Printers

Working with printer fonts

It can be difficult to get the fonts in your document to appear as nicely on paper as they do on screen. Talainia Posey has some tips for making your printed documents look their best.


It’s no big secret that Windows 98 does a good job of handling fonts. Practically every document you look at (including this one) these days contains a beautiful mixture of different sizes, styles, and colors of text. In spite of Windows 98’s rich support for these fonts, it can sometimes be difficult to get the fonts in your document to appear as nicely on paper as they do on the screen. In this article, I’ll explain some techniques that you can use to help your printed documents look their best.

Fonts 101
Before you can begin correcting your printing problems, it’s necessary to understand a little bit about the way Windows 98 handles fonts. Windows 98 supports four different types of fonts. The type of font you should use depends highly on what type of printer you have. In the sections that follow, I’ll discuss each type of font.

TrueType fonts
Without a doubt, the easiest fonts to work with are TrueType fonts. The advantage of using TrueType fonts in your documents is that TrueType fonts are stored as mathematical models that tell Windows how to draw the font at various point sizes. Because of the mathematical nature of TrueType fonts, they appear the same on printed pages as they do on the screen.

You can determine that a font file is of the TrueType variety by looking at the file’s extension. TrueType fonts use the .TTF extension. Windows 3.1 used a combination of two different files to compose a TrueType font. It used a .TTF file and a .FOT file. In Windows 98, a hidden file called TTFCACHE contains the header data that was previously associated with the .FOT file format.

Raster fonts
Another type of font that Windows 98 supports is the raster font. Unlike TrueType fonts, which are based on mathematical formulas, raster fonts are simply bitmap images. Because raster fonts are nothing more than a group of pixels, they lose quality any time you try to scale or rotate them. Raster fonts can be cleanly rotated in 90-degree increments but suffer from some serious image quality problems if you attempt to rotate them at other angles. You can identify a raster font by its file extension, .FON.

Unfortunately, vector fonts, which I’ll discuss in a moment, also share this file extension. If you’re confused as to which type any given font is, open the Control Panel and double-click on the Fonts icon. When you do, you’ll see the \Windows\Fonts folder, which contains all the installed font files. Now, right-click on the font you want to know more about and select the Properties command from the resulting context menu. You’ll see the font’s properties sheet, which will identify the type of font, as shown in Figure A, along with some other information about the font.

Figure A
Each font’s properties sheet identifies the type of font along with other crucial information.


Vector fonts
Vector fonts, like TrueType fonts, are based on mathematical models. This means that you can scale and rotate vector fonts without having to worry about image degradation. The formula used for vector fonts defines each character of the font as a set of lines that connect several points.

Unless you use a plotter, you’ll rarely use vector fonts. TrueType fonts are almost always preferred to vector fonts. In fact, Windows only comes with one vector font, and it’s hidden. The hidden modern.fon file is only included to insure backward compatibility with older devices.

OpenType fonts
The final type of supported font is called an OpenType font. This font type is native to Adobe Type Manager. Therefore, the only time that you’d use such a font is if you were using Adobe Type Manager to create a PostScript document.

Which type of font is right for you?
I mentioned earlier that the type of font you use in your document should depend on what type of printer you plan to use to print the document. You’ve already seen some evidence of this in the way that OpenType fonts are geared toward PostScript documents, and vector fonts are geared toward older devices. There are a variety of places, however, in which each type of font can be printed. Table A outlines the types of printers that can print each type of font.

Table A
Printer type TrueType font Vector font Raster font
Dot matrix Yes No Yes
PCL-compatible laser Yes Yes No
PostScript printer Yes Yes No
Plotter No Yes No
Different printers print different fonts.

As you can see, some fonts just print better in some environments than others. But if you want the best results, why not use the fonts that are built directly into your printer? By using built-in printer fonts, you’re virtually guaranteed that the printer will print them correctly. Printer fonts come in a couple of different forms. They may be included in your printer’s ROM chips, or they may exist on a font cartridge.

Using printer-specific fonts
The method used for making printer fonts available to Windows 98 varies greatly depending on the type of printer and software you’re using. For example, some manufacturer’s printer drivers or network printing software will automatically make the printer’s fonts available to Windows. Most printer drivers (including the ones included with Windows 98), however, don’t offer this capability. In such cases, you’ll have to install the printer fonts manually.

As I mentioned, the method of doing so varies depending on the type of printer you have, but I can give you a general idea of how the process works. To install printer fonts, go to the Fonts tab of your printer’s properties sheet. On this properties sheet, you’ll see a button labeled Install Printer Fonts. When you click this button, you’ll see a dialog box similar to the one shown in Figure B. The dialog box will differ considerably depending on your type of printer. Consult the book that came with your printer for the exact instructions for installing printer fonts. You might have also noticed that the Fonts tab of the printer’s dialog box allows you to select a font cartridge (if you have one installed), as shown in Figure C.

Figure B
You may use a dialog box like this one to install printer fonts.


Figure C
The Fonts tab of the printer’s properties sheet allows you to select a font cartridge.


Common font printing problems
Now that you know how Windows 98 handles the various fonts in your system, let’s take a look at some of the more common font printing problems and their solutions. Keep in mind that this is by no means a comprehensive list, but rather an overview of some of the more common problems.

The font is distorted
There are several reasons why a font may not print correctly. The first possibility is that the font may be damaged or may not be installed correctly. To test for this, use your application’s Print Preview mode to view the document on screen as it will be printed. If the font appears distorted on screen, the font itself is the problem, not your printer.

If the font appears correctly on screen but still doesn’t print correctly, you can try several things. First, try using a different font to see if it prints correctly. You might also try scaling the font to a slightly different point size. Sometimes this can make a big difference. If you’re printing to a laser printer, check the printer’s resolution and available memory. Most fonts are optimized to print at 300 DPI. A higher or lower printer resolution may result in distortion. Low memory in your printer can also cause fonts to do crazy things. If you suspect low printer memory, try removing a graphic or reducing the number of fonts your document uses.

Still another technique you can use is to print your TrueType fonts as a graphic. To do so, go to your printer’s properties sheet’s Font tab and select the Print TrueType As Graphics radio button.

Fonts overlap when printed
This problem is almost always related to printer resolution. In such a situation, you can usually correct the problem by setting the printer’s resolution to 300 DPI. If changing printer resolution isn’t an option because the printer doesn’t support it or because other people print to the printer, you can choose to print TrueType fonts as graphics instead.

Some parts of a TrueType font are rotated, but other parts aren’t
This problem can be caused by a font limitation or by a printer limitation. First, try using a different font and see if the new font will rotate correctly. If neither font will rotate the way that it’s supposed to, then the problem is likely caused by a printer limitation. Some printers are only capable of rotating fonts in 90-degree increments. You can sometimes get around this problem by printing the TrueType fonts as graphics.

Conclusion
It’s sometimes difficult to get printed fonts to look as nice as they do on the screen. In this article, I’ve explained some techniques that you can use to correct this problem and how Windows 98 works with fonts.

Talainia Posey learned to handle PCs the old fashioned way: by reading manuals and doing on-the-job troubleshooting. Her experience also includes installing networks for several small companies. When she's not working on computers, Talainia loves to shop for toys and watch cartoons, or spend time with her cat, Beavis.

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

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