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Fonts can be purchased or downloaded in several formats:

  • TrueType
  • OpenType
  • Postscript Type 1
  • Postscript Type 3
  • Multiple Masters

I realize that OpenType and TrueType are universal formats which work on both Windows and Macintosh platforms.

I'm also aware that Multiple Master fonts are a fairly deprecated in today's world. Often MM fonts can cause technical issues because operating systems simply don't support them as well today as they once did.

Type 1 and Type 3 were generally (but not exclusively) Macintosh formats still seen in use quite often.

When I purchase fonts, I specifically purchase OpenType fonts due to the more modern support. I know OpenType supports more glyphs, but that doesn't necessarily mean a particular font has more glyphs.

However, many, many, foundries still produce a great deal of TrueType fonts exclusively.

  • What specific advantages or disadvantages can be found in the various font formats in today's technological setting??

  • Should I be avoiding Type 1 and Type 3 whenever possible?

  • Does format even matter as long as the font contains the glyphs I want and outputs properly?

I know web fonts are a different matter with the additional WOFF, SVG, and EOT formats. I'm seeking answers as they relate to print production or system use. However, answers regarding web font formats certainly wouldn't be met with any dissatisfaction. I simply feel the technological use of web font is a separate question because answers or reasoning for use of a specific web format would be vastly different since web fonts are more about the end user visibility and compatibility more than actual production or system use.

  • 1
    Doesn't this depend on external factors, such as Windows/Mac, software, and OS version compatibility? As long as you are working on your own computer and only send out PDFs, everything ought to work nicely -- even the dreaded MM fonts. – usr2564301 Jan 7 '15 at 18:47
  • Well OpenType and TrueType are platform agnostic. So, no -- they don't rely on the OS or system. Type 1 and type 3 will work on both platforms, just tend to be better on the MacOS. "Provide General Guidance/Knowledge" question Jongware :) – Scott Jan 7 '15 at 18:58
  • @DumbNic chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/1240/the-ink-spot – Scott Jan 14 '15 at 18:25
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What specific advantages or disadvantages can be found in the various font formats in today's technological setting??

As you stated, today's main advantage is with OpenType being able to support a much larger set of glyphs as well as other things like alternate characters and automatic character swapping.

Should I be avoiding Type 1 and Type 3 whenever possible?

IIRC, Type 3 fonts required Adobe software installed on the OS. Not sure if that's true anymore.

If you have the font and it still works with your software and your printer's prepress system, then there's no reason to stop using it.

Does format even matter as long as the font contains the glyphs I want and outputs properly?

Nope. Doesn't really matter.

  • I also use type 3 fonts sometimes because they are easy to generate with "notepad" (or any other text editor), also sometimes because then I can get features not otherwise available. Trye type is included in the open type set (so a open type font can be a true type font inside a open type container.) – joojaa Jan 7 '15 at 19:22
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To add to DA01's excellent answer and to provide additional context, OpenType comes in two flavors: TrueType and PostScript.

So way back in the day, when Adobe created PostScript, they defined curves in a certain way mathematically. PostScript became wildly popular because it could accurately take things on screen and print them onto paper and it could describe art via mathematical equations (which is where we get Illustrator from). And thus was born the digital prepress and font era.

But there was a problem. Adobe charged a licensing fee for PostScript. And Apple and Microsoft didn't like the idea of paying this licensing fee for every single Operating System they sold for something that was pretty essential to WYSIWYG operating systems (rendering fonts). So Apple and Microsoft worked on an alternative to PostScript - but they had to make sure they didn't step on any patents that Adobe held for PostScript. Thus was born TrueType, which defined curves with a different mathematical formula.

So now the world had two different ways to define curves for fonts, one which required paying Adobe and the other was, I believe, released freely as a technical specification. See http://www.truetype-typography.com/tthist.htm for more historical details.

And now we come to OpenType. As both PostScript and TrueType matured, the world started noticing some gaps that neither technology could really address adequately. So the TrueType and PostScript worlds came together and developed OpenType which would wrap either TrueType or PostScript font curves and provide these missing features.

So in today's modern digital font world, OpenType generally is the preferred file format because it has more features and capabilities.

TrueType probably continues being popular because most Operating Systems have built-in TrueType renderers compared to PostScript. Also many non-high-end typetools and workflows are still built around TrueType.

To conclude, I echo DA01's answers:

  1. OpenType has great support and provides additional features and is generally the go-to font format.
  2. There's no need to avoid PostScript fonts if they still work for you and your systems.
  3. Format doesn't really matter as long as it works for you. Some say PostScript curves are more accurate but I haven't seen anything conclusive for this statement.
  • PostScript curves are not more accurate, or rather it depends a bit how you define accuracy. Anyway, congrats on your 1k rep. – joojaa Jan 23 '15 at 13:09

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