From OTF to TTF: How to Choose the Right Font?

You already know what’s the main difference between OTF and TTF fonts if you’ve read this article. Now it’s time to clarify the most appropriate fonts for different purposes like presentation design or print design.

The short answer 

Each font format can have its advantages. So, the short answer to the question is

.TTF (True Type Font) is a better choice when you will use it mainly for web design or mobile design on desktop or mobile displays. Or if you work with PowerPoint 2007 (or older) on Windows machine.  

.OTF (Open Type Font) is a better choice when you’re designing materials for print.

From OTF to TTF for design

In terms of presentations, you first need to consider the version of PowerPoint you’re using. If you use version 2009 or later, or even Office 365, there is a chance some old True Type fonts (TTF) to crash. Remember that Open Type format is like an upgraded version of True Type. Anyway, whenever you have one font in both formats, we recommend you to choose the .otf one. Continue reading to understand why.

But prepare for a surprise – there are more choices than these two. What’s more, .ttf can be an OpenType font, too. Why and how come?! Well, let’s see how the evolution of digital font formats happened to understand more and make better choices for your needs. 

In order to understand better, we will turn heads to the development of digital font formats. Let’s see what we have here… 

Bitmap and Vector

Those fonts are the first generation of font technologies. They are raster-based which means that each glyph (letter, number or symbol) is a set of pixels that form the picture of the glyph.

.PCF (Portable Compiled Format) 

.BDF (Glyph Bitmap Distribution Format) 

👍 Great for that they use little working memory.
👎 Bad because they lose quality when scaled. 

One font could have exactly 128 or 256 glyphs. It has a huge advantage as it’s faster and easier to use in computer code.

But the dark side of this is that each size is a separate font file, which makes it too complicated and heavy to use.
Anyway, nowadays you can barely find a working Bitmap font for your computer.

There are many contemporary fonts, though, which look like those, but are actually TrueType or OpenType fonts. 

Bitmap and Vector Fonts

So, Bitmap is a raster-based format, while all the other fonts use vector graphics. What’s a vector graphic?

Instead of a set of pixels, each glyph use Bezier curves* which draw instructions and mathematical formulas to describe each glyph. So, scaling through calculations makes it possible for the computer to reproduce each glyph in whatever size you want, without any loss in its form and quality.

These characteristics make the vector fonts extremely convenient to use for multiple cases. Furthermore, by describing the glyph with formulas, the computer needs less memory and operates faster. This is also another reason why vector (outline) fonts continue to develop.

 Fun Fact: Bezier curves, named after its French founder Pierre Bézier, are such vector graphic lines that are used to shape smooth curves, intuitively modified via control points and that can be scaled indefinitely without losing quality. There are quadratic and cubic type of Bezier curves. All vector programs use one of those.

PostScript

Next thing to mention is the PostScript. It’s a programming language, developed by Adobe Systems around 1980, that describes digital artwork so that digital printers can reproduce it in the highest quality possible. It was invented in order to create a format which is undependable by the printer itself.  

The PDF (Adobe Portable Document Format) is a more structured, compact subset of the PostScript language and now is one of the most used file formats worldwide. 

Type 1

.PFB (Printer Font Binary) 

.PFM (Printer Font Metrics)  

You can also find these under the name PostScript Fonts.

Great for its scalable, high quality glyph images. They need little memory and operate fast. 

Not perfect because you need two separate files for its installation. And also different versions for digital and print use. Furthermore, it’s not cross-platform and you need separate files for Mac and Windows.

This font format is invented by Adobe along with the PostScript language and is based on it, using cubic Bezier curves. It dates to 1984 and for more than a decade, Type 1 has been the preferred format for the graphic arts and publishing industries.

Type 1 fonts are natively supported in Mac OS X, and in Windows 2000 and later, but a huge disadvantage is that those font files are not cross-platform. They were able to contain more than 256 glyphs but using them is a privilege only for the experts.

However, a huge step ahead is the so called “hinting system. Hints are coded written rules which help the computer to display the font properly on the screen.

If you have been in a situation when you see the text on the monitor a bit weird but when you print it out it’s fine, this is due to bad hints for the screen display. But after all, in terms of technology, 1984 means ancient times.

Keep in mind that nowadays many applications don’t even support Type 1 anymore. So, let’s see what comes after…

True Type Fonts (TTF)

True Type Fonts TTF

Greater than Type 1 because it’s cross-platform and can contain over a million glyphs. Contain better hints for various display usage.

TrueType is a standard for vector fonts and was developed by Apple and Microsoft in the late 1980s as a competitor to the Adobe’s Type 1. Their aim was to create a font format which can be cross-platform.

True Type glyphs use Quadratic Bezier Curves which are mathematically simpler and faster to process than cubic ones, but needs more points to be described.

That’s why converting automatically a Type 1 font to True Type, the final result can be a disaster. Anyway, the hints for True Type fonts are much more developed and precise than the Type 1 hints.

This means that the font can be displayed with great precision in any size and you can use it without worries for your website, for example.

For quite a long time people were using Post Script fonts for printing and True Type ones for display purposes.

And now let’s see what Open Type can offer.

⭐ Fun Fact: Apple Color Emoji is a True Type font with emoji images for Apple platforms. It was created with the help of a special extension for the usage of color. It started with 471 glyphs and now has nearly 3,000. 🍎🌈😍

Open Type Fonts (OTF)

OTF

Greater than True Type and Post Script for its multi-language and typographic features support. 

 OpenType is the new standard for digital type fonts, developed together by Adobe and Microsoft. This time they aimed to make a font format which can be used not only on all platforms but to support all writing systems worldwide.

It’s built on the True Type format but also can support PostScript font data. And here comes the confusion – the Open Type fonts, which are based on True Type, has also extensions .ttf, while the ones, based on Post Script has the .otf extension.

How to recognize them? Well, that’s a topic for another article.  

Like True Type, Open Type is also cross-platform format but it’s made to be easily handled by the operation systems which makes the file lighter and faster to process.  

Open Type fonts are based on Unicode* standard and that’s the reason why they can support any language in the world. Each font file can consist of up to 65,536 glyphs and switching languages can be an extremely easy task.

However, not every font is made with characters for all languages. When you search for a font, make sure it supports the language you need. Otherwise, it can turn out that empty boxes appear instead of letters.

Another huge advantage of the Open Type fonts are the additional features which it allows for design when using professional design softwares (like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop or InDesign).

To point some of them: small caps, alternative characters or ligatures. This allows more flexibility for the designers who can bring more character to your materials.

OTF

Because of wide availability and typographic flexibility, including provisions for handling the diverse behaviors of all the world’s writing systems, OpenType fonts are used commonly today on the major computer platforms.

So, now you are aware of all the font formats and can make a better choice while searching for the best font to visualize your next presentation! But if you’re not using a professional design software or you want the new font for everyday needs, then both .ttf and .otf formats can work for you.

Most importantly, remember that Open Type fonts are here to stay while True Type and Post Script font formats will slowly disappear.  

Open Type Fonts

There you have it – everything that you as a presenter, trainer or speaker need to know about the different types of fonts. You see? It’s not that complicated.

In the end, have you noticed what font formats do you usually use? Have you faced any problems with them? We’re here to help, so feel free to contact us!

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