July 31, 2022
By Brad Schmidt
A topic that has, until recently been relatively stable, has a change coming that is bound to shake everything up again. From my earliest experiences working at Friesens preparing files for print, fonts have always been a topic of interest. When dealing with a particular font that was difficult to output, one of the first checks would be if the font was PostScript or TrueType. Both font technologies could be used for printing but there was a strong preference for PostScript fonts. I can remember even from our early Publisher’s Seminars the emphasis was always to use PostScript fonts and avoid TrueType. I recall the switchover from direct PostScript output to the process where we standardized on a PDF based workflow. With the introduction of PDF, there was a softening toward our relationship with TrueType fonts. Today we are at the point where the font technology used is rarely considered a factor for printing unless a specific print issue arises.
Although PostScript fonts were better for printing, they were a little more cumbersome to use. Since PostScript fonts came in two pieces, it was inevitable that fonts would be provided with half the font missing. PostScript consisted of a screen font file for on-screen preview and a printer font file which was used for final print output. It was quite common to preflight a project for printing only to find that the screen fonts were provided and the printer fonts were absent.
With more modern software, a new font came on the scene promising all the print advantages of PostScript with the convenience of a single font file like TrueType. OpenType was this new font type, which slowly became the new preferred option for fonts. One of the key advantages was that these fonts were cross platform compatible and could be used on Macintosh or Windows. This was unlike PostScript, which required a completely different set of font files for the Macintosh and Windows platforms. Designers may have appreciated that OpenType has larger character sets, robust handling of hinting and ligatures as key features, but the cross platform compatibility and the reliability of printing is what won me over.
Adobe Typekit was another development in the way we use and interact with fonts. There was a learning curve in getting familiar with having this other option from where to access fonts. I recall having projects on hold until it was revealed that the book was using Typekit fonts, and all we needed to do was leverage our Creative Cloud subscription to activate the required fonts. Adobe integrated Typekit so smoothly that using Typekit fonts was just like using local fonts until packaging the files for print. Typekit fonts required the print provider to have a Creative Cloud subscription rather than bundling the fonts in the package.
Adobe continues to have a strong push toward moving assets online and transitioning customers to the subscription model. I recall the change from Adobe Creative Suite 6 to the Creative Cloud version, marking the end to an era where you could own your desktop publishing software. There were many that held onto their version of CS6, refusing to upgrade. For those who always upgraded for every version Adobe released, the new model was similar in cost to the ownership model. For those who waited longer between upgrades, often skipping versions until major features warranted an upgrade, the new model marked a cost increase.
I am wondering if this dropping of support for PostScript fonts will have a similar effect where designers hold off on upgrading to maintain compatibility with PostScript fonts. From reading the adobe information online, it appears that this move away from PostScript fonts is primarily driven by a desire to better support online web technologies. This does not appear to be specifically needed for print, but the benefits of using OpenType will of course be highlighted. I would not have expected TrueType support to outlast support for Postscript, but here we are.
While reading the Adobe information online, I discovered that Adobe had already dropped support for PostScript fonts in Photoshop 23. I have been using version 23 for some time already, and had not noticed any change. To be fair, fonts in Photoshop are not the main focus when using this program. Since discovering this change, I tested it by trying to use a PostScript font that was active in my system with Photoshop. Unless actually looking for a PostScript font, the lack of PostScript font in the list is likely to go unnoticed.
Since Photoshop has already implemented this change, I was curious to see how Illustrator was handling Postscript fonts. Using PostScript fonts within Illustrator still worked, so I expect Illustrator will follow the InDesign lead and drop this support at the end of this year.
I suspect that despite the low impact of this change in Photoshop, the impact will be felt more for InDesign. This will especially be the case for companies that have a history of using PostScript fonts for their projects. For Friesens, the greatest impact will be for reprint projects. Often when a project reprints, there are small changes that are requested. I expect going forward we will need to evaluate change requests to verify that the requested changes can be made even for InDesign projects. This is not a totally new process for us, as we often need to verify that changes can be made when we reprint a project that we only have PDF files for.
I really hope that we do not have projects in mid-production when this deadline occurs. The same would apply for designers that have projects where the design is in active development. It would be good to already start the process of switching fonts away from PostScript so we would avoid any trouble when the deadline arrives. Adobe recommends using Adobe Creative Cloud fonts that are available with your subscription. For those that prefer using fonts that have a perpetual license, Adobe is directing customers to Fontspring to purchase the required fonts in an OpenType format. https://www.fontspring.com
Dropping support for PostScript appears to be strictly an Adobe policy at the moment . Checking out competing products such as QuarkXPress and Affinity Publisher, I found they are still working fine with PostScript fonts without any indication that they are dropping support. Being the first one to drop a technology can make your company look like the progressive one, but it can also have the effect of encouraging an evaluation of alternative products. Will this help to fuel the transition to other products like Affinity Publisher? If the subscription model is providing appropriate value, then this new change in font policy will likely not change your publishing strategy.
Once Adobe has dropped support for PostScript fonts, I expect that operating systems such as macOS and Windows will follow suit. Once this happens, the other programs will naturally fall in line and drop support too.
While working on this article, I loaded one of my past articles, only to be greeted by the Type 1 font warning message. Fortunately this publication recently went through a design change, and in the process the fonts have been upgraded. We also recently retired our old Adobe font library with a host of PostScript fonts. I expect we will more frequently use Typekit fonts, as they are easily accessible and already come bundled with our Creative Cloud subscription.
As long as you are proactive in selecting OpenType fonts for projects or are fully embracing the Creative Cloud and using Typekit fonts, this deadline should pass with little disruption in your workflow. I expect that challenges will arise mostly from repurposing older documents or when making changes for reprints. Hopefully the fonts you need can easily be replaced with a similar OpenType alternative.