Say the word technology to a lot of folks, and they instantly break out in a cold sweat. But to understand type on the computer, why it looks and acts the way it does, and how to make the most of it, it is essential to understand a few things about technology.

The following are a few of the most commonly used (and perhaps abused) terms that will begin to give you an understanding of the basic principles of type and fonts on the computer.


What exactly is a font? The term has changed dramatically since the development of computers. In traditional typography, specifically in days of metal type (or hot type), a font was a collection of metal characters representing the complete character set of a particular design (all the characters, numerals, signs, symbols, etc.), all of the same weight, style, and size. Ten point, twelve point, and any other size of the same design were all separate fonts.

Today, a font refers to the complete character set of a particular type design or typeface in digital form. Although the term font refers to one weight and style, the font is not size specific as in the days of hot metal. Digital fonts are scalable, that is, size independent; any point size type can be set from one font.


Currently, there are three font formats to choose from: Type 1, TrueType, and the newest format, OpenType. If you are a graphic designer, you are most certainly familiar with PostScript Type 1 fonts, ...

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