All of the font formats listed below are scaleable outline formats which all offer optimum quality at all sizes.
Originally designed by Apple Computer, the TrueType font technology was first seen fully implemented in 1990 on the Macintosh System 7 operating system. The technology was subsequently used by Microsoft in 1991 in the Windows 3.1 operating system and both companies have used the font technology in their main operating systems ever since.
TrueType has traditionally been the font format of choice on the Windows platform and also for general desktop use on the Mac. The TrueType format has support for a sophisticated hinting system, often referred to as Delta Hinting, allowing font developers to produce fonts with very high screen quality at small sizes. The development process is time consuming and not all fonts utilise the system fully, those that do often have a small price premium.
TrueType fonts are not cross-platform fonts, they are usually produced for the Windows platform with some foundries also producing Mac versions.
Postscript Type 1
To compliment the PostScript page description language Adobe developed two PostScript font formats, entitled Type 1 and Type 3. The file format specification for Type 3 was published, but due to the fact that Type 3 fonts did not render well on low resolution devices, the format never became popular. Adobe decided at that time, not to publish the Type 1 specification and it was this decision that ultimately caused Apple to develop the TrueType font format. In 1990, Adobe finally released the Type 1 format.
Type 1 fonts include hinting information but rely on the font renderer in the Operating System to produce good quality screen images with the fonts containing just basic 'hints'. The Type 1 renderer does a very good job but isn't as good as fully hinted TrueType fonts.
The Type 1 format has been very popular with the publishing industry and therefore has been popular on the Mac platform preferred by the design community. The Type 1 format is natively supported on Mac OS X and also on Windows 2000, XP and Vista. On earlier operating systems the Adobe Type Manager (ATM) software is required to use Type 1 fonts.
Type 1 fonts are not cross-platform fonts, they are usually available for both the Windows and Mac platforms.
The OpenType format is an extension of the TrueType format which in addition to the TrueType outline format also supports the Type 1 outline format. Developed jointly by Microsoft and Adobe, it is intended to ultimately replace the earlier font formats.
OpenType is a true cross-platform format meaning the same font file can be installed on either a Windows or Mac operating system. In addition the OpenType format offers enhanced language support with extended character sets as well as support for advanced typographical features such as ligatures, old-style numerals, small caps, swash variants and stylistic alternate characters. To take advantage of all the OpenType features your application must support OpenType technology so not all features will be available in all applications.
OpenType fonts that contain TrueType outlines (.ttf) are supported on all versions of Windows. OpenType fonts containing Type 1 outlines (.otf) are natively supported on Windows 2000, XP and Vista. Earlier operating systems require the use of Adobe Type Manager (ATM). OpenType fonts are natively supported on Mac OS X and ATM is required for earlier version.
Which format is best for you?
We strongly recommend the use of OpenType fonts for both the Windows and Mac platforms. In situations where OpenType fonts are not available, TrueType is the preferred format for the Windows platform. For the Mac OS the choice is either Type 1 or TrueType. Your application or specific usage may determine a particular format.
If you have any doubts regarding the best format for your requirement, please contact us.