Microsoft's Font Properties Extension tool gets more out of your fonts

The typical font properties dialog box contains little useful information. Microsoft's Font Properties Extension tool gleans much more information from fonts, making it easier to choose the right font for your projects.

If you’re like most IT pros, you probably use Microsoft’s TrueType and OpenType fonts extensively to liven up the documents that you produce. To help you choose the best font for the job, you probably use the organizational features built in to the Fonts folder, which you can find in the Control Panel. However, if you’d like to add more versatility to the Fonts folder, you’ll definitely want to investigate the Font Properties Extension tool from Microsoft’s Typography site. The Font Properties Extension tool is very easy to use, and it works in all versions of the Windows operating system.

In this Daily Feature, I’ll introduce you to the Font Properties Extension tool and explain how you can use it to your advantage. As I do, I’ll examine some other interesting font features that you can find in the Windows operating system.

The Preview feature
If you’re using Windows 2000 or Windows XP, you’ll find an additional item on the View menu called Preview. This item is actually a toggle switch that turns the preview feature on and off. When you have the Preview feature turned on, you can preview a sample of the font simply by hovering your mouse pointer over the font’s name. When you do, a window similar to a tool tip will pop up and show you a small sample of what the font looks like.

The standard font properties offer little information
To really appreciate all the extra features that the Font Properties Extension tool brings to the table, you just need to look at the standard font properties dialog box.

When you right-click any of the font icons, such as the Georgia font, and select the Properties command from the shortcut menu, you’ll see the standard font properties dialog box shown in Figure A. As you can see, it doesn't have much font-specific information and really isn’t very useful.

Figure A
The standard font properties dialog box doesn’t display much information.

The Font Properties Extension tool extracts much more information from the font files, and it adds tabs to the font properties dialog box to display that additional information.

Easy to download and install
To download the Font Properties Extension tool, just point your browser to Microsoft’s Typography download page. Once you’ve downloaded the tool, simply run the executable file Ttfext.exe and follow the on-screen instructions. As soon as the installation procedure is complete, the tool is ready to use.

Examining the enhanced font properties
Once you install the Font Properties Extension tool, go to the Fonts folder and access the properties dialog box for any font. Figure B shows the Georgia font’s properties dialog box with the enhanced information extracted by the tool.

Origin of the information
Keep in mind that almost all of the information provided on the various tabs within the Font Properties Extension tool comes from the font file itself. If the designer was thorough, you’ll find lots of information. On the other hand, the font file may not provide much information at all.

Figure B
The Font Properties Extension tool adds nine new tabs to a font’s properties dialog box.

The General tab contains the same basic information, but the nine new tabs contain a plethora of information about the particular font. For example, the Features tab, which describes the font in terms of number of glyphs and kerning pairs, will tell you whether the font contains a Euro currency symbol, such as the Palatino Linotype font shown in Figure C.

Figure C
The Features tab can tell you whether the font contains a Euro currency symbol.

On the Description tab, you'll find interesting and detailed information about the font. For example, the Description tab for the Cooper Black font, shown in Figure D, points out that this particular font was designed in 1921 and also indicates that the font’s most distinctive features are the backward tilt on the counters on the “O” and “Q.”

Figure D
The Description tab provides interesting information about fonts.

If you see something that you don’t quite understand on the nine new tabs, be sure and take advantage of the built-in, context-sensitive help system. To do so, simply click on the question mark at the top-right corner of the properties dialog box. When the pointer turns into a question mark, click on the item you want more information about. When you do, a window will provide you with more detailed information on the item.

The Show Only TrueType fonts feature
All Windows operating systems come with three types of fonts: Outline, Vector, and Raster. Both TrueType and OpenType fonts are Outline fonts and are rendered from line and curve commands. This means that they can easily be scaled and rotated and will look good in all sizes and on all output devices. Vector fonts are rendered from mathematical models and are primarily used by older applications and those designed to print to plotters. Raster fonts are stored as bitmap images and as such are very grainy looking.

Considering that Vector and Raster fonts aren’t very useful and that Outline fonts are the fonts that you’re most like to use, why even bother to display the Vector and Raster fonts in your applications? If you’d like to hide the Vector and Raster fonts, it's easy to do.

To begin, pull down the Tools menu in Windows 2000 or Windows XP or the View menu in Windows 9x/ME and select the Folder Options command. When you see the Folder Options dialog box, go to the tab titled TrueType fonts. You’ll simply need to select the Show Only TrueType Fonts In The Programs On My Computer check box. When you click OK, you’ll be prompted to restart your computer.

Where did all these fonts come from?
When you install a Windows operating system, the installation procedure installs a base set of fonts. However, when you install a major application like Office on your system, the application’s installation program often adds its own set of fonts to your system.

If you’ve ever wanted to track down the source of the fonts on your system, be sure and investigate the Fonts and Products page on the Microsoft Typography site. On this page, you can choose a Microsoft product and see what fonts came with it. You can also select an individual font and discover which product it came with. There are also listings of the base fonts that come with Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

Get more fonts
If after installing the Font Properties Extension tool you get the urge to load up on fonts, be sure to visit the Type Foundry Links page on Microsoft’s Typography site. The page is divided up into categories for Freeware fonts, Shareware fonts, and Commercial fonts. Once you get and install more fonts on your system, check out the My Font Explorer HTML application, which enhances Windows' built-in Font Viewer. You can read all about it in the article "Make the Windows Font Viewer a more user-friendly experience." Then download the Font Explorer and put it to work.

About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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