Types of Fonts in Mac OS X Lion

Tens of thousands of different fonts are available for the Macintosh. You don’t want to use the same font for both a garage-sale flyer and a résumé, right? Luckily for you, Mac OS X Lion comes with hundreds of fonts. Some are pretty predictable, such as Times New Roman, but OS X gives you some artsy ones, too, such as Brush Script.

If you really get into fonts, you can buy single fonts and font collections anywhere you can buy software. Plenty of shareware and public-domain fonts are also available from online services and user groups. Some people have thousands of fonts. (Maybe they need to get out more.)

The preinstalled fonts live in two different folders, both called Fonts. One is in the Library folder at root level on your hard drive; the other is in the Library subfolder within the System folder.

Mac OS X actually has four Font folders. A third one, also called Fonts, is in the (hidden) Library folder in your home directory. The fourth one is in the Network/Library folder, and you see it only when you’re connected to a NetBoot network server.

You can find many font formats with names like OpenType, Mac TrueType, Windows TrueType, PostScript Type 1, bitmap, and dfont. No problem — Mac OS X supports them all.

That said, the three most common formats for Macs are TrueType, PostScript Type 1, and OpenType.

  • TrueType fonts: These standard-issue Apple fonts come with Mac OS X. They’re in common use on Macs as well as on Windows machines. That’s partly because these fonts are scalable: They use only a single outline per font, and your Mac can make their characters bigger or smaller when you choose a font size in a program.

  • Type 1 fonts: These fonts are often referred to as PostScript Type 1 fonts, and they’re the standard for desktop publishing on the Mac (as well as Windows and Unix). Tens of thousands of Type 1 fonts are available. (Not nearly as many high-quality TrueType fonts exist.)

    Type 1 fonts come in two pieces:

    • A suitcase file to hold the bitmap that tells the computer how to draw the font on your screen.

    • A printer font that tells the printer how to print the font on a page.

    Some Type 1 fonts come with two, three, or four printer fonts, which usually have related names. Just keep all the parts together, and they should just work.

  • OpenType fonts: OpenType fonts are really TrueType fonts in which PostScript information is embedded. This gives you the greater typographic control that high-end typesetters require while keeping the one-file convenience of TrueType.

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