Gone are the days when Web sites were designed entirely in Arial Bold and Times New Roman. New embedded font technology allows Web developers to embed fonts directly into a Web page, thereby ensuring that it looks the same on all browsers. This article looks at previous workarounds to the problem, together with Microsoft and Netscape's new and competing approaches to the problem.
As you've probably come to expect from past history, both Netscape and Microsoft have adopted slightly different strategies to tackle the embedded font problem. The Redmond approach uses a technology called OpenType, while Netscape's version is called TrueDoc, developed in partnership with Bitstream.
Despite the difference in nomenclature, the approach of both companies is conceptually similar: Web developers use an authoring tool to create a single font data file, and then link their HTML pages to this font file. When a user browses to a page containing embedded fonts, the browser automatically downloads the font data file, decompresses it to a temporary directory and renders the characters on the page in that font.
Both companies also provide authoring tools to assist in the process of building the font file. Microsoft's tool is called WEFT, the Web Embedding Font Tool, and is currently in version 3.0; you can download it from http://www.microsoft.com/typography/web/embedding/weft3/default.htm If you prefer to stay loyal to Netscape, you can download a free 10-day trial version of Bitstream's WebFont Wizard from the Bitstream Web site at http://www.bitstream.com
The browsers are also shaky on support for the competing technologies: Netscape Communicator 4.x supports Bitstream TrueDoc technology out of the box, while Internet Explorer users will need to download an ActiveX control from Bitstream's Web site to correctly view TrueDoc font files. Conversely, Internet Explorer 4.x and above has built-in support for OpenType font files.
Both the Microsoft and Netscape versions of the technology come with one very important and useful feature: the ability to restrict font usage to a specific Web site or directory. This security feature is very handy for font authors and designers who want to protect their digital scrawls from the rest of the freeloading Internet.
This article copyright Melonfire 2000. All rights reserved.