DIY Open Type Conversions

June 7, 2005 - 2:00am ||| 0 Comments | Add new

Okay, so far this issue I've written one story about fonts on Macs, and one about fonts on Windows. Let's close the circle and talk about making the twain meet: Converting your fonts so they work on both platforms in your mixed-platform workplace.

You probably already know that the answer is Open Type, right? It's the only cross-platform font format that is immune to slight kerning and tracking differences when used in the same document but different platforms. If you're not clear on exactly what Open Type is about, learn all about it on my Open Type Resources page:

Yes, you can upgrade to the Open Type versions of the True Type and Type 1 fonts you already own — assuming they're available — and benefit from the additional glyphs (characters) that are often included with them. You'll have to purchase an upgrade for each typeface family.

But did you know that you can make *one* purchase and then convert all your existing typefaces to Open Type? Just use TransType Pro from FontLab, the same people who develop and sell the professional font creation program, FontLab 4.6. The DIY conversion won't magically add cool swashes or anything to the resulting OT file, but you will end up with a single file containing both bitmap and outline code for the font that works on Macs and Windows.

TransType Pro

TransType always had the ability to convert Type 1 and TrueType fonts from one platform to another; they recently added the ability to convert those formats to OpenType as well, in the "Pro" version ($179). They have a demo available for downloading if you want to check it out.

Quality and Legality
Thomas Phinney, Program Manager for Western Language Fonts at Adobe, says that TransType maintains almost all the hinting in a font converted to Open Type. It doesn't support flex hints, though — what some fonts with shallow, slightly cupped serifs contain so these particular serifs are imaged as straight lines at low resolutions.

If you want to test the quality yourself, your best bet is to lay out a test document using your converted Open Type font(s). Make sure and use some dense passages and custom kerning at different sizes to really put it through its paces. Then open the same layout on a Mac and PC in your office, print them out on the same printer, and carefully compare the results.

Even if the quality passes muster, there's still the issue of legality. Is it legal to convert your fonts, which as you probably know you don't really own, you just license (for X number of seats or printers) from the developer?

At least for Adobe fonts, it's kosher. Dov Isaacs, Adobe's Principal Scientist for the Publishing Technologies Group, says it's okay "per section 14.7.4" of the EULA (End User License Agreement). Here's EULA central on — scroll down to the ones for Type products to download the right PDF:

However, you do have to comply with the restrictions as spelled out in the EULA. Simply put, the converted fonts have to be used in-house and can't exceed the total number of licenses you originally purchased.

So if you need to convert your Type 1 fonts to Open Type so your PC-using InCopy users can work with the InDesign layouts your Mac designers created, and you purchased enough licenses, no problem. But you can't legally distribute them to your off-site freelancers who are on a different platform. They have to be used on-site.

Adobe's EULA only applies to Adobe fonts, of course. Review the licensing documentation for your font developer (such as Linotype) before you start fiddling with their fonts.

If you have any trouble using TransType Pro, FontLab has one of the most robust support forums around.


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