Which Font Installation Procedure To Use?

Basically, and IMHO, the FontTastic installation is sufficiently easier and more flexible that it's the best method to use if you're not bothered by the quality of the 300 dpi bitmaps you'll get when you print. Because ApplixWare comes configured with the assumption that you've got a number of fonts pre-installed on your printer, you'll still get your printer's (or your printer's via Ghostscript) best quality when using standard fonts like Times or Helvetica. The FontTastic installation also lets you use TrueType fonts, whether you're printing to a PCL or a PostScript (or Ghostscript-driven) printer, which may be a concern. On the other hand, you just plain don't get the same level of quality with the FontTastic-installed fonts as with the PostScript installation method (assuming you have an over-300-dpi printer). FontTastic-installed fonts also result in larger PostScript files, which might be an issue in some installations that are cramped for disk space, especially if you like to use lots of fonts and/or different font sizes in your documents.

The main advantage of the PostScript installation is high quality. At 600 dpi, the difference is quite plain, though in fairness, a casual reader might not notice the difference if s/he didn't know what to look for. One other, more minor, advantage of the PostScript installation is configurability. I can change the names of fonts to my whim when they're installed in this way, so that, say, "News 701" would appear on my menus as "FooBar." This could be handy when using a "clone" of a font that's better known under another name (like the Expert Software Benquad, which is a Benguiat clone). It's also handy for News 701, because the FontTastic installation seems to want to install it as three different font families, rather than three variants on one family.

There's also one potentially large disadvantage of this method: You can't print your new fonts to a PCL printer that's not being driven by Ghostscript. ApplixWare does include a PCL print option, and this can be handy sometimes; but if you select it on a file with a font installed via the PostScript installation method, you'll get some other font (probably Times, or whatever you specify in the PCLAlternate line in the fontmap.dir file) instead of the one you installed. I've not found a way to get ApplixWare to download a .ttf file to a PCL printer the way it can send a .pfb file to a PostScript printer, or even to revert back to a 300 dpi bitmap as it does when installing via the FontTastic method. Of course, this is only a concern if you have a PCL printer and want to actually use it as such. For me, I'm willing to use Ghostscript for high-quality printing using my added fonts; if I want to use my printer as PCL for some reason (say, the slight gain in speed I get when I do that), I can switch to a standard font that's directly supported in that mode.

Of course, it's possible to combine both methods for different fonts, and that's what I do. I have a core set of fonts that I routinely use on correspondence, papers, etc., and I've installed them via the PostScript method. These are mostly high-quality text body fonts from Bitstream, like Oranda and News 701, and I use them in applications for which high quality is often important. I then have a larger number of fonts that I use less often and in contexts where quality is less important -- fonts that look like handwriting or calligraphy, or more exotic things that get used as eye-catching headlines or whatnot. These I have installed in FontTastic catalogs, most of which I keep deactivated most of the time, and activate only as needed.

Note that, in the above, I use "PostScript installation" to refer to Type 1 fonts installed via the various text configuration files, to TrueType fonts installed in the same way using xfsft or xfstt for serving the fonts to X, and to hybrid procedures involving TrueType for display and Type 1 for printing. The same advantages and disadvantages apply to all these cases.

So, I hope this helps somebody. I've wasted quite a few hours figuring out something that should have been handled automatically. Maybe this little guide will keep somebody else from doing the same....

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Copyright © 1997, 1998 Rod Smith, rodsmith@rodsbooks.com