Inside Technique : Finding Font Solutions in Your Legacy-to-Web Adventure!
Legacy Data and the Web Series
Fair is fair. The last font article, the eighth in the Legacy to the Web series, fell sort of expectations on the part of two folks who posted to SiteExperts and several who wrote directly with questions. Then there were the notes from people who said it filled in what they were missing. The audience is drawn from many levels of expertise, but that is no reason that we shouldn't delve a bit deeper here and get to the nuts an bolts of the proprietary and complex solutions for fonts on the web as they apply to moving Legacy Data. As always, if this explanation doesn't give you what you need, drop a note or post to SiteExperts and we'll try to get it addressed.
The twenty-second rehash of the problem is that there are a wide variety of font formats in the world of legacy data owing to the wide variety of print formats in use. Line data dating back to the dawn of computing through AFP and Xerox formats, with variations every step of the way. Enough said. Check out previous SiteExperts columns if you need the detail on the history. Let's get on with solutions, though the caveat from previous columns still applies: not everyone can take advantage of every solution.
If you have had a custom font made by a font vendor with whom you are still in contact, ask them if they can provide a Windows-compatible font in TrueType or ATM format. Many can do that since they began with PC-based fonts and transformed them into formats compatible with the target printer.
Can't find the original vendor? Depending on how custom the font is, you might be able to find a similar font in one of the many free font libraries out on the web or available from organizations like Xplor International (www.xplor.org). For example, a well-known rental company had commissioned a font with all of the interstate road signs a number of years ago and when they wanted to move to a new delivery environment (PDF) they found that they could buy a set that would work for them. Be careful if you go this route and test diligently since the codepoints for each character (the hex value at which the character is located within the font file) may not be identical.
You next best solution is to have your existing font files converted to the appropriate format, or do it yourself. Terrapin Software (www.terrapin.co.uk) have vast expertise working with both IBM AFP fonts and Xerox fonts as do ASE Technologies (www.ase-tech.com). We've worked with fonts from both organizations and they work very well. Terrapin can also help you with that pesky addition of the Euro currency symbol to your existing font sets.
If you want to step up to converting fonts yourself, try the folks at Lytrod Software (www.lytrod.com) and their BitCopy software. BitCopy can create fonts for AFP, Xerox, PCL, PostScript/PDF (Type 1), TrueType, and FastFont formats. They also have a font editor that lets you change global parameters for a font or edit a specific character. This same product lets you work with Xerox LGO (Logo) files, AFP Page Segment files, GIFs, TIFFs and PCX files and transform them into the format you require.
The thrust here is that you can get a working version of an existing font. At the risk of making an obvious statement, the problem in moving legacy data to the web while relying on these font solutions is that the end user has to have those same fonts available on their PC or they will see the default font established for their machine and not the font you intended for your page layout. It can be a perfect solution for an intranet, but a harder solution to ensure fidelity for when you move out on to the World Wide Web.
So what do you do if you have a font you need and you can't trust the environment of the target reader of the web page? One option depends on the software you use for your migration to the web. If you purchase a solution, such as the myriad transforms available from The Xenos Group (www.xenos.com), you can invoke a parameter that will transform any font to bitmap images within the output file. This is primarily for PDF output solutions, and it can be the perfect answer for scientific and industry-specific fonts or corporate logo fonts. It will make the resulting PDF file a bit larger, but you will have fidelity. Solutions from Solimar (www.solimarsystems.com), Elixir Technologies (www.elixir.com), Rochester Software Associates (www.rocsoft.com), and ePage (formerly SysPrint, Inc. - www.sysprint.com) are also cadidates for getting through the font problems in a legacy to the web conversion.
Another solution comes from Bitstream (www.bitstream.com) in the form of WebFont Maker, which is completely compatible with Netscape and Internet Explorer on the PC, but only Netscape on the MAC...we don't know if it is compatible with Opera or other Browsers. This is a more complex solution in that it builds dynamic, transportable fonts, but many site designers swear by it. We would tend to recommend it when you know you cannot rely on the target environment but you must have the required font.
Along with the Bitstream solution you might check out WEFT, Web Embedding Font Technology, from Microsoft. With WEFT you link to font objects in your web page that are hosted at your site or at your ISP. It's not a trivial process to build, but it will give you that fidelity that many sites require. Check out the Microsoft site at www.microsoft.com/typography for more information on how it works and for a copy of the WEFT3 specifications.
We'll say it again. FONT. The four letter word. No magic bullets. No easy answers. This one
is going to be a judgment call. Remember to look at all of the screen
variations. If this helped, let us know. If you need more, let us know. As always,
send your questions to
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