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  Porting Fonts Across Platforms:
Intro 2

Font Conversion Software and Basic Workflows

There are two basic approaches to porting fonts across platforms. One is to use software that is designed specifically for this purpose such as CrossFont on the PC or TransType for the Mac® or PC. The other approach is to use a high-end font editor such as Fontographer® or FontLab®. The approach you take will depend on your software needs.

CrossFont and TransType are fairly affordable and are both adequate for most situations when porting one font or a few at a time. Click here for more on CrossFont and TransType. However, if you plan to get into font editing, the Mac versions of Fontographer and FontLab can be used to port fonts across platforms. There's more here on Fontographer and FontLab.

Both Fontographer and FontLab are available in Mac or PC versions. When going this route, though, it is better to use the Mac versions (assuming you are working on a Power Mac® - a PowerPC™) because the Mac versions will generate PC fonts directly which can then be copied to a computer running under Windows® using a PC-formatted disk or over a network. The Windows version of Fontlab does not support reading or writing Mac fonts. Although the Windows version of Fontographer does support the writing (exporting) of Mac fonts, there is no provision for reading (importing) them.

It is possible to use The PC versions of Fontographer and FontLab to port Mac fonts to the PC or PC fonts to the Mac, but you will need the Mac versions of these programs to read and write the files. Both Fontographer and FontLab save fonts in their respective proprietary formats. Fontographer files have a .FOG extension and FontLab files have a .VFB extension. Neither of these file formats are installable as fonts, rather the actual fonts are generated from these files. The idea here is to port the .FOG or .VFB files between platforms then use the same program on the other platform to generate the actual font files.

The main advantage to using Fontographer or FontLab to port fonts is that you have complete control over all aspects of the conversion. The simpler method of using CrossFont or TransType doesn't offer as much control.

Three Important Points To Remember

1. Font Metrics

It is very important to make sure that all the font metrics are included in the conversion. TrueType® fonts use a single file and as a result, all the font metrics (kerning, spacing, ascent, descent) are included in the one file. But since Type 1 fonts use two files, the metrics will not be included in the conversion unless you take the necessary steps to include them. On the PC, Type 1 font metrics will be found in the .PFM file. On the Mac, Type 1 font metrics will be found in the suitcase containing the screen fonts (bitmap fonts). You can check for the existence of kerning metrics before and after converting the font. If the kerning metrics are missing, you can convert the font again making sure to include them. Shown below is a screen shot from the font properties dialog in Typograf on the PC. It is clear that the kerning metrics are present, otherwise the property sheet would be blank.

2. Font Menu Names and Font Families

Another important thing to consider is the font menu name (the name that appears in the font menus of the applications that use them). If you are preparing a desktop publishing layout, all the text will be tagged with font names. If you were to open the layout file on the other platform, unless the fonts install with the exact same menu names, the layout program won't be able to associate the fonts with the layout.

The font family name must be exactly right if the font is to appear correctly in the font menus as a style of the family. For example, if you have a family named MyFont with styles for Regular, Bold, Italic and BoldItalic, you don't want these to appear as separate names in the font menus. Instead, you want the font family name (MyFont) to appear in the menus with choices for each style (Regular, Bold, Italic and BoldItalic). Shown below is an example of what I mean. The font "Helvetica" appears correctly as the family name on the font menu, and the styles "Regular", Oblique", Narrow", "Compressed", etc. appear correctly as individual styles of the family name. If it were incorrect, then the style names would appear as separate font names on the font menu.

3. Encoding

A font's encoding is the way characters are mapped to the keyboard and the order in which they occur in the font. Click here for an explanation of encoding. It is important to make sure that the right encoding is used in the conversion. Most font conversion software handles encoding automatically, but there are usually controls for handling it. When converting a font, it is best if you know the correct encoding for the font on the target platform. If you aren't sure, you can compare it to the encoding of a similar font on the target platform and use it as a guide. After conversion, you can check the encoding by viewing or printing out a character map:

You can use Typograf on the PC or FontBuddy on the Mac to print out a character map. Click here for more information about these programs.

Basic Workflows

There are a number of ways to port fonts across platforms. Below is a list of possible workflows:

Using CrossFont on the PC:
PC to Mac
Mac to PC

Using TransType on the PC:
PC to Mac
Mac to PC

Using TransType on the Mac:
PC to Mac
Mac to PC

Using Fontographer on the Mac:
PC to Mac
Mac to PC

Using FontLab on the Mac:
PC to Mac
Mac to PC

The following tutorials will explain these in more detail...

Click Here To Continue...


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