Question: There seem to be three known formats for fonts. TrueType, OpenType and PostScript. If I need to use or buy any, which should I pick?
Answer: There is nothing simple in the wonderful world of fonts. All of it is very complex, but let’s try to sum things up.
A great font has to look nice on a computer monitor, and reflect its printed equivalent well. It has to be smooth enough on-screen, but sharp enough on paper. The problem is that the two media use different technologies. The strength of a font is to make those separate technologies work together flawlessly.
PostScript fonts have been a very popular format for graphic designers, especially on Mac with laser printers. PS fonts were developed by Adobe. Their files have two parts: the printer font and the screen font. The print version usually is flawless on paper. The screen part can have its shortcomings.
TrueType fonts were invented by Apple in the late 1980′s, and released in 1991 with a new version of the Mac OS. They combine the screen and printer font in a single file. Classics such as Times Roman, Helvetica and Courier were pioneers of that cross-platform format.
TrueType gives a high level of control to its creator for proper display on the screen. Normally, they look nice on your end.
OpenType fonts put a wrapper around the screen and printer font, making them look like a single file. They work very well in all situations. The format is very much cross-platform for the Mac and Windows. It is a registered trademark of Microsoft, developed with Adobe.
Which should you use and buy? Adobe says that OpenType “improves cross-platform portability, rich linguistic support, powerful typographic capabilities and simplified font management requirements”.
This says a lot from the company that created PostScript and could try to stick by it. It also recoups what we hear from a lot of Macintosh and Windows users who do design for a living.
So, should you make a choice between formats, go for OpenType.