Truetype is Apple's latest weapon in 'Font Wars'

March 20, 1991|By Peter H. Lewis | Peter H. Lewis,New York Times News Service

Truetype is a new technology from Apple Computer Inc. and Microsoft Corp. that greatly improves the way text appears on the computer screen and on printed documents.

Truetype allows the user to make the type as big or as small as needed, in any increment, and it gets rid of the jagged lines and broken curves that often appear when you least want them.

Impatient Macintosh users can add Truetype to the latest operating system software (version 6.0.7) by obtaining a special Truetype program from user groups or from on-line information services such as Compuserve or America Online. Otherwise, Truetype will be included in the next versions of Macintosh system software (version 7.0, expected in May). It also will be in the updated Microsoft Windows (version 3.1, later this year) for IBM PCs and compatibles.

The arrival of Truetype starts the long-awaited ground campaign in what has become known as the "Font Wars," fought principally between Adobe Systems Inc. and the Microsoft-Apple alliance.

Unlike more important battles in the real world, however, the rival font factions are likely to be successful and the ultimate winner will be the average computer user.

The addition of Truetype to these popular operating systems will not adversely affect anybody's existing printers, computers or type libraries. It will, however, give Macintosh and Windows users a built-in type technology that was once available only at additional cost ($100 or so) through Adobe Type Manager (ATM) and Adobe's Type 1 outline fonts.

In other words, Truetype will be there for those who want it, and it is not expected to cause conflicts for those who prefer Adobe's equally impressive ATM and Type 1 font technologies. The difference is that it is a little easier to get high-quality text with Truetype.

Many people do not care to know the mechanics of how the type formats work; they care only that the text is attractive in all uses, and Truetype is noticeably more attractive than the default type in Macintosh or Windows systems.

Like other popular "scalable" font formats, including Adobe's Type 1, Bitstream's Speedo and Agfa-Compugraphic's Intellifont, Truetype fonts are stored in the computer as mathematical algorithms that define an outline of a character.

The user can command the computer to recalculate or scale the outline to any size, and the computer then draws an outline and fills it with dots, a process called rasterizing. It is done separately by ATM but is integrated in Truetype.

People who are just starting out may find it easiest and least painful to move to Truetype, assuming there are enough Truetype fonts available to meet their needs. Nearly 1,000 Adobe Type 1 fonts are already available, and experts say it will be some time before a similar number of Truetype fonts are ready.

A few Truetype fonts are likely to be included with the operating system, but to do anything really fancy, the user will have to buy separate fonts, just as one might buy Adobe or any other brand of Type 1 fonts today.

Truetype can also work with Postscript and Hewlett-Packard Laserjet printers, as long as the user loads special programs called drivers. It works without any hitches on the new Apple Personal Laserwriter LS and Apple Stylewriter printers.

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