Set on the Web

Technical complexity
Designing fonts for the web takes into consideration highly complex issues. Hinting becomes highly important. The specialized term is explained by Rickner: 'Hints are the generic term for any bits of information stored in a font which work in conjunction with the rasterizer to improve the quality of bitmaps which result from an outline font.'
   Without fine-tuning, the bitmaps look coarse. Additional information, in the form of instructions, must be put into the font to correct the bitmaps.
   'The amount of effort which someone can put into instructing a typeface in TrueType lies somewhere along a continuum. At one end, TrueType instructions are automatically generated by a retail type design application. The time involved is just a matter of seconds. This may be a satisfactory solution if you are primarily concerned with output on a 300 or 600 dpi printer. If, however, you want to use the typeface on a 72 or 96 dpi monitor at 9 to 24 pt, you may find these results rather poor.
   'At the other end of this continuum is a manually instructed, finely tuned 'face, with screen quality which rivals that of hand-edited bitmaps. The time invested can be measured in man-weeks.'
   Georgia and Verdana lay firmly at the upper end of the continuum, where Rickner matched the outlines to Carter's hand-edited bitmaps, which were created before the outlines. 'The idea was to let Matthew design the ideal bitmaps for these 'faces, unconstrained by the TrueType data. After all, these 'faces were designed first and foremost as screen 'faces. As such, it didn't make sense to start by drawing some beautiful outlines and then force them onto the pixel grid and hope for the best.'
   Rickner used Microsoft's TrueType Editor (TTED), derived from Sampo Kaasila's TypeMan and requiring a great deal of expertise. Rickner hopes that in time, designers will choose to be involved in the instruction creating process as hinting tools become more powerful and widely available. Kerning, meanwhile, was left to the designers.
   The management of this stage was impressive, and Rickner and Carter worked together in delivering outline and bitmap data between themselves for reviewing and critiquing. Connare, meanwhile, worked on this stage himself for his Trebuchet family.

At the end of 1996, Microsoft put the three families on its TrueType web page for free downloading. The 'faces were greeted with some warmth: the typographic community found every family a welcome addition to the existing palette, and many adopted them as default fonts for browsers. They also helped raise the profile of type in the eyes of end-users, who discovered practical fonts which were useful alternatives to Times and Arial.
   On the whole, the only criticism that has been levelled at the families has been their free distribution. This hides the fact that months of work went into their development and in individuals' efforts to ensure a quality result. Although Microsoft's publicity credited the authors, detailed accounts of the development of the families itself was left to specialist publications. The fear is that most users, who download the families at a mouse-click from Microsoft, will not understand their value. Perhaps after this article some of those concerns will have been addressed. The efforts of every person involved in the three families' creation deserve recognition. Jack Yan

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