All Good Things…

For those of us with old collections of PostScript Type 1 fonts, the days of the venerated font format are unfortunately drawing to a close. The evidence has been on full display across the Internet for the last two decades.

The Type 1 format was introduced by Adobe in the 1980s. In the early nineties, rather than pay Adobe royalties for using PostScript fonts, Apple developed the TrueType font specification and licensed it to Microsoft.

Image of a red a icon floating over an old picture of a laptop and an hourglass depicting how time is running out for old PostScript Type 1 fonts

TrueType had the advantage of placing all font data into one TTF file, simplifying font management and distribution. PostScript purists argued that the glyph outlines in Type 1 fonts were superior, but TrueType’s simplicity and backing propelled it into a dominant market position.

Not to be outdone, Adobe partnered with Microsoft in the late 1990s to produce the OpenType font specification. It can contain TrueType or Type 1 font outlines, and its Unicode support makes it easy for foundries to create modern fonts that include alternate characters and international character sets. Within a decade, 90% of Adobe’s font sales were OpenType fonts.

The Long Goodbye of PostScript Type 1

Despite all these large-scale moves by industry giants, the ultimate fate of PostScript Type 1 was being determined by new versions of application software and frameworks.

Microsoft stopped supporting Type 1 fonts in Office 2013 for Windows and Office 2016 for Mac. And its Windows Presentation Foundation application framework for building .NET applications doesn’t support Type 1 either. And Adobe, the inventor of PostScript, has announced that it will no longer support Type 1 fonts starting with Photoshop in Creative Cloud 2021, and other Adobe applications will follow. Throughout the software world, many other applications have been quietly dropping their support for Type 1 fonts.

Similarly, Type 1 fonts play no role in the ever-expanding world of mobile apps since neither iOS nor Android support the old format.

Modern Fonts Offer Significant Advantages

Moving on from Type 1 can be troubling for graphics and prepress professionals who still depend on legacy fonts for old projects, or who have decades-old PostScript font collections. But leaving an old friend does not have to be all doom and gloom; modern font formats offer significant advantages.

Type 1 fonts limit active characters per font to 256, and many of these slots are occupied by characters that are non-typographical, such as delete and backspace. While this low character count might be adequate for western languages, Asian languages can require thousands of characters. In short, PostScript does not travel well in the modern, worldwide market.

Modern formats such as OpenType and TrueType support Unicode, a standard that provide a unique number for every character available – up to almost 150,000 of them. This allows expanded alphabets, special characters, glyph positioning, extended ligatures and special characters with room to expand for a long time to come.

The flexibility offered by modern formats translates to fewer confusing variants of font files since there’s room to allow fonts to grow and mature as requirements and standards change over time.

How FontAgent Handles Type 1 Fonts

FontAgent® continues to support import and activation of PostScript fonts. FontAgent Mac displays WYSIWYG previews and allows you to use them in applications that still support PostScript fonts, with some caveats. For example, in macOS 11 Big Sur, PostScript Type 1 fonts activated in FontAgent appear fine in most apps, but don’t in TextEdit and a few others. To get around that display problem for now, you can drag the Type 1 fonts into the ~/Library/Fonts folder but that workaround could disappear in the near future as well.

Fonts imported and activated in FontAgent Windows appear in applications that support PostScript fonts. Since it is­ a native .NET app, it does not offer a WYSIWYG view of the typeface. If you see unexpected results in Windows applications (especially .NET apps) – such as odd font menu behavior or display issues – they are most likely due to lack of Type 1 support in the app itself than a font management issue.

FontAgent Can Help You Move Forward

Because the days for PostScript fonts are limited, FontAgent offers tools to allow you to quickly locate your PostScript fonts and begin to plan for their replacement. In the FontAgent Table View shown below, Type 1 fonts are marked with a familiar red a icon. By clicking the column header in the table, you can sort all your fonts by file format, so all the Type 1 fonts appear together.

Screenshot of the Table View in FontAgent displaying several PostScript Type 1 fonts

Alternatively, you can create a Smart Set that associates all of your Type 1 fonts in a logical set as show below. The set auto-updates as you add and delete Type 1 fonts from your font collection.

Screenshot of FontAgent's search facility finding all PostScript Type 1 fonts in a font collection

Once you have all your PostScript Type 1 fonts gathered together, you can create a PDF catalog of them using FontAgent’s Font Player, or you can export them to a folder on your computer’s file system.

What Should I Do with My Type 1 Fonts?

The best option for those who have legacy PostScript fonts is to purchase modern OpenType licenses for those fonts. While this option requires a financial commitment, the improvements in type quality, character selection, and future-proofing are well worth it.

Another option that requires less money, but more work is converting the old Type 1 fonts into a more modern format. While doing this can permit your fonts work with your current OS and applications, it can break automatic ligatures and glyph positioning found in the original Type 1 fonts. It’s also important to note that many font licenses do not permit you to convert your font files into other font formats, so make sure you’re still in compliance if you elect to convert your Type 1 collection.

Where Do We Go from Here?

At Insider, we still have FontAgent customers using fonts from the early 1980s that are nearly 40 years old. Such a record is a truly spectacular run almost unheard-of in the software business. Even with such a run, the tough love answer is that fonts are like all other software and we can’t expect them to work forever.

The benefits of moving forward from PostScript Type 1 are significant, and the need to move on is inevitable since Type 1 fonts are soon going to fail in almost all professional design and workflow apps. Being caught with collection of fonts that don’t work is not an option. Have questions? Talk to us about how to best prepare for your move to modern font technology.