web typography study guide

Font Format

A digital font file contains information that describes the characteristics of a font and determines how it looks on screen and when printed. There are different formats for digital fonts based on the capabilities of the operating system and the technologies being used to describe the letter-forms.

TrueType (.ttf)

TrueType, designed by Apple Computer, is now used by both Apple and Microsoft in their operating systems. It is a scalable outline format created to replace the bitmap fonts previously used for screen display.

OpenType (.otf)

The OpenType font format was developed jointly by Microsoft and Adobe. It is an extension of TrueType that adds support for PostScript font data. The main advantages of OpenType are:

  • Broader multi-platform support: A single font file works on both PCs and Macs.
  • Better language support: OpenType fonts include the standard range of Latin characters and many international characters.
  • Advanced typography features: An OpenType font file can contain many non-standard glyphs such as old-style figures, true small capitals, fractions, swashes, superiors, inferiors, titling letters, and a full range of ligatures.

Embedded OpenType (.eot)

EOT is supported exclusively by Internet Explorer versions 8.x and lower. EOT fonts’ digital rights management technique prevents them from being copied and used without a license.

Web Open Font Format (.woff)

WOFF is a wrapper that contains TrueType and OpenType fonts with additional metadata. It is in the process of being standardized as a recommendation by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Fonts Working Group.


SVG fonts describe glyph outlines as vector objects, which usually results in larger file sizes. SVG is the only format that can be used for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch prior to iOS 4.2.