Device fonts are people too

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/07/12 03:01 -04:00, original URI:

After I wrote Printing TrueType as graphics yesterday, I got the following from the Contacting Michael... link:

I'm a regular reader of (and occasional commentator on) your blog. I work in the printer driver team and handle (among other things) device fonts, so I was pleasantly surprised to read about device-fonts in your blog!

Most of what you've written is spot-on (how did you know all that about the print UI?), but "in many international and multilingual text scenarios they are not so good" is misleading. In fact, device fonts are primarily used for perf reasons and the Japanese printer market is their biggest consumer. East Asian glyph bitmaps are larger and the perf gain for embedded fonts is correspondingly more.


The stuff I know about the print UI actually dates back to the days of trying to help people print international text when it looked good on screen but didn't work on the printer. The constant differences between printers made me realize that this couldn't be UI we were providing, so I tried to figure out what was easy to figure out between them.

And then the programmtic link via the DEVMODE data structure was something I had to puzzle out during my MSLU days for that structure's Unicode features -- and the ddTTOption member was just an interesting bit of "oh, I get it!" that tied in with the earlier work. Cool!

Now I should also point out that Ambarish is 100% right about the other part -- I was really showing my own bias against some of the limited device fonts in some of the printers I have used, and the fact that they would hamper my WYSIWYG efforts with international text.

Which is really unfair to some scenarios  -- that are especially true in the Japanese printer market, where extensive work to support all of the needed glyphs in device fonts really happens. The performance gain in these cases can be very significant, and the WYSIWYG issues are not problems when work is done to make sure that the device font is the right font to be using.

I am pretty sure that device fonts are not sentient creatures whose feelings can be hurt by my words, but just in case I am mistaken about that let me apologize to any device fonts who feel slighted by my earlier post. Because device fonts are people, too. :-)

On a more serious note, it is important for everyone (including me!) to make sure to avoid being too provincial. It is more than being "internationally savvy" as this case proves -- it really involves trying to understand what "international support" means in other markets, who deal with different situations, different hardware, and even different requirements....

Just like the Portuguese/English/Arabic/Spanish/etc. scenario I talk about here, even what we communicate has to take into account that one person's bug is another person's crucial feature!


This post brought to you by (U+183e, a.k.a. MONGOLIAN LETTER HA)

# Dean Harding on 12 Jul 2006 3:23 AM:

I think you still might be right about the "multilingual" bit, though - even in the Japanese market, the device fonts will only have Japanese characters. They won't, for example, be any good for printing Arabic text (which may be unlikely in Japan anyway...)

So while they're not useless, they do only have limited appeal.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 12 Jul 2006 8:38 AM:

Well, many of them will support JIS (for example), and JIS also happens to include Cyrillic? :-)

# Mihai on 12 Jul 2006 12:23 PM:

In my experience printer fonts are great for small documents in office environment.
But when you get to documents with good DTP that are targeted to professional printing, is a good idea to always download the fonts.
As good as the fonts in the printer are, is it guaranteed that the metrics are different than in the computer font.
So the layout will chanage, text reflow, and you might end up with orphan paragraphs, wrong page breaks, etc. (all the stuff you check for good quality DTP).

# Heath Stewart on 12 Jul 2006 1:28 PM:

How did you know about that UI? It's amazing how few people explore a UI. I always explore the UI - all the menus, options (especially the options!), and other UI I can. It's a good way to know about features. An "Advanced" button just screams at me to be clicked.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 12 Jul 2006 4:10 PM:

Hi Heath,

I'll say! If it is not in the default options/install, then it may as well not be there at all for most people!

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