How come certain fonts show up fine in OSX but not in Windows?

Our company recently decided on a font called Sketch Block to use for all our client presentations.  The font was an available as an OpenType from www.fontspring.com and TrueType from www.myfonts.com. Both versions contained a Bold and Lite version of the font. Our Creative Director prefers OpenType fonts so we decided to purchase a few seats for our all Mac Creative department and some of our VP’s running Windows 7.

After the first PowerPoint deck was created and passed around we immediately noticed a problem with the font. While Macs users could easily see and use the Bold and Lite versions, our Windows PC’s saw only 1 version of the font. In addition the font would show the Lite version as the default and the Bold version when the font was bolded on our Windows PC’s. This lead to the layout changes every time the file was opened a different platform then the one it was created on.

We tried contacting www.fontspring.com for support but they were so slow getting back to us that we decided to look elsewhere for a solution. In researching I came across a few sites that helped explain why this was happening:

Here is what was happening (please excuse/correct any wrong information). The issue boiled down to fact that Windows based OSes can only handle 4 font types in a font family:

  • Regular
  • Bold
  • Italic
  • Bold Italic

While Mac OSX can handle those types in addition to other types such as Lite, etc. So a when a windows OS comes across a type it can’t handle it will lump it into one of the existing categories. Now this doesn’t mean that Windows PC’s can’t handle fonts outside of those 4 types. It just can’t handle them in the same font family unless the creator makes the proper changes to the internal font properties. If these properties are set correctly a Windows OS can properly interpret font types outside its normal range without having to include the font in a separate family (E.g. Sketch Block and then Sketch Block Lite). From reading through the links above it appears this is something that trips up a lot of font creators.

While this info didn’t solve the problem it gave us an area to investigate, using a font editor called Font Forge I was able to set the properties of fonts to break them into separate families. So instead of a Sketch Block family with the Types of Bold and Lite, I made a Sketch Block Lite family and a Sketch Block Bold Family each containing its own type. With the old font removed and the new “tweaked” fonts installed on a Mac and PC client I was able to successfully create a document on each client and transfer back and forth without running into layout issues. The “tweaked” font didn’t experience any weird changes when opened on a different OS like the previous one did.

So the layout issues were fixed but a new non tech issue was created. Did changing the font properties violate the terms of use on the Font? We want to use this font to display our company logo, so it would be used in all external communications.  Would we get fined or sued because we edit the original work? We tried again contacting www.fontspring.com multiple times over a 3 week period and only got one response that they would look into it. We then tried contacting the creator who was located in Germany but the email address we found bounced back.

At this point I decided to give the TrueType version from www.myfonts.com a try. Oddly enough the font properties of the TrueType version were properly labeled so that it worked on both Mac and Windows OSes without any problems. It even worked with our current OpenType version, so we could keep our OpenType licenses for our Mac users and deploy the TrueType  version for our Windows users. While I wish www.fontspring.com was more response in either supplying an updated version or letting us know there was nothing they could do, I’m glad we were able to find a workaround in the end.

Posted in Fonts, OSX, Windows | Leave a comment
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