What is the difference between PostScript, TrueType, and OpenType fonts?

by fontspace

At FontSpace we are not just the best place to download free fonts on the web, we are also a resource of essential information for up and coming designers and seasoned veterans. Here we'd like to tackle a frequently asked question: What is the difference between PostScript, TrueType, and OpenType fonts?

TrueType (.ttf) fonts are an industry standard for digital font design and font display which can be scaled and readable in all sizes. They can be sent to any printer or other output device that is supported by Windows or Macintosh operating systems. TrueType was invented by Apple in the mid-80's as a competitor to Adobe's PostScript Type1 and was subsequently licensed to Microsoft. Both TrueType and PostScript fonts became the standard file formats for fonts in typesetting and professional publishing.

PostScript (.pfb, .pfm, .ofm) is a programming language originally developed by Adobe Systems to communicate outline font structures and printing instructions to digital printers. Created as device independent, any new Adobe PostScript language device made today supports all three font standards. PostScript fonts are smooth, detailed, and of high quality. They are especially used in professional-quality printing, for books, magazines and other print output, such as package design. The integrated PostScript language inherent in PDF technology have made it ubiquitous in publishing. In terms of your average designer, the differences between TrueType and PostScript files are relatively unimportant. 

Developed jointly by Adobe and Microsoft, OpenType (.otf, .ttf, .ttc) fonts improves upon Microsoft's TrueType fonts, by incorporating a greater extension of the basic character set, adding a more robust data structure for prescribing better typographic behavior. This includes small capitalization, old-style numerals, and more detailed shapes, such as glyphs and ligatures. OpenType fonts are single files that can also be scaled to any size, are clear and readable in all sizes, and can be used on both Macintosh and Windows platforms without conversion. Designers will benefit from OpenType over previous formats due to the much larger character set and for the programs that support it: automatic alternative character and ligature support. 

So now you'll ask yourself. I'm not an amateur, but I'm not a professional designer, what will benefit me? 

That depends. If you want a fonts that print well and are easy to read on the screen; for instance in web publishing, then consider TrueType fonts. If you design fonts or if you need a large character set for fine typography, then look to OpenType fonts. If you need to accomplish some commercial printing jobs or to print professional print publications, PostScript's interconnectivity with PDFs make it a good choice.

Contact us to find the quality of font files that best suits you. Also, look to our FORUM for a place to discuss font design questions or to troubleshoot some of those "typographical behavioral issues" that occur between our programs and our devices.