Web Fonts Panorama – September, 2009

Sep 8, 2009

Now that Firefox 3.5+, Opera 10+, Safari, and every existing version of Internet Explorer all support font-linking in one form or another, if you take the time, you can get a real feel for the future of typography on the web in a way you couldn’t do as little as 30 days ago.

I’ve spent a lot of hours surveying page after page, using Opera, then Firefox, then Safari, then IE.

It’s exciting to see font-linking finally happen. It will be a good thing for font designers, a good thing for web designers, a good thing for the browsing public – a good thing, period. A little bit of tikkun in a world where so many things remain broken. Nice.

Before getting into specifics, here’s a quick overview…

In Ya Font-Face: What’s Been Happening

  1. There are more and more pages using font-linking for you to evaluate. (Got links? Please comment!)
  2. Online font conversion tools have appeared. They will get better. And there will be more.
  3. In addition to hosting fonts and delivering them cross-browser, font service sites like Kernest and Typekit offer a convenient showcase for picking and choosing a font, and then previewing how it will look in your browser. Just set up an account and experiment. (Note: Typekit is still in beta but you can request a test account. Kernest is fully operational. Just set up an account and, as Kernest founder Garrick Van Buren puts it, go crazy.)
  4. Unexpectedly, a font design studio, Typotheque has also announced it will be offering to license, host, and serve the fonts in its own catalog. This raises awareness among font designers that the web will soon be an outlet and, hopefully, a place to focus their talents.
  5. An experimental version of Firefox – Firefox Minefield – with support for linking to EOT-Lite files in addition to OTF and TTF files was made available to a limited few courtesy of Mozilla developer Jonathan Kew. The possibility of Firefox supporting the soon-to-be-renamed EOT Lite, grew out of discussions on the W3C Web Fonts mailing list – all of which was prompted by Ascender Corporation’s removal of all the DRM-like aspects of Internet Explorer’s Embedded Open Type format. This promises a backwards compatible font-linking solution which will cut years and years off the time needed for font-linking to become dependable and mainstream. This is huge.
  6. In response to calls on the W3C mailing list for an interoperable web-specific font file standard, the WOFF format, brainchild of Mozilla developer Jonathan Kew and font designer/programmers Tal Leming and Erik van Blokland, has also found its way into a build of Minefield. However, handy conversion tools for WOFF don’t, as yet, exist. But the spec is published, and it won’t be long.

That’s the news, on to the panorama:

Web Fonts On Parade

Here’s a list of pages using font-linking. For all of them, I’ve also included the URI in text to make it easier to cut and paste into the address bars of multiple browsers. Firefox 3.5 is highly recommended. Plus, you’ll need IE for those pages linking to EOT files (at least for the moment). OK. Got your browsers open? Go!

This next bunch are test pages by Mozilla developer John Daggett. There are links to the EOT versions of all of these on the master page. (The .ZOT pages listed are obsolete. ZOT was a precursor to the proposed WOFF standard.)

Tip: Try Page Zooming or Text Zooming up to 125% or 150% to get a better effect on the following pages. The first page listed is a master page with notes about which fonts were used for the other pages. All of these pages are based on css Zen Garden.

Pages Requiring IE or Mozilla Minefield with EOT Support

(There’s also a master page, with links to the following EOT Lite examples from Ascender Corp.)

Coming Up Next Soon…

The problem of FOFFFlash Of Fallback Font-Family. Best practices for @font-face CSS syntax. Font file conversion tools, subsetting, and more.>

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