What are fonts, and Why should I care?

Fonts, quite simply, make up the characters in the text that you seen on your screen. While it may not seem to make a significant difference, there are many difference types of Fonts, and that does have an impact on your computer, and how easy it is to read the text on the screen.

There are different types of Fonts?

Yes, Virginia there are….

  • BitMap Fonts – These Fonts are not WYSIWYG (What You see is what you get).  They are esxtremely fast & simple to render, they are unscaled, but extremely easy to create.
    • Portable Compiled Font (PCF)
    • Glyph Bitmap Distribution Format (BDF)
    • Server Normal Format (SNF)
    • DECWindows Font (DWF)
    • Sun X11/NeWS format (BF, AFM)
    • Microsoft Windows bitmapped font (FON)
    • Amiga Font, ColorFont, AnimFont
    • ByteMap Font (BMF)
    • PC Screen Font (PSF)
  • OutLine Fonts – OutLine fonts are the first generation WYSIWYG fonts.  Outline fonts can easily be transformed by applying a mathematical function, allowing easy scaling without pixellation or distortion.
    • Postscript Fonts (Adobe PS Type 1, Type 3)
    • TrueType (TTF)
    • OpenType (OTF)
  • Stroke Based Fonts – Are the next generation WYSIWYG font, and allow simplier manipulation than OutLine fonts…  Less processing is required to scale, allow the different versions of the font (eg Bold, Italic, etc) share the same vertices…

Overall, an OutLine font, or Stroke Based font should be used over a BitMap font..

What fonts can the Macintosh use?

  • Data Fork Suitcase Format (.dfont) – (Mac OS X Only)
  • Multiple Master (Mac OS X 10.2 and later only)
  • OpenType (.otf) *
  • TrueType (.ttf) *
  • True Type Collection (.ttc)
  • Type 1 (PostScript) *

What fonts can Windows use?

  • OpenType (.otf)
  • TrueType (.ttf)
  • Type 1 (PostScript)

So any OpenType, TrueType Font, or Postscript Type 1 font can be used interchangeably with Windows & Macintosh computers.

Where are the Fonts Stored on Mac OS X?

  • ~/Library/Fonts – to access the font in all applications by the specific user in Mac OS X
  • /Library/Fonts – to access the font in all applications by all users in Mac OS X (The font won’t be available in applications running in Classic access the font in all applications by all users in Mac OS X (The font won’t be available in applications running in Classic mode.
  • Network/Library/Fonts – to be accessed by remote users on a networked file server running Mac OS X over a local area network (LAN)
  • System/Library/Fonts (Avoid making changes to this folder. It contains .dfont fonts that Mac OS X requires for system use and display.For more information, visit the Apple Web site at
  • /System Folder/Fonts – to access the font in applications running in Mac OS X, and applications running in Classic mode (Mac OS 9)

A Type 1 font doesn’t seem to work reliably…

  • Make sure that both screen and printing files are installed for Type 1 fonts.  Highlight the font in Fontbook, and choose “Validate Font”.  To use Type 1 fonts in Mac OS X, you must install both the bitmap (screen), or the font suitcase containing the bitmap font files, and outline (printer) font files to the same folder. (Adobe bitmap font files use the font name, and the outline files use a shortened, PostScript version of the font name [for example, “Isabe” for the Isabella font].) If an outline font file isn’t installed, the font may print incorrectly; if the bitmap font file isn’t installed, the font isn’t available in the font menu.