolution of Font Formats

In the 1980s, Adobe’s PostScript Type 1 fonts were the only game in town. But their decline started in the 90s with the rise of TrueType fonts, which aggregated all data for a font into a single file. The TrueType standard is still actively supported by Microsoft, Apple and Unix operating systems and represents a large percentage of fonts in use worldwide.

OpenType fonts are the newest file format and are portable across Mac and Windows. The OpenType standard is a font wrapper specification that can contain multiple font tables and TrueType or PostScript character outlines. Since its introduction in 2000, the OpenType standard has steadily added capabilities, momentum, and market share.

TrueType and OpenType Collections are ttc and otc files that contain more than one font that are usually multiple styles in a font family. Many collections have been distributed as part of Windows or Mac operating system releases.

OpenType TrueType dfont Mac
PostScript
Type 1
Windows
PostScript
Type 1
Platform support Mac
Windows
Mac
Windows
Mac Mac Windows
Number of files per font One One One Two or more Two or more
Font outline format TrueType or
Postscript
TrueType TrueType PostScript PostScript
Filetype extension otf, otc ttf, ttc dfont pfm, afm, inf pfm, afm, pfb
Max number of glyphs 65,535 65,535 65,535 256 256
Support for collections Yes Yes Yes No No
Color font support Yes No No No No
Variably scaled fonts Yes No No No No
Availability Common Common Limited Discontinued Discontinued
Current status Most modern and preferred Widely supported and used Replaced by TrueType collections Incompatible with modern OS and apps Incompatible with modern OS and apps

Choosing the Right Font Formats

If you have multiple formats for some of your fonts, you might be wondering which formats are the right ones to use in your projects. Here are some simple rules for deciding among the alternatives.

  • Use OpenType otf fonts when you can since they are the latest and most complete versions of your fonts
  • Use TrueType ttf fonts when OpenType versions are not available
  • Use OpenType otc and TrueType ttc collections if they don’t duplicate each other’s fonts
  • Use PostScript Type 1 fonts sparingly, if at all, since Adobe, Microsoft, and others have dropped support for them
  • Don’t use dfont files in your projects since Apple used them only for distributing Mac system fonts

Embed TrueType in PowerPoint and Word

When you share Microsoft Word and PowerPoint documents with other Internet users and you use standard MS Office fonts, you can be assured that your documents will appear as you created them. If you use TrueType fonts outside the standard Office set, you can optionally embed those non-standard fonts in your documents so others can view them accurately. To enable font embedding, use TrueType versions of those fonts.

Adobe Dropped Support for Type 1

Industry leaders have dropped support for PostScript Type 1 fonts:

  • Apple does not recommend using Type 1 fonts in macOS
  • Adobe discontinued their support for Type 1 fonts in Photoshop CC2021 and plans to drop support in the rest of their products by January 2023
  • Apple iOS and Android applications do not support Type 1
  • Microsoft Office stopped supporting Type 1 beginning with Office 2013 for Windows and Office 2016 for Mac
  • Windows applications built using Microsoft’s Windows Presentation Foundation for .NET no longer render Type 1 fonts

The bottom line is that if you’re using or developing Adobe, Microsoft, Apple, or mobile applications, use Type 1 fonts at your own risk moving forward.

Don’t Forget Quality and Integrity

Since we’re discussing the importance of using the right fonts, here are a few more recommendations to consider:

  • Select fonts from respected type foundries since they are more likely to have high integrity, language support, smooth outlines, and comprehensive kerning pairs
  • Use free fonts with caution since they often lack features, ligatures, and extended character sets
  • Remember to import all the styles for the fonts you elect to use

Whichever fonts you select for your projects, it’s important to manage them correctly. Use a good font manager like FontAgent that tests font integrity, unites font families, manages metadata, and lets you view, sort, select, and activate the fonts you need.

Learn More About Font Formats

To learn more about font file formats and how font technology has evolved over the years, take a look at the following articles.