Fonts – How does text emerge in pretty shapes from the blandness of bytes

Fonts make possible the text of the blog you are reading and the text that appears on your computer screen, whatever the application and OS. Without them, we wouldn’t have a post to make on the blog or anywhere. Lets take a look at how about of fonts and unlock the mystery.

What are fonts ?

Fonts are set of glyphs – a glyph is a design or graphical shape given to characters, letters, numbers, symbols, ideograms and punctuation marks. Seen another way, a font is a collection of typefaces along with characteristics like size, pitch and spacing along with the rasters for rendering the text. So now you must be thinking of two things “rasters” and “typeface”. Right on.

  • Rasters: A geometric data set with values assigned to a collection of pixels or dots.
  • Typeface: Its the primary aspect of font. Its is a set of characters with a particular style, which means 8-point Caslon is one font, and 10-point Caslon is another but its same for typeface. You modify typeface with various style to make different fonts.

How Fonts Work

What is a font family ?

A font family is a group of fonts that exhibit similarities in design and that are to be used together. For example, Arial is the font, where as Arial Italic and Arial Bold are fonts in Arial family.

Types of Font Formats :

Font files can be classified by formats as in the following:

Bitmap Fonts : These consist of a matrix of pixels representing glyphs. They are used for printing or screen display. Bitmap screen fonts are used on linux console, windows recovery screen and text editors where there is a lack of scalability. They are mostly device dependent.

Vector Graphics Fonts : Vector graphics defines geometrically the shape and or outline of a font. A font in this format contains a collection of vector images, geometrical formulas that are used to represent images in computer graphics, so they can be stretched and resized. Postscript and TrueType are popular “languages” for defining such “scalable” fonts.

PostScript Fonts : For electronic and desktop publishing, PostScript or page description and programming language is used. When the need for a common standard to integrate the GUI between the First Macintosh and laser printers arose. Adobe Systems came out with scalable Type 1 fonts in postscript which would render font for both desktop and printers.

TrueType Fonts : These were designed and developed by Apple and are now used both by both Apple and Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. The true type font that appear on the screen or on paper contain their own algorithm for conversion of text into pixels.

How Fonts work with Applications ?

I was exploring fonts a little more, and then I came to knew how vital it is. I would love to write more about it, but things will get complicated. So I would add few lines on how it works in real time with application and then give a link at the end where you can explore more.!!

Every font file has information in the form of mathematical data assigned to each character. Since variations can be applied to fonts, it would become difficult to assign a number to each and every character. So standards such as Unicode, for example, where each character has a unique number on any platform come into the picture..

For a particular font, a table is processed or computed in which information about what glyph( see up if you forgot) to use for a particular character code. These tables vary according to computing platform/mapping from Unicode. The application will render the respective glyph from the index according to text, and corresponding character is displayed. Easy!!.

As you can see, there’s a lot more to be explored about fonts- a delightful place to start with is at Wikipedia Typeface


About Ashish Mohta

A Professional Tech blogger, Editor and Writer who talks about solving day to day problems of people who use computer. His expertise are in Windows 7, Microsoft Office, Software, Mobile Apps and Video Posts.

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