On installing and removing fonts, Part 7: What was the question, exactly?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/07/30 10:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2008/07/30/8791285.aspx

The blogs that came before:

Now this series has described a lot of the challenges related to font installation and removal, along the way hinting at the ways the people and processes can try to nibble away at these problems.

I have also been teasing at ideas on fuller solutions to the problems.

Before doing that, it is important to take a step back, and ask ourselves (now that we are so many steps into this quest), what is the reason behind the asking of the question?

Now this is not just to be trite or anything.

There are many distinct scenarios, and since the problems vary between them, it is only reasonable to doubt that the solutions would somehow all be identical.

So we'll look at each of the broad categories separately.

There will be some overlap, but the issues of each are of particular interest as are the suggestions at solutions.

FIRST, we have the scenario where the font ships with Windows or Office, and Windows or Office is its primary (and for all intents and purposes only) distribution mechanism. In this case, the removal scenarios are probably less important since removal is not as common, but the update scenario where files are replaced is a huge problem to be figured out and dealt with. Similarly, the idea of mix-ups in filenames are pretty unlikely and font face name overlap is if not unheard if then at least less common. People generally stay away from the names of these known and much-used "platform" fonts because in general people are not fools, or at least not the sort of fool who stand up with their font to watch it mowed over by system file protection or installation repair.The fonts are expected to be widely used, and usually are.

SECOND, we have the scenario where the name of the font file or the font face name just begs to be stomped on because the name is such an obviously intuitive and good choice for a particular scenario. After all, why not name the awesome Hindi font file name HINDI.TTF or the fantabulous Lao font face name Laotian, anyway? And yes we now know from the previous blogs in the series why this is a bad thing -- because the replacement and stomping over each other is such an obvious issue that it is really a shame that no one ever took up the cause to have the OS itself try and find solution here. Yet almost all solutions to date to try to work inside the box here, and the fonts that go down this road do, for the most part, get what they ask for. The fonts may see wide usage, or may not -- the designers probably would like wide usage, and you never know....

THIRD, we have the scenario of a font installed and primarily used by a particular application or suite. Other usage might occur if users like the way the font looks, but that is incidental, and perhaps not even desired by the company that got the font on the machine -- their primary need is having the font there so they can use it for some purpose. In their way would be people who remove fonts themselves as incorrect experimenting with dragging files around and of course good old fashioned SECOND scenario problems with fonts that share file or face names. Wide usage really is not what they are looking for.

Now beyond these really broad categories, there are four specific times we care about here in the life of the font on a machine:

We will want to look at each of these four periods of time across each scenario, when applicable.

Upcoming posts in the series will try to go through all of these scenarios and time periods, and give the best possible information on how best for the font to meet the needs and the intent of the creators of the font. and sometimes of th users to, if that is the intent....


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Yaytay on 30 Jul 2008 6:31 PM:

This is only indirectly related to your topic, and isn't the fault of the font handling at all, but I recently had to help my girlfriends's sister out with a font handling problem.

The font she'd just bought simply wouldn't behave itself - she couldn't install it by right clicking on the font, and the icon was just blank even though the filename was right.

Eventually, after I got her to send me the file, I realised that they'd sent her a zip file and the Explorer handling of zips is really broken - in that it looks like it behaves like a normal folder, but it doesn't.

referenced by

2008/09/08 On installing and removing fonts, Part 8: Sometimes being selfish makes you more trustworthy

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