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Chapter 4. Type > OpenType Fonts

OpenType Fonts

We’ve mentioned OpenType fonts a few times in the chapter so far; however, we should probably take a moment to discuss them. The OpenType font specification was created jointly by Microsoft and Adobe as a way to represent a font with only a single file on both Macintosh and Windows (so you can move the font cross-platform). The characters are encoded using the international standard Unicode, so each font can have hundreds, or even thousands of different characters—even the very large character sets in non-Roman languages such as Japanese.

OpenType fonts act just like PostScript Type 1 or TrueType fonts in programs like Microsoft Word or QuarkXPress, but InDesign can perform special tricks with them, such as replacing characters with swashes (fancy versions of a letter), or with ligatures for character pairs such as ct and ffi. InDesign ships with several OpenType fonts, including Adobe Garamond Pro, Adobe Caslon Pro, Caflisch Pro, and Kozuka Mincho Pro (a Japanese typeface).

Most of the special OpenType typesetting features in InDesign are hidden in the OpenType submenu in the Character palette’s menu (see Figure 4-26). If a font doesn’t support one of these features, it appears in the menu within square brackets (“[Swash]”).

Figure 4-26. OpenType Features

Alternate Characters

The OpenType features work by replacing one or more glyphs with another single glyph. “.” and “.” ligatures that we discussed earlier are a great example of this, but they’re only the beginning.

Discretionary Ligatures. Font designers love making ligatures, but they recognize that users won’t usually want to use more esoteric ligatures (such as “ct” or “.”) in everyday text. If you select some text and turn on the Discretionary Ligatures feature, InDesign uses these lesser-known ligatures (if they’re available in the font). We usually turn this off except when we’re trying to make something look “old fashioned,” or when using a script typeface (such as Caflisch Pro).

Fractions. Changing fake fractions (such as 1/2) to real fractions (1/2) has long been a thorn in the side of anyone laying out cookbooks or construction manuals. Fortunately, you can now just turn on the Fractions feature and anything that looks like a fraction will convert to the proper character automatically. (In some OpenType typefaces, only very basic fractions such as 1/2, 1/4, and 2/3 are converted. In others, even arbitrary fractions such as 355/113 are changed (sadly, not in this font). It depends on the design of the font.) This feature has no effect on non-fractions, so we usually just turn this on and leave it on.

Ordinal. “First,” “second,” and “third” are all examples of ordinal numbers. InDesign can automatically set the “st”, “nd”, and “rd” (or the “o” and “a” in Spanish) to superscript when you turn Ordinal on in the OpenType submenu. “3rd,” for example, becomes “3rd”.

Swash. When you need to give a character a little more flair, select it and turn on the Swash feature. Swashes are typically used at the beginning or ending of words or sentences. You can see if a particular OpenType font has any swash characters by opening the Insert Glyph palette and looking for Swash in the Show pop-up menu; some fonts (such as Adobe Caslon Pro) have swashes in their italic styles only.

Titling Alternates. Some OpenType fonts have special “titling” characters that are designed for all-uppercase type set at large sizes.

Contextual Alternates. Some OpenType fonts—mostly script faces—have contextual ligatures and connecting alternates, which are very similar to ligatures. Set a paragraph in Adobe Caflisch Pro, for instance, and then select it and turn on Contextual Alternates. The result looks more like handwriting, because the alternate characters connect to each other.

All Small Caps. When you turn on the Small Caps feature (which we described in “Case Options,” earlier), InDesign leaves uppercase characters alone. All Small Caps, however, forces uppercase characters to appear as lowercase small caps. This is useful when formatting acronyms such as DOS, NASA, or IBM.

Raised and Lowered Characters

Typesetting a treatise on Einstein’s theory of relativity? If so, you’ll be mighty happy about InDesign’s ability to use true superscripts and subscripts instead of the faked scaled versions that you get with the Superscript and Subscript features in the Character palette’s menu. You have four choices in the OpenType submenu (each one is mutually exclusive of the others):

  • Superscript/Superior

  • Subscript/Inferior

  • Numerator

  • Denominator

However, note that most OpenType fonts only have a small set of characters designed to be superscript or subscript, so you can’t set any and all characters you want in these styles. For example, if you set the word “turkey” to Superscript/Superior style, only every other character changes. In some cases you’ll get the same result when you choose Denominator or Subscript/Inferior.

Formatting Numerals

We like “old style” numerals (you know, the kind with descenders: 1234567890) better than full-height “lining figures” (1234567890), and we’ve always gotten them by changing the font of the characters to an “expert” version of whatever font we were using (if one was available). So we were very happy to see that there are four different ways InDesign can format numerals: Proportional Oldstyle, Tabular Oldstyle, Proportional Lining, and Tabular Lining (see Figure 4-27).

Figure 4-27. Old Style

Tabular Lining

Proportional Oldstyle

Tabular Oldstyle

Proportional Lining

The default style is Tabular Lining, which works well for financial tables (such as those found in an annual report), because numbers have equal widths and align from one line to the next. If you choose Tabular Oldstyle from the OpenType submenu, the numerals line up, but InDesign uses old style characters. Proportional Lining numerals are all the same height, but vary in width. David prefers this style for everything other than tables, especially when interspersing numbers and uppercase characters. Ole would rather use Proportional Oldstyle, which uses old style figures of varying widths.

The last OpenType numeral formatting option is Default Figure Style, which applies the figure style defined as the default by the type designer (so the effect varies from font to font).

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